The 5G Mobile Communication Era: a better user experience.
5G, 5th generation wireless systems, was still an unfamiliar topic just a year ago. It was an abstract topic and concept to the majority of people. However, research shows that the launch of massive mobile communication products has brought this abstraction into reality: 5G is no longer a conceptual thing but a real-life technology.
When does 5G technology first come to reality? According to research, ZTE company launched Axon 10 Pro, symbolizing the popularization of the technology as “the first 5G smartphone has been sold in Nordic Countries.” As of now, most citizen’s houses are equipped by 5G network for daily use.
It is claimed that 5G is a revolutionary innovation because its data delivery speed is 10 times faster than 4G and it has only a millisecond delay. While most people still calculate data rates using Mbps, 5G has enabled “up to 20 Gigabits-per-second (Gbps) peak data rates”. What is more, “5G has significantly lower latency to deliver more instantaneous, real-time access: a 10x decrease in end-to-end latency down to 1ms.” Despite this, it is not true to think of 5G technology as just simply a “faster Internet speed” because it enables deeper human-computer interaction. In a nutshell, 5G technology is no longer a simple evolution of the 4th generation but indeed revolutionary progress.
With these being said, here come the questions: what are the technical issues or challenges with implementation; what are the effects in daily life; and how is 5G technology influencing and changing some nations?
To begin with, it is hard to ignore 5G’s contributions to everyday life.
First of all, Zhiqiu Wang, a graduate student at Shanghai Fudan University, pointed out that the most obvious experience is the capability of supporting a massive number of users at one time. You might think 4G has already achieved this or even 3G. However, 5G supports way more users than ever has: instead of video calls with your family members or zoom meetings with your colleagues, 5G brings the sudden rise of “Live”, as new media. One typical example will be live-broadcasting platforms. In the beginning, live-broadcasting starts to appear on TV shows. CCTV broadcasts the annual spring festival evening party on online channels like iQiyi. Later, many new media like “short video platforms” and “live room” appear on market and soon becomes mainstream entertainment. One typical example will be TikTok. The point is, new media requires a high data rate to avoid latency time or delay. This is crucial — — network delay brings a bad user experience. Imagine waiting for a short 10-second video or more than 5 seconds: most users will jump away. As for “live rooms”, it’s obvious that a high latency time will bother fans because they want direct communication with their idols. 5G technology allows a way more stable Internet connection for catching and maintaining users.
The idea is 5G’s features and performance will bring the rise of many new media and hence new careers.
Secondly, it seems that there is no direct relation but 5G technology makes it possible for future “automatic drive”. As I mentioned before, 4G has a latency time of 100 milliseconds, but 5G’s latency time is just 1 millisecond. Let’s do a calculation. If the speed of a car is 120km per hour, 4G’s reaction distance is 3 to 4 meters, while 5G’s reaction distance is only 3–4 centimeters. It’s 100 times faster than 4G and human’s peak reaction distance. This benefit shows up especially when an emergency happens: 5G has a “definite reaction” that enables the car to stop immediately before hitting passengers or roadblocks. In this case, 5G will have an excellent performance on automatic driving. It’s easy to also imagine that traffic congestion will be effectively mitigated: when it’s the green light, theoretically, one hundred cars can start off at exactly the same time while ensuring a safe distance with the car ahead.
Thirdly, as far as I know, VR and AR will be able to run capability thanks to 5G, which will incredibly change and improve lifestyles and will possibly bring the entire human history into the next era. Sol Rogers, the CEO and founder of Rewind published an article called “The Arrival of 5G Will Unlock The Full Potential of VR and AR” on Forbes. It is a very useful article talking about the relation and interaction between 5G, VR, and AR. He summarized at the beginning saying “A reliable 5G network will help VR and AR applications evolve to the next level. Some even say the future of immersive is reliant on 5G.”. This is an extremely high comment on 5G’s performance.
He illustrates three main points in his article: “Latency”, “Connectivity and Reliability” and “The Cloud”. With latency time already introduced above, “Connectivity and Reliability” just means an ideal fluent network performance that offers the ultimate user experience. Anyone who has experienced AR and VR will probably say that: it sucks when the pictures get stuck, even for just 0.5 seconds. 5G’s features are needed and crucial for techniques like AR and VR to really thrive. What does “The Cloud” means then? Rogers wrote: “Currently, many of the VR head-mounted displays (HMDs) require a powerful PC to run them. This means your enjoyment of VR is confined to a certain location. The arrival of 5G will push the storage, power consumption, and processing power away from the PC and into the edge cloud. This means VR users will only require a headset, which in turn opens VR up to be consumed any time, anywhere.” Basically, 5G brings the data storage of VR from a PC to the “cloud”. If latency and connectivity are there for providing fluent network connection and hence positive user experience, the cloud makes VR and AR “wireless”. Why? Because users no longer need to wear a headset with a wire connected to a PC. Instead, users can wear a wireless headset and enjoy the VR world from anywhere at any time. This not only enables VR and AR but also improves the potential of these techniques.
