5G network will be available in most cities across the globe by mid of 2020. The fifth generation mobile communication technology is much complex than earlier generations. What are the challenges to implementation of 5G technology?
There are many challenges to address during transition from existing LTE to advanced 5G network.
LTE technology uses lower microwave frequency to communicate between mobile devices and base stations. Existing mobile devices are designed to operate at low frequency spectrum 700MHz to 3400MHz. Sub 6-GHz spectrum and millimeter waves will be used in 5G technology.
5G technology has complex modulation techniques and waveforms to transmit high speed data. New generation modems are used in 5G technology to handle complex data transfer. Sophisticated antenna arrays are integrated in 5G mobile devices to support data transfer in gigabit rate.
Current LTE technology is not compatible with 5G technologies in terms of spectrum, modulation technique, waveforms and hardware. Additional set of antenna arrays and transmitting devices are required to equip existing LTE base stations for the 5G capability.
Non Standalone mode
According to experts, non standalone mode is one of the most effective ways to deploy the new radio (NR) into existing LTE network. This connectivity mode is known as ENDC E-UTRAN New Radio – Dual Connectivity. This will allow user devices (UE) to access both LTE network and new 5G network simultaneously using the same spectrum.
New generation of mobile devices are capable to support 5G new radio (NR) bands at least in the sub-6 GHz range in the initial stages of 5G deployment. However, large number of existing 4G devices has to be replaced for the 5G network readiness.
Spectrum and License
Limitation of the operating spectrum is another challenge in many countries. Service providers will have to pay huge amount every year for spectrum usage. 5G requires additional bands in microwave range in addition to current LTE bands in the lower bands (700MHz to 3400 MHz).
Millimeter waves require line of sight communication for data transfer and more susceptible to atmospheric noises compared to microwave and lower spectrum. Signal quality will be significantly reduced by any distractions like trees, buildings, vehicles and any hard objects like concrete.
In order to cover a larger geographical area, huge number of base stations is required. User wills experience poor signal quality while moving away from transmitting stations and thus it could impact the quality of service.
Optical Fibre network connectivity has to be established to thousands of small cells and base stations. This is a huge task for network operators since the number of base stations required in 5G are much higher compared to conventional LTE networks.
In order to cover a large geographical area, millions of supporting equipments has to be deployed. 5G uses highly sophisticated hardware to achieve higher data rate and low latency network.
Active and passive front haul solutions are used in various scenarios to support faster data connectivity. Small cell deployments on street or light poles use passive solutions (concealed unit with antenna modules and necessary hardware) which require external fibre connectivity.
Active solutions are used in macro deployments for network operators relocating the basebands from the bottom of the base station tower to base band hotels.
Wireless network co-existence is one of the most important specifications seriously taken into account during design and implementation. Since the wireless spectrum is very wide and many systems operate at different frequency, intemodulation distortion may occur due to mixing of one or more high power signals within same devices or other devices in the surroundings.
Strict guidelines and specifications will ensure wireless co-existence while operating in dense system.
Complexity of the 5G technology is the major challenge during design of hardware, implementation and transition from existing network.
5G technology will be using complex modulations schemes and encryption algorithms to ensure highly secure network. Massive MIMO antenna arrays will play a key role in significantly increasing the throughput.