Unlocking the True Potential: Exploring Current and Future 5G Use Cases

May 3rd, 2024 by · Leave a Comment

This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Raj Radjassamy, Director, 5G and Wireless Segment at OmniOn Power

Through faster connectivity, lower latency, greater reliability, and enhanced security, 5G networks promise to transform current and emerging applications and services across a range of industries. So, what are the key use cases for 5G that network providers are focusing on? They include enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), fixed wireless access (FWA) technology, and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC). Additionally, massive machine-type communication (mMTC) has the potential to transform the Internet of Things (IoT) through the seamless integration of IoT devices in smart cities and automated industrial applications.

Let’s explore each of these use cases, the values they provide, and potential challenges they may present.

Enhanced Mobile Broadband

5G currently provides improved data speeds and lower latency compared to 4G but not to the extent as promised by eMBB specifications (greater than 100 Mbps per user; greater than 10 Gbps peak). However, the expectation is that with the transition to mmWave spectrum, supported by a standalone 5G core, beam forming, and network slicing, the “true” 5G will support higher bandwidth applications and data rates. As a result, eMBB will drive enhanced experiences on mobile devices for technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and high-resolution 4K/8K streaming.
eMBB will be critical in providing seamless connectivity for applications that require remote streaming, such as in-car map navigation apps or on-the-go video conferencing. High-speed, low-latency connectivity through eMBB will also serve the increasing consumer use of AR and VR technologies.

Fixed Wireless Access

As an alternative to wired connectivity, the ultra-high speed and extensive capacity of FWA has the potential to bridge digital divides by making connectivity available in rural areas and remote regions. FWA, which could enable users to enjoy speeds comparable to a wired connection, will bring high-speed connectivity to areas where fiber-optic cables cannot reach. Operating at the millimeter wave (mmWave) frequency, FWA can deliver bandwidth comparable to or higher than that of wired networks.

The momentum around FWA and mmWave technology in most U.S. markets picked up after the deployment of the C-band and has gained traction since then. Late last year, a major U.S. telecom carrier had claimed download speeds topping 4.3 Gbps by aggregating eight channels of mmWave spectrum, all without the need for low-band or mid-band spectrum to stabilize the connection. According to the carrier, because 5G mmWave signals don’t travel well through obstacles, its engineers used low-band to blanket the country along with mid-band and high-band to implement a multi-band spectrum strategy to deliver high-speed connectivity.

Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications

By providing high reliability and low latency (less than 1 millisecond) communications, URLLC helps to ensure that mission critical applications are not disrupted or susceptible to failure. Through URLLC, mission-critical platforms such as telecommunication networks, online banking systems, and industrial automation programs can operate effectively and efficiently and achieve real-time communication through connected devices.

The high reliability that URLLC provides will also be critical to the operational safety of autonomous vehicles. As more vehicles are equipped with autonomous driving capabilities in the future, the success and cost effectiveness of this model will depend on the instantaneous transference of data to support low-latency communications.

With the adoption of URLLC increasing, it is expected to offer significant advantages for a wide range of industries and applications. By leveraging non-terrestrial networks, such as satellites and drones, URLLC can help ensure that critical applications remain consistently available via ultra-reliable connectivity that’s free from terrestrial interference.

Massive Machine-Type Communications and the Internet of Things

In the past, the world marveled at the advent and proliferation of wireless technology and its ability to connect people across the globe. Today, the IoT is driving a shift from human-type communications to machine-type communications. It is estimated that the increase in popularity of technologies like autonomous vehicles and smart cities will drive the number of IoT devices to 75 billion by 2025

Efficiently connecting these billions of IoT devices in the years ahead, with the implementation and eventual benefits of mMTC, will not be without obstacles. According to Mordor Intelligence, the rollout of mMTC will present a “critical challenge for cellular networks from an operational and management perspective (due to) massive access and network congestion.” Advancements in IoT networking will play a crucial role going forward in driving the successful rollout of mMTC in 5G networks. 

Challenges that Lie Ahead

Along with the upsurge of investment in network infrastructure to transition to “true” 5G, the utilization of eMBB, FWA, and URLLC is likely to expand. As network providers upgrade existing equipment and optimize spectrum allocation, the resulting enhanced capacity and reliability will support increases in devices and the transmission of data. For FWA, some of the main challenges with 5G adoption and implementation that will need to be overcome include line-of-sight requirements between the tower and receiver/antenna. Other hurdles include potential weather interference on radio frequency signals, installation costs, limited radio frequency spectrum for fixed wireless channels, and wireless security and interference issues.

Affecting virtually every industry worldwide, mobile communication technologies in the years ahead will revolutionize the way business is done and transform the way people live and play. As telecom companies and service providers continue developing and modernizing the infrastructure to support lightning-fast data transfer speeds, a new digital age will be ushered in across the globe.     


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Categories: Industry Viewpoint · Wireless

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