Does it seem that VR and AR have nothing to do with our daily life? Of course not. VR and AR can be used in digital maps which allows users to see the “real place” without going there in person. Also, VR and AR can be used in any “live activities”: it was the stage directors who decide which perspective to show audiences but later users could see the stage and the celebrities from 360 degrees. Additionally, VR and AR are already making incredible contributions and will make more contributions, to the fashion industry through online shopping, because customers are able to view the real product and “place” the products into their house before making payments.
5G technology is so incredible that it can probably shift and change the existing society. Nevertheless, the technical issues with implementation are still the biggest challenge which prevents some functions and purposes from being achieved.
Many articles and reports describe similar technical challenges.
First, Rajiv pointed out the problem of frequency bands: “Current LTE system operates with more than 50 frequency bands which are below 3.6 GHz range. The unlicensed spectrum below 6 GHz (600 MHz and between 3.5 GHz and 6 GHz) will be used for the first generation of 5G networks. 5G NR- New Radio standard for 5G networks are set of frequency bands at sub-6 GHz range and millimeter waves of the RF spectrum.” This simply means that mobile device manufacturers need to build devices that are complex enough to carry millimeter waves (mmWave). Moreover, for connection between various countries and regions, “it has to support multi-bands.” The feature of 5G requires millimeter waves and a high spectrum range. With no doubt, the difficulty level of building a mobile device that can support this fact is challenging.
Secondly, Irina Cotanis claims the hybrid LTE-NR and mobility challenges in her article named “5 Critical 5G Network Deployment Challenges”. Here is this issue between LTE and NR. As Contains said, “The first 5G deployments are non-standalone (NSA) solutions. These deployments use LTE core, while LTE access represents the anchor for NR. LTE eNB ensures the control, while 5G gNB provides additional user traffic on top of the LTE traffic.”To account for this, the first generation of 5G is still deployed on LTE core, whereas it needs gNB and eNR for the capability of supporting a massive number of users online. However, the challenge here is the “precise synchronization between eNB and gNB for signaling and data transfer to the NR.” In other words, data synchronization should be 100% accurate. Any data delay or latency will cut down the experience.
Last but not least, a significant factor to the success of any new technology or media is data security and privacy. Without this guarantee, it’s unlikely to gain users. Ted Kritsonis asserts in his article “Five of the Biggest Challenges Facing 5G” that although “5G falls under the Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA), a system designed to established trust between networks, it will currently be possible to track people nearby using their phones.” This is bloody true. Tracking and interception directly lead to the user’s privacy and security. I have had terrible experiences like receiving spam messages and advertising calls because my personal information is revealed. Because of rising connectivity as mentioned, “it will force cloud-based and data virtualization services to be as airtight as possible to protect user data and privacy”. This suggests that any companies or organizations that want to provide users with 5G services, need to think carefully about “data storage” issues: how they’d like to store users’ data? Is the cloud service they use safe enough? Is the current AKA system enough to handle 5G’s super connectivity and accessibility?
Indeed, 5G brings enormous benefits to users with some side effects or concerns that scientists and technicians need to pay attention to.
After all, this is all about improving the user experience.
As a result, 5G technology deployment has three biggest priors: South Korea, China, and the United States. Research shows that “AT&T Inc., KT Corp, and China Mobile have been racing to build the fifth-generation (5G) of wireless technology.”
The reason for South Korea to first come to mind is because it is a country that is well-known for its entertainment industry. High flow activities like live show broadcasting, live room, live concert and so on all need to be supported by stable and high-speed technology like 5G. As the main industry of the country, South Korean operators like KT, LG Uplus, and SK are desperate to bring up 5G to support the rising demand. With 5G being successfully introduced to some activities and devices, its local users and worldwide users are all able to connect online with merely no latency for their idols. Organizations and mobile operators earn more profits by providing this stable high-speed connection to users. However, it seems that South Korea’s 5G technique still has detectable latency as described by Catherine Sbeglia in her report “How South Korea built 5G, and what it’s learning”. 5G in South Korea still has a long way to explore.
