Historical Context of 5G


​There are a lot of articles out there regarding 5G what it has to offer and what not, all that is great . I want to go a little systematic in order to address the approach to 5G, the history behind it and what it has to offer. It will not just one article, instead a group of articles which you can read at your convenience. 


The ​Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector was born in 20th century out of a marriage between two major industry sectors namely telecommunications and computing industry. 

Different ICT generations have solved various problems for humanity. 5G is expected to harness previous technologies and enable completing the consolidation of services, content distribution, communication and computing into a complex distributed envrionment for connectivity, processing, storage, knowledge and intelligence.  This will result in blurring of roles across the board on account of computing and storage being embedded in communication infrastructure, process control is being distributed across the Internet and communication function moving into cloud environments. ​

​From steam engines to the Internet?

​Humanity is going through a phase of technological revolution that originated with the development of semiconductors and integrated circuit and continued with maturing IT sector along with development of maturing electronic communication in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively. 

Now the next wave is to create an indistinguishable framework for service delivery across variety of scenarios that span huge variations in demand, such as personalized media delivery, Internet of Things (IoTs), security and mobility as configurable functions for any communication scenario.

However it was not always like this. We have come a long way and from 1st to 4th industrial revolution.

Let's talk about different Industrial revolutions.

​The four stages of Industrial Revolution are shown in the figure above. 

​First stage of Industrial Revolution (1760-1840)

  • ​Started in England with the introduction of Power loom and steam engine.
  • Agrarian economy of 18th century benefited the most from this revolution, converted into an industrial revolution.

Second Stage of Industrial Revolution (1840-1914)

  • ​Began with the introduction Bessemer steel process and culminated in early factory electrification, mass production and the production line. 
  • Electrification enabled mass production by dividing the labor into specialized activities on production line.
  • An example of second stage of industrial revolution is the Ford production model in the car industry.

​Third Stage of Industrial Revolution (1950-2010s)

  • Electronics, IT and Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) resulted in third stage of Industrial revolution. 
  • Third stage of industrial revolution resulted in further automation of production process and increase productivity.

Fourth Stage of Industrial Revolution (2020 - .....)

  • An era where a new generation of wireless communication enables pervasive connectivity between machines and objects.
  • This will result in another leap in industrial automation.

What does 5G has to do with 4th Stage of Industrial Revolution?

5G will allow the means to move into Fourth Stage of Industrial Revolution. It enables the human-dominated wireless communication to an all connected world of humans and objects.

The core tenets of 5G  is expected to be as follows:

  1. Connectivity as a standard for people and things
  2. Critical and massive machine connectivity
  3. New spectrum bands and regulatory regimes
  4. Mobility and security as network functions
  5. Integration of content distribution via the Internet
  6. Processing and storage at the network edge
  7. Software defined networking and network function virtualization

Evolution of Cellular Standards?

​The chart below describes  short chronological history of cellular systems from their infancy in the 1970s  (1G) to 2020s (5G). 

The figure above describes the chronological history of the cellular radio systems from their infancy in the 1970s ( first generation 1G) till the 2020s ( fifth generation 5G).  

First Generation (1 G)

  • First commercial analog mobile communication sytem was deployed in the 1950s and 1960s, even though with low penetration.
  • First generation 1G was noticed by the deployment of :
    • Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) in Nordic countries
    • C-Netz in Germany, Portugal and South Africa
    • Total Access Communication System (TACS) in the United Kingdom
    • Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) in the Americas
  • 1G is also known as analog standards since they utilize anolog technology, usually frequency modulated radio signals with a digital signaling channel.

