5G. It was going to be a long road to rollouts in 2020. But now it’s looking like 2016 will be the first field implementations. That’s good news as our mobile data traffic is growing rapidly. According to Gartner, “Global mobile data traffic is set to reach 52 million terabytes (TB) in 2015, an increase of 59% from 2014. The rapid growth is set to continue through 2018, when mobile data levels are estimated to reach 173 million TB.”

Most of what we hear about 5G is speed…massive increases that will be 30 to 50 times faster than 4G/LTE. But 5G is also about low latency. Today, latencies run about 75 to 100 ms. 5G is aiming for a mere 1ms. This not only improves the online gaming experience, but allows for remote surgery and mission-critical Industrial IOT (IIoT) applications. 5G will also bring lower power consumption, traffic prioritization, and the real possibility of cutting all those cables running to our front doors.

The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance recently published a paper summarizing the core goals of 5G:

  • Provide far greater throughput, lower latency, and higher connection density;
  • Cope with a wide range of use cases and business models, a high degree of flexibility, and scalability by design;
  • Leverage foundational shifts in cost and energy efficiency;
  • Offer the end user a consistent customer experience achieved across time and service footprint; and
  • Provide a truly global 5G ecosystem, free of fragmentation and open for innovations.

In addition, the group released technical documentation on “Recommendations For Small Cell Development and Deployment” and “Backhaul Provisioning for LTE-Advanced & Small Cells.”

But designing, building, and testing 5G wireless prototypes is a complex engineering feat. According to Kevin Linehan, VP and CTO of antenna systems at CommScope:

If 5G is really going to deliver speeds that are up to 1,000 times faster than the 4G we use today, it needs to utilize the spectrum it will travel over more effectively. Like the journeys to 3G and 4G, the RF path will be critical to the arrival at ‘Destination 5G,’ as will be the need for a high signal to noise ratio (SNR) to ensure a robust data service. This ratio has become increasingly important as the demands for high-speed data increase.

New multi-antenna technologies, such as Massive MIMO systems, are considered the most likely candidates to significantly improve spectral efficiency in 5G networks.  Implementing MIMO with large-scale antenna arrays, typically with 64 or more transceiver elements, is expected to increase the capacity of a cell well beyond what is achievable today. Large-scale antenna systems become more practical in terms of size at higher frequencies, where the wavelengths become shorter. These antennas are likely to be an important technology in spectrum bands above 2GHz and in TDD spectrum where handset feedback is not needed.

5G will require adding more spectrum while continuing to support previous air-interface technologies and managing multiple frequency bands. Ever more sophisticated RF beamforming and interference mitigation technologies will need to be utilized.

The Challenge of High Frequency PCB Materials

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 10.05.21 AMAs users demand smarter, lighter, higher performance devices on ever faster networks, designers of mobile devices and antennas need to balance weight, size, radiation characteristics (such as gain, beamwidth, side-lobe levels, polarization) and cost. The PCB substrate material has a major impact on circuit performance. Low dielectric constant (Dk)/low dissipation factor (Df) materials are desired to maximize radiation efficiencies of antennas while keeping overall losses to a minimum.

Rogers Corporation Advanced Connectivity Solutions provides a broad selection of high frequency circuit materials designed with these considerations in mind. Designers needing best in class performance or commercial high frequency materials can find solutions in Rogers’ extensive product portfolio and through collaboration with Rogers R&D teams to develop unique solutions for this new technology. 5G is shaping-up to impact every aspect of our lives. Finding the right balance of material performance and cost is a challenge for a technology that is yet to be fully defined.

