The idea of 5G Internet seemed exciting and promised significant advantages over previous generations. In practice, however, 5G’s performance has been far less impressive. First and foremost, this happened because a 10-fold increase in speed compared to 4G is possible only on the newest gadgets that are just beginning to appear on sale. Along with that, early deployed 5G networks are far from being perfect. But the situation is gradually improving, and one of the technologies that can help in the development of 5G is densification.
What densification is
Densification is not even technology as such; it is a collection of network improvements that allow integrating more elements into a given space.
Densification can include:
- addition of new communication points to the network;
- expansion of the frequency bandwidth;
- increase in the allowable amount of data transmitted, etc.
Most commonly, densification is achieved by building new cell towers. However, this is not always easy to organize: the installation of a tower requires permission from government agencies and the owner of the land. Apart from that, to improve the network, small transmitters were also used, which were much easier to install. But such solutions were not universal and aimed only at mmWave gadgets. Moreover, the solutions with small transmitters turned out to be quite expensive, and some providers abandoned them, as they’re not sure of a return on investment.
An important technology for network densification is Massive MIMO. Massive MIMO allows a large number of towers to simultaneously send a signal, thus improving the quality and speed of the connection. This technology was used way back for 4G networks, and now providers are using it for 5G as well.
Spectrum broadening, DSS, and other technologies
An important role in improving the quality of 5G networks belongs to spectrum broadening. The radio frequency spectrum is often compared to the automobile road: the more lanes it has, the more traffic capacity and the fewer traffic jams there are. This logic is also true for the spectrum. The location of the spectrum broadening is also of great importance – the traffic capacity should be much higher in a densely populated center than in the lonesome countryside.
New technologies make it possible to use the same frequencies in different ways. For example, Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology allows for transmission on the same frequencies via 4G and 5G simultaneously. Thus, providers can keep supporting 4G LTE services, which are still used by many people, and at the same time offer 5G to those who want it.
Some companies take different approaches. T-Mobile, for example, operates on the low-frequency spectrum of 600 MHz. In addition to acquiring Sprint, T-Mobile also acquired the rights to use the “center lane” – frequencies of 2.5 GHz. Part of that spectrum is currently used for 4G LTE; however, by moving it to 1.9 GHz, T-Mobile can use 2.5 GHz for 5G. This variant has already been tested in New York and provided speeds of more than 750 Mb/s.
Several major providers, including T-Mobile, are working on the deployment of standalone (SA) modification. This is an upgrade of the network infrastructure between the towers and the computing power of cloud providers. The previous version, non-standalone mode (NSA), proved to be less effective, and the support of both modes at once led to delays. The advantage of SA is better response time and better performance. However, the complexity of networks, especially wireless ones, often makes it difficult to switch from NSA to SA.
With the launch of C-Band and CBRS in 2021, new 5G bands will open. This will make a major leap forward in performance, and the improvements will become more tangible for all users. In a broad sense, the process of improvement is going on, and although it may seem that things are moving slowly, there were times when the situation with 4G looked even sadder.
We are closely monitoring the development of 5G technologies, as the business prospects of many of our customers from the Entertainment industry depend on it. For example, the next-generation Internet is driving the development of streaming services, such as IVI platform. But even putting the Entertainment sphere aside, 5G directly or indirectly affects all sectors of the economy, because a modern business that isn’t on the Internet simply does not exist.