Second Generation (2 G)

  • European conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT) decided in 1982 to develop a pan-European 2G mobile communication system.
  • This was the starting point of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)  --- the global standard dominant 2G standard which was deployed internationally from 1991.
  • 2G brought adoption of digital transmission and switching technology.
    • Digital communication allowed considerable improvement in voice quality
    • Improvement in Network capacity
    • Offered growth in terms of supplementary services
    • Advanced applications such as Short Message Service (SMS) for storage and forwarding of textual information.
  • In parallel with GSM (2G), other digital 2G systems were developed around the globe and competed with each other. Other digital 2G systems include :
    • TIA/EIA-136, also known as the North American TDMA (NA-TDMA) standard
    • TIA/EIA IS-95A, also known as CDMAOne
    • Personal Digital Cellular (PDC), used exclusively in Japan.

Generation in the Middle (2.5 G)

  • Evolution of 2G, called 2.5G introduced packet-switched data services in addition to voice and circuit-switched data.
  • The main 2.5G standards, General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and TIA/EIA-95 (combination of versions TIA/EIA-IS95A and IS-95B), were extensions of GSM and TIA/EIA IS-95A, respectively. 
  • GSM was evolved further into the Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) and its associated packet data component  Enhanced General Packet Radio Service (EGPRS), mainly by addition of higher order modulation and coding schemes.
  • GSM/EDGE has continued to evolve and the latest release of the 3GPP standard supports wider bandwidths and carrier aggregation for the air interface.

Third Generation (3 G)

  • After 2G became operational, industry players were already preparing and discussing net wireless generation standards. 
  • In parallel, International Telecommunication Union, Radio Communications (ITU-R) developed the requirements for systems that would qualify for the International Mobile Telecommunications 2000 (IMT-2000) classification.
  •  In January 1998, CDMA was launched in two variants
    • Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA)
    • Time Division Code Division Multiple Access (TD-CMDA).
  • CDMA was adopted by European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) as Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS).
  • UMTS was the major 3G  mobile communication system and was the first cellular systems that qualified for IMT-2000.
  • Within the framework of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), new specification were developed, together known as 3G Evolution as illustrated in the picture above as 3.5G
  • For this evolution, two Radio Access Network (RAN) approaches and an evolution of the Core Network were suggested.
    • The first RAN approach was based on the evolution steps in CDMA 2000 within 3GPP2: 1xEV-DO and 1xEV-DV.
    • The second RAN approach was High Speed Packet Access (HSPA).
    • HSPA was a combination of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) added in 3GPP Release 5
    • High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA), added in 3GPP Release 6.
    • Both initially enhanced the packet data rate, to 14.6 Mbps in the downlink and to 5.76 Mbps in the uplink, and quickly evolved to handle higher data rates with the introduction of MIMO.
    • HSPA was based on WCDMA and is completely backward compatible with WCDMA. While CDMA 1xEV-DO started deployment in 2003, HSPA and CDMA 1xEV-DV entered into service in 2006.
  • All 3GPP standards follow the philosophy of adding new features while still maintaining backward compatability. This has been further applied in an evolution of HSPA known as HSPA+, which supports carrier aggregation for higher peak data rates without affecting existing terminals in the market.

Fourth Generation (4 G)

