Perks and challenges: a guide to 5G
Dr Ronan Farrell
The 5G standard for mobile phone users is nearing completion, such that we'll
begin to see the first 5G handsets in the next few years.
For consumers, 5G offers a range of benefits, from super-fast data services, to
supporting autonomous vehicles, to enabling smart cities.
The most immediate aspect of 5G for most people will be that of mobile phones
â facilitating ultra-fast video downloads, streaming services and voice
5G offers many exciting capabilities â but one of the greatest challenges is
how to deliver these 5G services at a cost that operators and customers can
The cost of building a 5G network may be prohibitive for smaller players
But all of this will come with challenges for operators, and the most pressing
one is cost.
Most customers are unwilling to pay significantly more for their mobile phone
package, and there is an increasing expectation of unlimited data packages.
Globally, mobile phone services are considered to be maturing, with nearly
everyone owning a phone. Meanwhile, revenue, on a per-user basis, has been
growing at approximately 2.5 percent per annum for the past number of years.
To launch 5G, mobile phone operators are faced with greatly increasing capital
and operational costs, but with a static income to pay for it all. To stay
competitive, companies will need to build a national 5G network. But the cost
of doing so may be prohibitive for smaller players.
For instance, among the reasons provided by US mobile operators T-Mobile and
Sprint for merging was the need to invest in building the infrastructure for 5G
networks â something neither company could afford to do effectively alone.
5G technology uses tall masts, but also requires small devices similar to WiFi
In the future, operators will need to be innovative in how they address both
the deployment and the operational cost of such a complex network.
Aside from cost opposition from consumers, another challenge will be in
actually establishing the network. To do this, mobile phone operators will need
to start deploying the basestations and antennas needed to support these new
The challenge is that it is expected that mobile operators will need to deploy
up to ten times more basestations than are needed for 4G networks.
The scale and complexity of managing a 5G network is a huge challenge for
Many will be similar to what we are used to seeing on tall masts, but most will
be small, similar to WiFi routers. This process is called densification.
This is a major issue for operators in practice, and means that the cost of
building and then operating a nationwide 5G network will likely be many times
that of existing mobile phone networks.
Then there is the issue of managing the network. At the moment, this is a very
people-intensive activity â people have to follow up on fault reports,
complaints about black spots, and have to try to generally improve performance.
Listen: Robert Mullins, coordinator of CogNet, explains on Morning Ireland how
a Waterford-based group is working on developing 5G, the next generation of
mobile phone networks.
If the scale of the network grows by a factor of 10, the operators will not be
able to afford to hire the additional support staff. Machine learning, AI
systems and drones are viewed as the solution, and their use will radically
change how networks are managed.
For example, at the Science Foundation Ireland-funded CONNECT centre, we are
exploring intelligent systems that combine operator infrastructure measurements
with performance metrics from apps on phones that report user experiences.
Our aim is to assess the ability of machine learning to propose network
improvements in terms of how to configure the network, but also where black
spots may need new basestations.
Operators will need to be innovative in how they address both the deployment
and the operational cost
Other projects are proposing the use of drones to fly through an area and
measure the mobile phone coverage without having to send someone in person.
Overall, 5G offers many exciting prospects to us as users, with a range of new
abilities and services.
In a competitive world where 5G is essential for the future of any mobile phone
service, the scale and complexity of managing a 5G network is a huge challenge
This challenge will reward the most innovative and capable operators with the
ability to deploy and profit from the opportunities 5G offers.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent or
reflect the views of RTÃ.
Sent from my iPhone
The fb-exchange mailing list
Manage account, subscribe or unsubscribe:
Administrative contact: insight@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx