5G – more than just fast mobile communications

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5G – more than just fast mobile communications

How T&M solutions from Rohde & Schwarz enable the world of tomorrow

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Updated on 21-Dec-2023 🛈
Originally published on 17-Feb-2020

Even a quick glance at the headlines shows that 5G is raising high – even euphoric – expectations. Autonomous cars and trucks are driving accident-free. Traffic jams are history, as are medical shortages. Production is more flexible, more connected and more efficient than ever before. Indeed, 5G truly opens up new opportunities for experienced market players such as manufacturers of infrastructures, end-user devices and chipsets. But even new players are zealously looking forward to lucrative business models, most notably in the automotive industry. Rohde & Schwarz is working together with its customers to ensure that 5G lives up to its expectations of being a technology that offers more than “just” fast mobile communication.

Virtual reality enables engineers to thoroughly check prototypes before they are ever built.

Virtual reality enables engineers to thoroughly check prototypes before they are ever built.

The fourth industrial revolution

This is the first time in the relatively young history of wireless communications that smartphones (previously mobile phones) are not the main focus of development. The new standard is also optimized for the internet of things, for the billions of connected devices in our homes, on our streets and in our factories. But 5G will probably have the greatest impact in industry, and not only because wirelessly connected machines and entire production lines can communicate in near real time. Artificial intelligence (AI) makes it possible to autonomously and swiftly correct even the smallest deviations and irregularities in the early stages of production through the use of petabytes of data that are stored and analyzed in the cloud.

The increased use of virtual reality will also lead to more efficiency. Products and processes can be modeled virtually, and therefore cost-effectively, even if they do not yet exist. This enables engineers to thoroughly check prototypes before they are ever built. Employees no longer have to wade through extensive manuals to familiarize themselves with new processes. And customers on the other side of the world can repair their machinery themselves – with remote assistance.

In the highly competitive manufacturing industry, smart production is a real ace in the hole since it means even high-wage countries can once again become attractive production locations. German regulations allow the operation of local, privately operated 5G networks known as campus networks. In other countries, the idea is for larger mobile communications companies to implement and manage such local subnetworks as an industry service. When such networks are used in factory automation, it is always necessary to verify the quality of these networks to ensure the necessary performance.

In sparsely populated areas where there’s a shortage of medical personnel and facilities, 5G allows telemedicine to truly live up to its potential.

In sparsely populated areas where there’s a shortage of medical personnel and facilities, 5G allows telemedicine to truly live up to its potential.

eHealth ensures availability of medical care. Everywhere.

Rolling out broadband over as wide an area as possible can act as an equalizer when it comes to living conditions in urban and rural areas. In sparsely populated areas where there’s a shortage of medical personnel and facilities, 5G allows telemedicine to truly live up to its potential. Video consultations make medical experts available wherever they are needed. In the future, they will even be able to remotely accompany or perform (robot-assisted) surgery – but only if data is transferred quickly, reliably and fail-safe. When evaluating the CT scan of a stroke victim, there can be no delays. And the sensors for remote monitoring of vital functions cannot fail – they have to be reliable and durable data providers.

Such scenarios demonstrate that the new standard is an exceptional prodigy with remarkable characteristics, including a significantly higher data rate. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) speaks of up to 20 gigabit/s in the IMT-2020 program. That’s about 20 times faster than LTE, its predecessor. Incidentally, 5G will by no means replace LTE. LTE will continue to be the backbone of mobile communications for many years to come.

The real game changer is elsewhere. “5G enables completely new, more demanding applications where the end user is often a machine rather than a human,” explains Jeremy Carpenter, Program Manager Mobile Network Testing at Rohde & Schwarz. “To date, the mobile communications evolution has focused on wider coverage and higher data rates. Now the focus is on reliability, low latency and capacity.” (see graphic)

Fields of application for 5G

Fields of application for 5G

The challenge of millimeterwaves

Significantly, larger bandwidths will be necessary to make the targeted data rates possible, but there is no room for them in the current mobile frequency bands below 6 GHz. The industry has therefore agreed that 5G will use the frequency range up to approximately 7 GHz, and up to 52 GHz in the millimeterwave range. The commercially significant frequency bands are 3.5 GHz, 28 GHz and 39 GHz. The bandwidth per carrier will usually be 100 MHz, with up to 400 MHz possible in the millimeterwave range.

The challenge of millimeterwaves

The challenge of millimeterwaves. Radio signals have significantly less reach in the millimeterwave range than in the lower LTE frequency spectrum, so more antennas and base stations are necessary for network coverage.

A new approach: beamforming

Radio signals have significantly less reach in the millimeterwave range than in the lower LTE frequency spectrum, so more antennas and base stations are necessary for network coverage. That's why network operators are opting to use beamforming for 5G. Beamforming increases system efficiency. In the past, signals were radiated uniformly over the entire area, but with 5G, the base station beam can be bundled. This makes it possible to optimize signals and signal-to-noise ratios and selectively address mobile devices. However, this requires significantly more antenna elements per radio cell. Beamforming changes the requirements for T&M solutions because in the millimeterwave range, over-the-air test methods have to be used instead of conducted test solutions.

An experienced T&M specialist

An experienced T&M specialist. As an experienced T&M specialist and full-service provider of T&M solutions for 5G NR, Rohde & Schwarz offers the most extensive solutions for the entire mobile communications ecosystem.

Rohde & Schwarz paves the way: complete solutions for a revolutionary technology

“The underlying technologies and technical solutions are complex. To ensure interoperability and reliable functioning, all aspects must be thoroughly tested long before 5G makes its way from the lab to the field. This includes testing individual components such as antennas, complete base stations, end devices and also the quality of services in a mobile communications network,” says Reiner Stuhlfauth, Technology Manager at Rohde & Schwarz. In the comprehensive 5G New Radio (NR) eBook, he and other Rohde & Schwarz T&M experts provide insights into the fundamentals and procedures behind the architecture and transmission of the 5G-NR technology.

“5G is a very flexible system where the parameters can be fine-tuned to the application, for example for Industry 4.0 scenarios or for transmitting data to smartphones,” explains Meik Kottkamp from Technology Management Wireless at Rohde & Schwarz and co-author of the publication. “This flexibility, which comes from the high frequencies and large bandwidths, is what makes 5G so attractive. At the same time, it is the most demanding aspect, both for our developers and for our customers.”

Challenge accepted

As an experienced T&M specialist and full-service provider of T&M solutions for 5G NR, Rohde & Schwarz offers the most extensive solutions for the entire mobile communications ecosystem – from signal generation and analysis to communication testing and verification of service quality in a mobile communications network. Since the early days of 2G, the first generation of digital mobile communications, Rohde & Schwarz has been committed to the pioneering work that precedes pioneering work and become an established enabler for the innovations of the manufacturers of infrastructures, end-user devices and chipsets.

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