  • Second UMTS evolution is commercially accepted as 4G. It is also known as Long Term Evolution (LTE).
  • LTE is composed of a new air interface based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Access (OFDMA) and a new architecture and Core Network (CN) called as System Architecture / Evolved Packet Core ( SAE / EPC).
  • LTE is not backward compatible with UMTS and was developed in anticipation of higher spectrum block allocations than UMTS during World Radio Conference (WRC) 2007.
  • LTE supports carriers from 1.4 MHz in width to 20 MHz.
  • LTE standard offered significant improvements in the following areas:
    • Capacity
    • Transition cellular networks away from circuit-switched functionality, which provided a major cost reduction from previous generations.
  •  First LTE specification was approved in 3GPP as LTE Release 8.
    • LTE release 8 has peak data rates of approximately 326 Mbps
    • Increased spectral efficiency
    • Significantly shorter latency (down to 20 ms) than previous systems
  • LTE Release 8 did not comply with IMT-Advanced  requirements and was initially considered a precursor to 4G technology. 
  •  3GPP LTE Release 10 and IEEE 802.16 m (deployed as WiMAX) were technically the first air interfaces developed to fulfill IMT-Advanced requirements. Despite being an approved 4G technology, WiMAX has had difficulties in gaining widespread acceptance.
  • LTE Release 10 added several technical features, such as:
    • Higher order MIMO configuration up to 8x8 in downlink
    • MIMO configuration up to 4x4 in the Uplink
  • LTE Release 11 refined some of the LTE Release 10 capabilities, by enhancing carrier aggregation, relaying and interferance cancellation.
    • New frequency bands were added
    • use of coordinate multipoint transmission and reception (CoMP) was defined
  • LTE Release 12 completed in March 2015, added several features to improve the support of heterogeneous networks, even higher order MIMO, and aggregation between Frequency Division Duplexing (FDD) and Time Division Duplexing (TDD)
    • Several features for the offloading of the backhaul and core networks were also defined.
  •  LTE Releases 12 and 13 introduced new solutions  ( known as LTE-M and Narrow-Band IoT (NB-IoT)  in order to support massive Machine Type Communication (MTC) devices such as sensors and actuators.  The results are :
    • Improvement in extended coverage
    • longer battery life
    • reduced cost
    • Release 13 targets extreme broadband data rates using carier aggregation of up to 32 carriers.

​2G, 3G and 4G Technology Market Analysis

  • By Mid 2015, global mobile market was about 7.49 billion subscribers, where GSM/EDGE family including EGPRS for data connectivity was the dominant Radio Access Network (RAN) in use.
  • GSM had a global market share of more than 57% (corresponding to 4.26 billion subscribers) . This trend is currently in decline.
  • Number of 3G  subscribers including HSPA has risen since 2010 to 1.94 billion subscribers which represented 26% of market share.
  • Ericsson Mobility Report projected that WCDMA/ HSPA subscriptions will peak by 2020, and will decrease past that point.
  • The dominant 4G standard, LTE, captured around 910 million subscribers (or 12% of the total market) by the end of 2015 and is expected to reach 4.1 billion subscriptions by 2021, hence making it largest mobile technology.
  • Figure above illustrates the main features of 3GPP standards now in the market, highlighting the trend toward widespread use of spectrum, higher bandwidths, higher spectral efficiency and lower latency.

ICT -- how it Impacts and Influences the Economy?

