Futuristic 5G Networks will Require Radical Restructuring of Spectrum Resources

by Matt Klassen on December 5, 2014

It should come as no surprise to hear that even as 4G LTE continues to establish itself as the norm in the wireless market that the race is on to develop next generation 5G networks. But what may come as a surprise is hearing just how different 5G technology will be from its predecessors, taking the wireless market to places we still only dream of.

As BBC News writer Ed Ram explains, “While 5G will follow in the footsteps of 4G and 3G, this time scientists are more excited. They say 5G will be different – very different.” Granted 5G will deliver everything you might expect—faster streaming, better performance, and a smoother app experience—the next generation of wireless technology will go well beyond that, changing the entire infrastructure of the wireless world.

Such a systemic change is necessary, analysts say, in order to truly utilize the available spectrum—the backbone of the wireless industry—thus allowing for the wireless world to expand, incorporating futuristic notions like smart cities, driverless cars, and even burgeoning wireless sectors like the Internet of Things. To put it simply, 5G will effectively be hitting the restart button; the only way to finally deliver the next gen wireless network we all crave.

If you’re thinking, “Great, that’s the end of my apps stalling, video faltering, and that everlasting load sign,” then you are right – but that’s only part of the story,” Rahim Tafazolli, the lead at the UK’s multimillion-pound government-funded 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey, explains. “5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonisation of the radio spectrum.”

The “harmonization of the radio spectrum” is the key to 5G development, Tafazolli notes, as a radical restructuring and repurposing of the available spectrum is the only way we’ll be able to achieve the network power and performance necessary to deliver the wireless world of the future.

As mentioned, the backbone of wireless technology is radio spectrum; that is the available radio waves that we use to transmit data. Now since the advent of wireless technology spectrum has become an invaluable resource, but companies have been forced to acquire spectrum piecemeal, leading to patchwork networks that are inefficient, leading to poor performance and unreliable connections.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the gaps between frequencies, once designated “white space,” or empty frequencies between radio bands designed to avoid interference, are now being used, creating a very cramped wireless world indeed.

The answer, Tafazolli explains, is a radical repurposing of spectrum, “comprehensively restructuring the parts of the radio network used to transmit data, while allowing pre-existing communications, including 4G and 3G, to continue functioning.”

If such a project is successful, spectrum will be used more efficiently, able to deliver a faster—much faster—wireless network experience. In fact, Tafazolli believes that 5G network speeds could top 800Gbps—100 times faster than current 5G test speeds reach today.

As I’ve long said regarding the continued spectrum plight of carriers here at home, the answer to establishing faster more reliable networks is not necessarily more spectrum—despite what carriers will say—but more effective management of the spectrum resources they currently have, and it seems this study from the U.K. supports such a conclusion.

The North American wireless industry handles finite resources the way many other home-grown industries seem to, with a gross lack of responsibility and no eye for efficiency. Simply put, if 5G is ever going to become a reality we’re going to need carriers to start rethinking how they use spectrum, making better use of the resources they already have instead of desperately trying to consume more.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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