The next generation of 5G wireless networks are almost upon us and are set to take over by the end of this year or early 2020. Like all other upgrades on mobile networks it will come with faster speeds, lower latency and increased capacity. Before we take a look at whether this upgrade is really necessary, let’s take a look at what it takes to build a communication network like this. 

The current communication network includes metro cells, macro base stations, outdoor and indoor distributed antenna systems [DAS] all working together in a heterogeneous network [HetNet]. These work between 2-8 GHz range and the 5G network is proposed to work between 28 and 60 Ghz, including the frequency range that LTE currently works on. 

The 5G networks will also have a dense, distributed network of base stations in the small cell infrastructure, which will further reduce latency. 

Image source: Qorvo

MSC [mobile switching centre] is a telephone exchange that makes the connection between mobile users within the network, from mobile users to the public switched telephone network and from mobile users to other mobile networks.

RRH [remote radio head] is a remote radio transceiver that connects to an operator radio control panel via electrical or wireless interface.

MIMO [multiple input and multiple output] is a technique that utilizes multiple antennas at both the transmitter and the receiver, i.e. at both the base station and the terminal in a wireless network.

Since mobile users are using their devices for more data-intensive applications like gaming, streaming videos, and live streaming, this requires faster data uplink/downlink and handovers from tower to tower. 

Image source: Qorvo

This diagram shows the different ranges that each type of cell can reach. The interoperability of these stations with 5G network is the key to making it function on these bandwidths. 

To successfully build a 5G network, small cell densification is a necessity. A small cell is basically a miniature base station that breaks up a cell site into much smaller pieces, and is a term that encompasses pico cells, micro cells, femtocells and can comprise of indoor/outdoor systems. With a macro base station, there’s one pipe going into the network; with small cells, it breaks the pipe into many pipes. The main goal of small cells is to increase the macro cell’s edge data capacity, speed, and overall network efficiency. 

Unlike the current LTE networks that have large geographically dispersed cells, the new 5G network will be comprised of these small cells. These are typically used in densely populated areas like airports, malls, etc which have a lot of data users at any given point of time. This is important because it eliminates the need for installation and maintenance of expensive rooftop systems.

Another important thing to note is that these smart cells will make use of millimeter waves. These millimeter waves will be at a much higher frequency [between 30-300 GHz], compared to the LTE frequency that is currently being used. They vary from 1 to 10 mm and are hence called millimeter waves. 

Nailing our own coffin [drawbacks]

A major drawback of millimeter waves is its inability to penetrate through thick walls and obstacles and they get easily absorbed by rain and other foliage. Which is why 5G networks will be used parallelly with traditional cellular towers i.e small cells. 

This means that they need to either use more RF [radio frequency] waves to push a small amount or shrink the cell down and place it closer to people. Either way, this will result in a lot more RF waves floating around and people will be exposed to much more radiation than ever before. 

Just like how the 5G millimeter positive ion particles are absorbed by plants and rain, they will be attracted to the 2 to 4 million sweat glands in our bodies, eyes, and mouth due to their moisture content. This could cause major health issues due to overexposure and will result in directly affecting our food production. 

The positive ions are the ones that neutralize the negative ions in oxygen and ultimately the air that carries them, cellular towers are known for producing a large amount of them. Hence leaving a significantly less amount of negative ions to be absorbed by animals and plants. Negative ions are responsible for clearing the air of airborne allergens such as pollen, mold spores, bacteria and viruses. Besides they also clear the air of dust, pet dander and cigarette smoke.

Even though we’re always exposed to RF waves from outer space and devices around us, this could be a tipping point that pushes us over the edge and disrupts the ionic balance. 

More importantly, we need to realize if implementing 5G networks this way is absolutely necessary given their drawbacks. Given that people mostly use their phones for connectivity and consuming content, which LTE systems already provide and are always usually in an ecospace where WiFi is readily available to them for using more data intensive applications. 

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