Design and Development of 5G Devices: 5G Performance Ranges
How can engineers choose the correct performance range for their 5G application?
The promises of 5G (5th Generation) communications and connectivity protocol are becoming a reality. 5G networks are now being deployed offering faster data rates, lower latency times, and increased bandwidth.
Before going further, it should be noted that 5G is made up of several different performance levels. 5G networks consist of a:
- Low band range (600MHz to 3GHz)
- Mid-band range (3GHz to 6GHz)
- Millimeter wave range (>10Ghz) or mmWave
New and existing 5G deployments primarily use low and mid-band frequency ranges. These lower 5G frequencies offer faster download and upload speeds, faster connectivity, and larger “traffic” capacity than the currently deployed 4G LTE platforms.
Additionally, these 5G lower frequency platforms are easier to deploy, enable transmission signals to travel further, and are more resilient to obstacles and bad weather than the much higher 5G mmWave bands.
But, the “holy grail” of performance will exist when these higher 5G “mmWave” frequencies become widely deployed. This mmWave platform will offer data transmission rates 5x to 10x faster than 4G LTE, and, most importantly, latency rates 10x to 20x smaller than 4G LTE.
A key component of any conversation about connectivity is latency. Latency (or delay) refers to how quickly a network reacts to an action or an input. Latency acts as a game-changer for the advent of several applications for 5G networks, including true autonomous driving, remote medical procedures, lightning-fast gaming, and a host of applications that are impossible today.
So, if the “game-changing” technology exists, why not use it now?
The short answer is deployment. There are several constraints regarding the deployment of 5G mmWave frequencies. This very high-frequency signal travels only 20% of the distance as 5G low band. These signals do not penetrate walls, glass, and bad weather as easily as the lower frequency bands. And the current transmission infrastructure requires a major overhaul to enable widespread deployment.
From a product definition and development perspective, these various 5G performance levels must be carefully considered. Choosing the wrong performance level could make product design too expensive or conversely might not carry the performance needed to meet the target application.
Applications Where 5G Will Dominate
A recent report from Molex entitled The State of 5G revealed the results of a survey presented to R&D, engineering, and product stakeholders. Included in that survey was a question regarding what market they expected to be the first to generate significant new business revenue by leveraging 5G technology. Respondents were presented with a list of consumer device categories and asked to choose two. Here are the results:
- Consumer devices (43%), including gaming, smart home, consumer wearables, and home security
- Industrial and IIoT applications (35%), such as automation, robotics, process control, smart grid, logistics
- Fixed wireless access (33%), such as 5G-enabled home access
- Automotive applications (29%) involving telematics, passenger wireless access, autonomous control
- Enterprise private networks (25%)
- Medical devices (19%), such as medical wearables and connected implants as well as remote surgeries, patient monitoring, and remote physical therapy
As 5G evolves, so do a myriad of growth opportunities.
Critical Factors for Implementing 5G at the Device Level
There are many use cases to choose from as one designs and tests any 5G enabled system. Let’s focus on three specific areas:
- Enhanced mobile broadband (EMBB)
- Ultra-reliable and low latency (URLL)
- Massive machine-type communication (mMTC)
Adding to the complexity of the application, each of these use cases involves many different design and test challenges. Let’s begin by focusing on the RF antenna requirements.
An example testing chamber for 5G antennas (left) and a representation of a beam pattern analysis for a 5G antenna array (right). Image from Molex
RF antenna design illustrates the critical importance regarding the choice of which 5G frequency bands to operate in. Depending on these frequency choices, 5G requires far more antennas for Massive MIMO (mMIMO) beamforming than 4G. This also means that arrays of 5G antennas must be correctly designed and deployed. Deployment leads to several packaging and placement decisions.
Effective implementation of beamforming and beam steering at the device level is also key. 5G networks maximize signal transmission using beamforming, where shape-directed signals are passed between the transmitter and receiver.
Also important to remain competitive in the 5G market are modules for the efficient conversion of analog to digital and determining what connector and interconnect approaches work best with the high frequencies found in 5G.
Advanced 5G Device Testing
Thorough testing is critical for successful 5G device launches and compliance with international standards (which are very likely to evolve with 5G). This process includes both advanced simulation and physical testing. It may involve even more exhaustive studies considering that just one-tenth of a mm in size change can have a significant impact on the performance of a device.
An engineer adjusts a testing chamber. Image from Molex
Devices designed to take advantage of 5G will require testing related to radiation emissions, beamforming capabilities, and high-gain antennas. In addition, testing facilities must be prepared with ultra-high precision positioners to support assessing the wide range of frequencies involved with 5G.
It is clear there are significant design challenges related to antenna design, beamforming, and deployment. Once designs have been thoroughly analyzed, physical testing becomes critical, making sure international standards are strictly adhered to or exceeded. This testing may require advanced testing facilities.
Molex has the components and solutions needed to bring a 5G-enabled device from concept to market. As an early investor in mmWave testing technologies, Molex has been a longtime frontrunner in 5G testing and design capabilities. As a Molex authorized distributor, Sager Electronics offers an extensive Molex connectivity portfolio to enhance 5G enabled design.
Sager Electronics is also a source for additional Electromechanical, Power and Thermal products and technology to enable complete 5G system functionality.
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