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April 2019
What is 5G?

5G is almost here!

Why 5G?Why 5G you ask?
Verizon has a "5G" home service in small parts of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and Sacramento AT&T is running friendly user trials with mobile hotspots in 12 cities. Other companies are planning 5G rollouts in the near future.

By the end of 2019 many more 5G networks will be available but right now that is about it. The cost of these services has yet to be announced.

So what is 5G?
It is the Fifth Generation of wireless technology.
The “G” is for Generation. In the past each generation has been promoted as having faster speeds, (and that has been true) but there is more to it than just faster speeds. Each generation has been marked by different encoding methods, (or air interfaces) that make it incompatible with previous generations and that is still true. The 5G radio system is known as 5G-NR, (for New Radio) is not compatible with 4G systems.

Initially all the 5G mobile devices in the US will need 4G capability so they can connect where 5G isn't yet available. These are known as NSA or Non Standalone systems. Eventually they will be SA or Standalone but that will be a few years down the road.

Here is a quick review of the history of mobile phones:

  • A US patent was issued in Kentucky for a wireless phone in 1908.
  • The first successful mobile telephony service was offered to first class passengers on the Deutsche Reichsbahn on the route between Berlin and Hamburg in 1926.
  • AT&T developed cells for mobile phone base stations in the 1940s.
  • The first calls were made on a car radiotelephone in Chicago in 1946 Due to the small number of radio frequencies available, the service quickly reached capacity.
  • The first automated mobile phone system for a private vehicle launched in Sweden in 1956. The device was installed in the car using vacuum tube technology with rotary dial and weighed 40Kg, (about 88lbs). The service had a total of 125 subscribers between Stockholm and Gothenburg.
  • Motorola offered a hand held mobile phone starting in April 3, 1973. This is considered now as “0G”.
  • 1G was analog cellular. It was first seen back in 1979. Remember the “brick”?
  • 2G was the first digital cellular technology using CDMA, TDMA and GSM.
  • 3G brought speeds from 200kbps to a few megabits per second using EVDO, UMTS and HSPA.
  • 4G technologies are approaching gigabit speeds with WiMAX and LTE.

5G brings major improvements in three areas.

  • Greater speed to move more data.
  • Lower latency making it more responsive.
  • The ability to connect many more devices at one time like sensors and smart devices.

5G will be using the same channels with the same channel sizes as the 4G systems, at least at first. So 5G will not be much faster than LTE, particularly in rural areas. The 4G LTE system runs at about 15 bits/second/hertz and the 5G system runs at about 23 bits/second/hertz. Not a very big difference there. But the 5G has access to much larger channels and more often.

With the 4G LTE you are often down as low as a single 10MHz channel. With the millimeter-wave 5G system that AT&T is building you can't be on less than a 100MHz channel and that is at the minimum. As the 5G network gets built out the advantage of 5G will become more and more obvious.

Qualcomm Technologies first 5G-NR modem will deliver 5GBPS. Eventually 5G will deliver up to 20 GBPS downloads at peak rate.

5G primarily uses two kinds of airwaves.

The lower frequency networks operate from sub 1G up to around 6GHz and, for the most part, can use the existing infrastructure. The improvement in performance comes from taking advantage of better encoding and bigger channel size and can attain 25 to 50 percent faster speed than 4G LTE. That may not sound like an Earth shaking improvement and compared to the higher frequencies it isn't. But with the lower latency and the ability to handle many more devices it will improve access to many small towns and rural areas without waiting for the eventual infrastructure build-out.

Experience 5G.Experience 5G.

To get the really high performance carriers will have to use the “millimeter wave” in the 28GHz to 39GHz range. These millimeter wave signals do drop off faster with distance and the massive amount of data they transmit will require more connections to landlines. Cellular providers will have to use many more of the smaller, low-power base stations that output 2 to 10 watts and place them throughout suburban neighborhoods. In more densely populated areas they can use fewer of the more powerful “macrocells” that output 20 to 40 watts.

At this time there are no 5G phones available in the US although that will not be the case for much longer. The Samsung Galaxy S10 will probably be the first phone available in US and that is expected in the first half of 2019 with other makers coming soon thereafter. Verizon is more focused on 5G as a means of home Internet access while everyone else is focusing on mobile devices.

Who sets the standards for 5G?
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project, (3GPP) produces technical specifications. The 3GPP unites seven telecommunications standard development organizations known as Organizational Partners. They are ATIS (USA), ARIB (Japan), TTC (Japan), CCSA (China), ETSI (Europe), TTA (Korea) and TSDSI (India). These Organizational Partners transpose the technical specifications into “appropriate deliverables”, (a fancy term for standards). For more information about the 3GPP you can visit their website at,

Now let's talk about what 5G isn't:
5GHz Wi-Fi Is Not 5G Cellular

5GHz Wi-Fi is a short range, home networking system that operates in the five-gigahertz radio band. It's been around since 1999. Most Wi-Fi devices now support it.

Wi-Fi primarily uses two frequency bands, 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The 2.4GHz band is the default for most devices. It has only three available clear channels and is shared by Bluetooth, remote controls and microwave ovens. Because of this the 2.4GHz band can get very crowded and speeds can become very slow.

5GHz Wi-Fi has more available channels and can typically run much faster, but it has somewhat shorter range than 2.4GHz. If you can use 5GHz Wi-Fi, you probably should.

The confusing part is that many people refer to 5GHz Wi-Fi as "5G Wi-Fi" but Wi-Fi is not 5G cellular.

AT&T is rebranding its existing 4G network as “5G E” or “5G Evolution” It is 4G but AT&T wants' to argue that it is close enough. In the mobile world a "G" normally means a compatibility break. People will need new phones and new base stations.