Apart from South Korea, the United States adopts 5G technology pretty quickly. I have noticed that the biggest mobile operators like Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile have adopted and popularized 5G technology to their users. It is known that America is facing a problem that its big city's employment rate and GDP are way higher than rural areas. What’s worse, as AI (artificial intelligence) is popularized today, most rural areas or villages lost their income because of the decline of handcraft manufacturing industry. As mentioned before, 5G has the advantage of connectivity and reliability. Miriam Tuerk brings up the point that “Connectivity across the entire country, along important transportation corridors, across farmland, and other key business centers, will deliver the promise of revitalizing these dying communities.” This is easy to understand because a new generation of data is very likely to lead to the rise of new life styles and business structures and business operation approaches.
Adding on to Teurk’s point, from my perspective, it is very likely that many people can work from home. Especially after the Covid-19 crisis, when we all go to school or work through Zoom meetings, “work from home” has become a new idea because the Internet allows wider and faster connection between anywhere. In this case, villagers can work from rural areas through laptops without coming to big cities in person. It’s a brand new lifestyle.
As for China, the idea of “live” will be closely connected to 5G technology. Taobao, the biggest online shopping platform launched by Alibaba Group, is supported by a massive number of PCs. It is very possible that VR and AR will be introduced to online shopping for bringing a better user experience. For example, users can stand in front of the phone cameras and see how the shoes look like on his or her feet.
My personal experience is that most Chinese people now buy products online rather than going to real stores. Some anchors open a live streaming room to sell products and are able to sell hundreds or thousands of products in just an hour. This is crazy but this is the fact. A problem appears accordingly: the local PC is not able to handle the huge flow, which reduces stability and increases latency time. Again, this brings a bad user experience. China Mobile and China Telecom, the two dominant mobile operators in China have introduced 5G data which supports faster and more stable “live” activities.
The impact of this is the rapid growth of online economics. What’s more, as mentioned, new media has been launched and raised to bring new life concepts. New careers like anchors, those who earn 10,000 in just an hour, appear and nourish. In other words, the 5G technology somehow shifted the social structure and changed the economic structure.
With incredible features and tremendous future potential, 5G is no longer just a new technology but the symbol of a brand new era.
 “ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G, the First 5G Smartphone Has Been Sold in Nordic Countries.” ZTE Axon 10 Pro 5G, the First 5G Smartphone has been sold in Nordic Countries — ZTE Press Release. Accessed May 7, 2020. https://www.zte.com.cn/global/about/news/20190705e1.html.
2 “What Is 5G: Everything You Need to Know About 5G: 5G FAQ.” Qualcomm, April 30, 2020. https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/5g/what-is-5g.
“What Is 5G: Everything You Need to Know About 5G: 5G FAQ.” Qualcomm, April 30, 2020. https://www.qualcomm.com/invention/5g/what-is-5g.
 Wang, Zhiqiu. “Baidu Wenku.” Baidu Wenku (blog). Baidu, June 1, 2018. https://wenku.baidu.com/view/39a2ba452379168884868762caaedd3383c4b589.html.
 Rogers, Sol. “The Arrival Of 5G Will Unlock The Full Potential Of VR And AR.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, February 8, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/solrogers/2019/01/30/the-arrival-of-5g-will-unlock-the-full-potential-of-vr-and-ar/#7adf80457bcc.
 Rajiv, Karl Fortner, Karl Fortner, Silvi Dion, and Silvi Dion. “What Are the Challenges in 5G Technology.” RF Page, August 29, 2018. https://www.rfpage.com/what-are-the-challenges-in-5g-technology/.
 Kritsonis, Ted. “Five of the Biggest Challenges Facing 5G.” Futurithmic, April 17, 2020. https://www.futurithmic.com/2019/02/26/five-biggest-challenges-facing-5g/.
 Wills, Jennifer. “5G Technology: Which Country Will Be the First to Adapt?” Investopedia. Investopedia, April 23, 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/markets-economy/090916/5g-technology-which-country-will-be-first-adapt.asp.
 Sbeglia, Catherine. “How South Korea Built 5G, and What It’s Learning.” RCR Wireless News, April 6, 2020. https://www.rcrwireless.com/20190912/5g/how-south-korea-built-5g-and-what-its-learning.
 Tuerk, Miriam. “How 5G Networks Will Change America.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, March 29, 2019. https://www.forbes.com/sites/miriamtuerk/2019/02/27/how-5g-networks-will-change-america/#1a3d8ef711b5.