Fight for 5G: redistribution of zones of influence, or a game of thimbles?
Faster, higher, stronger – the Olympic motto, which is very relevant for today’s IT infrastructure. Each new radio standard introduced is increasingly increasing the amount of information transmitted, reducing network latency, and introducing quite a few useful innovations that are far from always understood by the end user of the service. Today, as practice shows, the jump in the quality parameters of cellular networks, from the old generation to the new, can be described by a geometric progression. Accordingly, we have already formed the expectation that each new standard should become several times more functional than the existing one. The expectation is justified. In our memory, the introduction of 2-3-4G technologies, in fact, were such breakthroughs, but what about 5G?
Meeting all kinds of publications in the media, as well as discussing among friends the triumphant reports of mobile operators, about the readiness to launch 5G communications, for many of us, the imagination automatically draws the most wonderful prospects. Unfortunately, in addition to conquering the shining IT peaks, the new wireless standards also have their pitfalls, which we do not always think about. The situation is aggravated by the fact that the emergence of qualitatively new network capabilities can rest not only within the limits of the laws of physics, but also in the unwillingness of society to pay for the creation of these networks, since it will not see at this stage the need for these new features. It is about these ambiguities of 5G technology that we will lead the conversation further.
For the mass consumer of the services of mobile operators, the nuances of the technology used are not very important, but four “whales” are extremely relevant: price, coverage, speed and latency of the network. It is with these parameters that marketing experts of companies developing and promoting a new standard for cellular communications most often operate. Accordingly, with these parameters, each new introduced standard gave us over time something qualitatively new.
The indescribable advantage of mobility, which was given to us by cell phones in the 90s, was only overshadowed by the possibility of using your mobile gadget as a full-fledged Internet modem in 2G networks. Having the opportunity to access e-mail, various kinds of information portals, and without tying himself to a wired infrastructure, a new goal has appeared on the horizon – to overcome the upper speed barrier and also radically reduce ping, in 2G networks it is rather sad. The full implementation of the 3G communication standard may not have been as exciting and exciting as it was with 2G, however, it has undoubtedly become a new milestone for all of us. Comparing 3G with its predecessor, it can be noted that the actual speed, both for downloading and for upload, has increased tenfold! In addition to a phenomenal increase in speed, we also received a decrease in the network latency level to a comfortable 50 ms, which was an order of magnitude better than 2G with its 200+ ms. With the advent of the third generation of cellular communications, finally, the mobile Internet has become a truly competitive alternative to its wired counterpart.
As for 4G, it surprised even less than its predecessor. Yes, of course, with the advent of a new standard, the Internet has habitually become even more “nimble”, networks have become even more capacious. At the same time, from the point of view of commercial success, 4G turned out to be a rather dubious acquisition for telecom operators, especially the operators providing it in developing countries felt a particularly poor payback on the service. Sky-high speeds of 4G, in theory up to 1 Gbit / s, are still causing a smile among the mass consumer. A much more popular parameter for the normal use of the standard is the presence of a sufficient number of 4G base stations. Over the past 5 years of development, 4G coverage in prosperous Germany, France, and Britain has covered about 99% of the population, but on a global scale, this is the exception rather than the rule. If you take even the post-Soviet space, you can see that 4G is still at the stage of investment and implementation. What on this background expects 5G?
4G coverage map of the largest mobile operators in Germany – Ukraine
In fact, that giant leap that came from 1G to 4G networks was made within the boundaries of a single technological process. Each subsequent “G” is, not less than a little, modernized by its predecessor. This, in general, not surprising understanding leads us to understand the current situation – we are as close as possible to the boundaries of the technology we use, which is the basis of modern cellular networks. Increasing the amplitude of the transmitting channel, new signal modulation methods gave us the opportunity to increase the amount of transmitted information per unit time, but in the future a significant increase in network speed will be possible only through a significant increase in the operating frequency, and this is very fraught with consequences.
Estimation of the number of base stations to cover 100% of the territory of Ukraine, depending on their operating frequencies
The fact is that, according to the school course in physics, with these very frequencies increasing, their attenuation also substantially increases, and in addition, the penetrating power of radio magnetic waves also decreases. For a service provider, this means only one thing, a radical increase in the number of base stations, and, accordingly, a radical increase in investments in their infrastructure, which ultimately will be borne by the consumer. If in cities this model can still be implemented, due to the high population density, then there can be no talk of wide coverage.
An alternative to high frequencies can be the introduction of 5G at low frequencies, up to 1 GHz, this will make it possible to fully cover vast territories, however, in this scenario, the average user will not notice the changes in the operation of his gadget, from the already familiar 4G emu. As a result, 5G runs the risk of becoming a headache for marketers, having some groundwork for the distant future, carrying deeper benefits, say, for the LoT world, but the mass user will obviously not overpay for it.
If at low frequencies 5G is a competitor for 4G, then it is logical to assume that the new standard will be launched at frequencies of 5 GHz and higher. Indeed, according to the new standard, it can be launched at frequencies up to 300 GHz. But here we come across a new obstacle, the use of a millimeter-wave mobile device causes a conflict with a competitor in the face of WiFi technology.
WiFi is a long-standing enemy for mobile operators. Occupying a middle ground between the price of a “wired” megabyte and the level of mobility, he firmly established himself in our homes, offices, transport and even parks. Having the principles of wireless data transfer similar to 5G, WiFi technology went its own way of becoming and reliably occupied its unique niche, until very recently.
Honestly, the situation with IT communications has long become quite absurd, and here’s the thing. It is unclear who first climbed into whose garden – Internet providers with their IP-telephony to mobile operators, or operators with their 2-3-4-5G began to take Internet traffic from small providers, but now there is a conflict of interest. Mobile operators have actually become Internet providers, Internet providers have remained Internet providers, but at the same time remain adherents of a slightly different network architecture. In fact, we have witnessed a convergent evolution in IT. If we consider the introduced 5G standard not in terms of changing the 4G generation, which it should completely replace over time, as it actually happened with 2-3G earlier, but call it, say, a WiFi killer? In this case, many inconsistencies and oddities associated with 5G can be very understandable and take their place in the logical chain.
Internet channels through which we can communicate with the whole world are identical for both a large mobile operator and a small provider of home wired Internet. Business for both starts at the client – provider level. That is how we will get to the World Wide Web and there is a multi-billion dollar business brewed with different technologies, equipment, and trademarks. The situation when we use two different approaches to organizing access to the Internet previously made sense, and apparently tomorrow it will not end, but the world is striving for simplification. The refusal to use the services of classical providers will result from the creation by corporations of universal methods of access to the Internet through universal cellular networks. Universal communication modules, universal “lightweight” gadgets from unclaimed blocks WiFi, Bluetooth, LAN. Centralized cleaning up with the organization of sustainable coverage, elimination (significant reduction) of radio-frequency pollution of offices, especially apartment buildings, will definitely benefit the final consumer. Is it really that bad? Can it really be time to make this quality leap?
Someone may say that all this is nonsense, they say WiFi goes its own way of development and has a very convenient set of features that will not let it just die. Maybe so, on new laptops and now you can find both Bluetooth and an output for the RJ-45 connector, however, less and less. What wifi did with them, one fine moment c WiFi can do 5G.
With such a development of events, there is only one thing left to fear: if WiFi becomes an anachronism and the lot of geeks, will we fall into the shaggy paws of several monopolistic operators? Will we again remember those forgotten as a nightmare: per-second tariffication of IP-telephony, “horse” tariffs per megabyte, roaming and other delights? All these questions, obviously, tomorrow, but do not forget – today is yesterday yesterday, and you and I are witnesses.
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