There is a back-story here. Some years ago during the 3G/4G transition, Sprint and Verizon switched to arguably better 4G technologies (LTE and WiMAX) before AT&T and T-Mobile did. That was because they had hit dead-ends in their 3G technologies, while AT&T and T-Mobile had more 3G runway left go.

To prevent from being left behind in the marketing race, AT&T and T-Mobile arm-twisted the standards bodies to get HSPA+, a form of 3G, declared as 4G, which most people still consider one of the shadiest things ever done in wireless technology. We're seeing that again with 5G E. Don't buy into the fake news!

This is going to be big!
5G is going to be a massive game changer. Like the Internet changed the world 5G is going to be that kind of a change again. When the Internet first started many of the devices that are common today hadn't even been invented. Back then the idea of a computer in every house in the country was unimaginable now the inverse is almost unimaginable.

When High Definition TV first came out there we had very few channels that were HD capable and they had very few HD programs to offer. Today HD is everywhere and 4X has become the standard

Worldwide communication and a wealth of information at your fingertips through a handheld device was the stuff of science fiction. Now parents won't let their kids out of the house without their phone. And that phone has capabilities way beyond the old Star Trek Tricorder.

Right now the idea of an IOT, (See my Newsletter from January 2017 on the Internet of Things.) connected world is beyond most people's comprehension. Twenty years from now people will wonder how we ever managed to survive without it. Manufacturing became a whole new “ball game” with the introduction of robotics. 5G is going put the manufacturing industry through that kind of a change again.

In the medical world doctors can effectively treat patients from just about anywhere. Recently a doctor made headlines when he performed brain surgery on a patient who was thousands of miles away. Across town, across the state or on the other side of the planet the specialized medical treatment is available everywhere. Patients need not to travel, often vast distances, to receive specialized care at one of the few advanced medical centers that can provide that service. It will seem strange that people once had to spend week or months away from home for medical treatment.

The 5G revolution is going to change the world in ways that we cannot yet comprehend. Advanced mobile phones are only a small part of that picture.

What do we need to make this happen?

The first step is fiber! While the last mile may be wireless almost all communications, (including wireless) end up going through landlines. With the massive amounts of data being transmitted the backhaul for all these data bits needs to be fiber optic. Copper just won't cut it.

Many more 5G sub stations and base stations with 5G-NR radios need to be installed and connected to the Internet. Many more smart antennas need to be connected to theses station. The high frequencies are directional. That is the “beam” can be aimed in the direction of the device. That makes the system more energy efficient because we are not wasting energy transmitting over a broad area. Antenna design and placement will be very important for good service.

Many more 5G capable devices, some of which haven't even been designed yet. Right now there are very few 5G devices available but that will change by the end of 2019.

Race to 5G?The race to 5G halftime report!

It's a brave new world of 5G!

Many countries are competing for dominance in the race for 5G. Some of them are adversarial towards the US. Right now China has the lead and companies like Huawei, (the third largest maker of smart phones) and ZTE have the support of the Chinese government. In fact they are part of the Chinese government. While in this country the FTC is taking Qualcomm to court claiming they are a monopoly.

It started when Qualcomm said their wireless modem was worth $13.00 each but would sell it to Apple for $7.50 each. Apple wanted to pay 1.50 each and then balked at that and offered $1.00 each. (Remind me again how much the iPhone costs!) The case went to court and Qualcomm won. However the judge did decide that Qualcomm had to offer licensing for the patent on the modem. So Intel now makes the modems, (under license from Qualcomm) for Apple's iPhone

Then the FTC comes along and takes Qualcomm to court alleging anti competitive practices. Sighting both Apple and Intel as the poor suffering companies that had been damaged by Qualcomm's control of the market. The case is being argued in front of the same Federal Trial Judge, (Judge Koh).

Since Intel is a much larger company than Qualcomm and Apple is a very much larger company the idea the Qualcomm is the monopoly is hard to swallow. And since both Intel and Apple have a history of anti competitive practices the question arises what is the FTC doing? That case, in the 9th Circuit Court closed on January 31, 2019 and we are awaiting the Judge's decision.

The race for 5G is a race we don't want to lose yet recent activities do not bode well for the US. Meanwhile the Chinese are going full speed ahead. Also it is important to note that Hauwei, (the world's largest maker of telecommunications equipment) has about half of the patents currently held for 5G devices. Patent wars are going to be the death of us all!

Whoever wins the 5G race will dominate politically, economically and militarily!

Health risks of 5G:
There have been calls to stop the rollout of 5G until more studies can be done on the possible risk to human health. I suspect that we could conduct such studies until the second coming and these people would still not be satisfied.

While there are some reputable people and organizations doing research they don't get a lot of headlines. One of them is Swinburne University in Australia. You can read what they say about 5G here

Other reports that I have seen and the claims that have been made certainly do not merit serious scientific consideration. If you live or work in a large city you have been irradiated by small amounts of RF energy for many years now. But the level of exposure is quite small and that is the important part.

A cup of coffee can be a great way to start your day but a hundred cups would probably kill you. How many things can you think of that in small amounts are harmless, benign or even helpful but in larger doses can cause serious, even fatal results? If you drink too much water in a short amount of time it can kill you as one not-so-bright DJ in California found out. Maybe we should halt the distribution of bottled water until more research can be done.

The World Health Organization has determined that RF radiation is a possible carcinogen. Such determinations do little to raise my concern about RF radiation but only further test my faith in that organization.

However if you are still worried about the possible negative effects of cell phones you can line the walls and ceiling of your home with fine copper mesh. Have all your food and supplies delivered to you and get an old fashioned land line with a desktop phone. Never go outside unless you are wearing a full chainmail suit and then only at night. Welcome to the Tinfoil Hat Brigade!

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And remember always back it up!

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