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3G, 4G, and now 5G?! These mobile network terms are a big part of the way companies differentiate various phones and tablets. It was easy in the beginning…1G meant analog cell phones and 2G meant digital phones. 3G, third-generation, networks were supposed to bring broadband speeds to mobile devices. But there are so many varieties of 3G that you could get speeds from 400Kbps to more than 10X that. 4G phones are supposed to be even faster, but that’s not always the case. According to PC Magazine,

The International Telecommunications Union, a standards body, tried to issue requirements to call a network 4G but they were ignored by carriers, and eventually the ITU backed down. 4G technologies include HSPA+ 21/42, WiMAX, and LTE (although some consider LTE the only true 4G of that bunch, and some people say none of them are fast enough to qualify.)

cisco_global_mobileWith all this variability, PC Magazine runs an annual “Fastest Mobile Networks test across the US. The results for 2014 show different carriers ranking at the top in different regions.

But what type of mobile traffic is actually being used? How many 4G devices are out there? Are faster 4G connections consuming more bandwidth?

With networking equipment installed around the world, Cisco is in a unique position to measure data traffic. According to the “Cisco Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update, 2013-2018,”

In 2013, a fourth-generation (4G) connection generated 14.5 times more traffic on average than a non-4G connection. Although 4G connections represent only 2.9% of mobile connections today, they already account for 30% of mobile data traffic.

The Mobile Network in 2013

More results from the Cisco report include…

  • Global mobile data traffic reached 1.5 exabytes per month at the end of 2013, up from 820 petabytes per month at the end of 2012.
  • Last year’s mobile data traffic was nearly 18 times the size of the entire global Internet in 2000. One exabyte of traffic traversed the global Internet in 2000, and in 2013 mobile networks carried nearly 18 exabytes of traffic.
  • Mobile video traffic exceeded 50% for the first time in 2012. Mobile video traffic was 53 percent of traffic by the end of 2013.
  • Over half a billion (526 million) mobile devices and connections were added in 2013. Global mobile devices and connections in 2013 grew to 7 billion, up from 6.5 billion in 2012. Smartphones accounted for 77% of traffic.
  • In 2013, on an average, a smart device generated 29 times more traffic than a non-smart device.
  • Mobile network connection speeds more than doubled in 2013. Globally, the average mobile network downstream speed in 2013 was 1,387 kilobits per second (Kbps), up from 526 Kbps in 2012.
  • The top 1% of mobile data subscribers generated 10 percent of mobile data traffic, down from 52% at the beginning of 2010.
  • Average smartphone usage grew 50% in 2013. The average amount of traffic per smartphone in 2013 was 529 MB per month, up from 353 MB per month in 2012.
  • Smartphones represented only 27% of total global handsets in use in 2013, but represented 95% of total global handset traffic. In 2013, the typical smartphone generated 48 times more mobile data traffic (529 MB per month) than the typical basic-feature cell phone (which generated only 11 MB per month of mobile data traffic).

The Mobile Network Through 2018

Cisco projects mobile data traffic will reach the following milestones within the next five years.

  • Monthly global mobile data traffic will surpass 15 exabytes by 2018.
  • The number of mobile-connected devices will exceed the world’s population by 2014.
  • The average mobile connection speed will surpass 2 Mbps by 2016.
  • Due to increased usage on smartphones, smartphones will reach 66 percent of mobile data traffic by 2018.
  • Monthly mobile tablet traffic will surpass 2.5 exabyte per month by 2018.
  • Tablets will exceed 15 percent of global mobile data traffic by 2016.
  • 4G traffic will be more than half of the total mobile traffic by 2018.
  • There will be more traffic offloaded from cellular networks (on to Wi-Fi) than remain on cellular networks by 2018.

RO4000The Challenge of High Frequency PCB Materials

As users demand smarter, lighter, higher performance devices, designers need to balance weight, size, and radiation characteristics, such as gain, beamwidth, side-lobe levels, and polarization. The choice of PCB substrate material has a major impact. For instance, the high concentration of electrical energy in dielectric materials with high dielectric constants (Dk), degrades radiation efficiency.

Rogers Corporation provides a broad selection of high frequency circuit materials that are designed with these considerations in mind. Some materials have high dielectric constant to aid in the size reduction of antennas, for instance, while others are made with easy to process resins to assist in the reduction of cost for high frequency printed circuit boards.

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