5G: seeing the bigger picture

Our data consumption is becoming bigger and bigger. Every day we stream more multimedia content, we communicate virtually more often, and we relay more data and private information on our cloud spaces. According to technology experts, this is why we need 5G and this is why 5G has come to stay.

Do we actually need 5G?

The 5th generation wireless technology is not only about having faster connection in our devices, but also about being able to manage thousands of connections happening at the same time. Compared to 4G -that is able to simultaneously support up to 60,000 devices per square kilometre- 5G will supposedly be able to hold more than a million devices per square kilometre at the same time.

Therefore, if we are using more and more connected devices, turning our cities into smart cities, and becoming more dependent of the IoT in our workplaces, it just seems right to state that we, indeed, need to welcome 5G in our lives.

Getting blinded by faster connectivity

Although all these reasons seem enough and valid to embrace the development of 5G, there are other points we need to take into consideration. Some experts have been warning that the possibility of having a better connectivity can be blinding and it is not going to allow us to see the bigger picture: 5G will demand the instalment of more massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas. This, of course, has raised many concerns about energy consumption.

In a world that is awakening and becoming more conscious about the environment and the urgent need for clean energy sources, 5G is settling down putting all these advances at risk. However, it is interesting to read a recent research by Emil Björnson, an associate professor at Linköping University (Sweden). He states that MIMO antennas’ energy efficiency will probably improve over time: ‘Just as computer processors become vastly more efficient over time, the analog and digital circuits that are used in base stations become more efficient’, he recently told the magazine IEEE Spectrum. ‘The first generations of 5G hardware will be all about delivering all the new features to the market, but then there will be time to refine the hardware, as well’, he continued.

Apart from that, Björnson is also optimistic about another important aspect of 5G base stations: they can be put into sleep mode whenever there is no one using them: ‘This happens much more frequently than one might think. 4G networks need to transmit a lot of control signals even when no one is listening—for example, at night.’

So yes, 5G has knocked at our doors and it is ready to get comfortable in our living rooms. It is bringing a suitcase full of benefits in connectivity and speed, but it might be carrying a few disadvantages under the coat for which we need to be ready.

Pedro Mier

Pedro Mier holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineer ing from the Polytechnic University of Catalonia, MBA from ESADE and PADE from IESE. He is currently President of AMETIC (Association of Electronics, Information Technology and Telecommunications Companies of Spain), Shareholder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of TRYO Aerospace & Electronics, Board Member of the Premo Group and Committee of CTTC. member of Space Angels Network and Member of the Sc ientific Advisory