  • Wireless communication has been making inroads in different economic sectors such as consumer, finance and media etc. since the onset of the century.
  • In the coming years it is expected to push mobility and wireless adoption beyond tipping point and 5G will create conditions where wireless connectivity changes from being an interesting feature to a necessity for a huge number of products in these sectors.
  • The need for wireless arises due to the potential for data to build up knowledge, in order for knowledge to become useful information and information to enable higher orders of intelligence in various sectors of society.
  • In the age of connected devices, the data generated from various connected  devices will lower the cost of delivering services, and it will help accelerate all humanity to degrees of efficient and productive activity that were impossible during last couple of centuries since the dawn of the modern industrial revolution.
  • Improved wireless broadband connectivity brings an avalanche of secondary benefits to the economy and is capable of improving and bettering the lives of people in untold ways. Some of these economical sectors where wireless communication is expected to play a major role are as follows:
    • Agriculture: In order to measure and communicate soil quality, rainfall, temperature and wind, monitor how crops are growing and livestock movements -- sensors and actuators are becoming more widely used.
    • Automobile:  In order to enable greater automation of moving vehicles, provide vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communication for information, sensing and safety to prevent collisions, avoid road traffic congestion and commercial applications such as media delivery to the vehicle
    • Construction/Building: In order to monitor buildings for energy efficiency, security, occupancy monitoring, asset tracking, etc. In this regard buildings are being constructed with sensors, actuators, integrated antennas and monitoring devices.
    • Energy/Utilities: Future systems where consumers also become producers of energy, appliances are connected and controlled by utilities. Wireless communication can produce good value for exploration, generation and production, trading, monitoring, load control, fault tolerance and consumption of energy.
    • Banking and Finance: Trading, banking and shopping are performed more and more over wireless links. Therefore, security, fraud detection and analytics are very important components of financial transactions that are improved due to the use of wireless connectivity.
    • Health: Continuous consumer health sensing, medical alerts and health monitoring by health services, wireless connectivity within hospitals and for remote patient monitoring, remote health service delivery, remote surgery, etc are various example how wireless communication is and can be used in health industry.
    • Manufacturing: Use of 5G for ultra-reliable operation and extreme requirements on latency is interesting for factor cell automation, massive machine connectivity does and will also increase the use of wireless communications in manufacturing for robots, autonomous operation of machines, RFIDs and low-power wireless communication for asset management etc.
    •  Media: User experience for enjoying rich content like high resolution video is limited to fixed networks and short-range wireless, while access to high quality music is stressed in crowded areas where users might simultaneously consume unique content. New use cases such as Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) area also expected to become popular in mobile or nomadic situations.   Video is the key driver of high bandwidth consumption, it is expected that 5G will allow excellent user experience for viewing 3D and 4K formats on a mass scale.
      in use.
    • Public Safety: Police, fire, rescue, ambulance and medical emergency services covered by this category require a high degree of reliability and availability. Just as 4G is being adopted for public safety, 5G radio access will be a very important component of the tools available for security services, law enforcement and emergency personnel to use.  The use of SDN and NFV can help the network play a more direct role in public safety functions, such as fighting fires and assisting in earthquake and tsunami disasters, by efficiently managing local service connectivity between responders and from hazards toward the network. The network can also support rescue missions using location services.
    •  Retail and consumer: Retail, travel and leisure, including hospitality will continue to benefit from wireless communication advances.
    • Transport and Logistics: 5G is expected to improve the infrastructure and communication functionalities in areas such as railway, public transport and transport of goods by terrestrial or maritime means.
    • Aerospace and defense, basic resources, chemicals industrial goods and support services will employ wireless communications increasingly in the coming years.

Data volume, 25 billion connected devices and requirements = Rationale to have 5G

  • Mobile traffic was first predicted to increase a thousand-fold over the decade 2010-2020. Later this figure is revised to be in order of 250 times
  • In developed world such as Western Europe and North America, traffic in cellular systems will increase by approximately a factor of 84 over the years 2010-2020 as shown below.

​Key Requirements for a Wireless Communication Technology

  • Peak data rate -[Gbps]: Maximum achievable user/device data rate.
  • User experienced data rate [Mbps or Gbps]: The achievable user/device data rate across the coverage area.
  • Radio Latency [ms]: The time needed (on the MAC layer of the radio interface) for a data packet to travel from the source to the destination. Note that this refers to one-way latency.
  • Mobility [km/h]: The maximum supported vehicular speed at which nominal QoS can be achieved. 
  • Connection density [# devices/km square]: The total number of connected devices per area.
  • ​Energy efficiency [bits/Joule]: On the network side, the bits transmitted to/received from users, per unit energy consumption of the RAN; on the device side, bits per unit  of energy
  • Reliability [%]: The percentage of successful transmissions completed within a certain time period.
  • Area traffic capacity [Mbps/m square]: The total traffic throughput served per geographic area​

​5G Building Blocks (Main Areas)

  • The main building blocks of 5G are shown in the figure above.
  • Radio Access, Fixed and Legacy RATs (for example LTE), Core Network, Cloud, Data Analytics and Security
  • The scope of each building block can be covered separately as well in the coming posts.


5G Mobile and Wireless Communications Technology by Afif Osseiran, Jose F. Monserrat and Patrick Marsch

Ericsson Mobility Report