The impact of 5G on fibre requirements

The impact of 5G on fibre requirements

5G Fibre

The 5G mobile network is still being rolled out and will likely only have widespread use later in the decade, but with it comes incredibly high-speed mobile connectivity.

What is the impact of 5G on fibre requirements?

However, it’s important to realise that – rather than replacing fibre optic networks – 5G will complement the existing fibre network by offering a much more cohesive internet experience. For 5G to function as envisioned, we have to have a fully-established fibre network.

5G mobile network explained

This is the 5th generation of wireless technology that supports the digital cellular network. The deployment of this superior network started last year and will continue well into the 2020s, with the network relying on antennas.

Fibre optic explained

The fibre optic network relies on a system of fibre cables – made of a plastic or glass – which transmit data using light. Fibre cables are replacing the previous copper cables, providing reliable, high-speed internet over longer distances.

The evolution of wireless technology

The mobile network has had to evolve quickly to meet the growing needs of consumers as cellphones have developed over the years. There has been:

  • First generation (1G) – this was the start of mobile technology with the network first deployed in Japan back in 1979. The system uses analogue signals with many technological limitations.
  • Second generation (2G) – the introduction of cellphone texting prompted the need for a more advanced wireless technology, known as the Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication.
  • Third generation (3G) – the internet became mobile and the network had to allow for data browsing through the Universal Mobile Terrestrial/Telecommunication Systems (UMTS).
  • Fourth generation (4G) – increased demand for faster data speeds to allow for video streaming prompted the rollout of 4G. This was then upgraded to 4G LTE which allowed for simultaneous transmission of voice and data.

Introduction of 5G

The Internet of Things (IoT) has prompted the need for much more advanced mobile technology capabilities and this is becoming a reality in the form of 5G wireless networks. They provide:

  • Almost 100% network availability
  • Less than 1 millisecond latency
  • 1 000 times the bandwidth
  • 10 gigabit-per-second (Gbps) speeds

With 5G, unlike the previous wireless technology, a different set of frequencies will be used to implement new services. Sub-6-GHz will be used worldwide as the basis for mobile connectivity, while higher parts of the spectrum will be used for high-bandwidth coverage.

How 5G works with fibre

The 5G wireless network will essentially rely on the existing fibre optic network to function fully. Only about 11% of traffic is actually covered by wireless technology with the remainder supported by the wireline network. Effectively the quality and reliability of the wireless network will depend on the fibre network carrying traffic to and from 5G small cells.

5G wireless networks use high-frequency millimetre waves, however, these waves can only travel about 60 metres. This means that operators will rely on fibre networks for the final stage of connectivity. Telecommunication companies will install lower-cast, small cell sites – which are much cheaper than macro cell towers – thereby relying on fibre networks as the backbone of 5G technology. This will result in a higher quality of experience when using wireless devices.

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