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A Techie’s Quick Guide to 5G

A Techie’s Quick Guide to 5G, Marconi Society

By Paula Reinman

If you run in techie circles, you need to be ready to chat it up about 5G. It’s hot right now and here are some basics that can keep you in the conversation:

What’s going on?

On July 14, the FCC voted unanimously to make new portions of radio spectrum available for 5G wireless service. This makes the US the first country to set aside an ample amount of airwaves for 5G wireless communications and networks.

According to Ted Rappaport, Professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering and Founding Director of NYU Wireless, “Thanks to the FCC’s historic vote to open up the millimeter wave (high band) spectrum, carriers and new entrants now  have unprecedented  “wireless fiber” opportunities for fixed and mobile. It’s amazing to me how quickly the world came to believe the potential after our work proved that millimeter waves could offer multi gigabit per second mobile data in the streets of New York City.”

To help bring the benefit of this new spectrum to consumers, on July 15 the White House announced that it’s launching a $400M Advanced Wireless Research Initiative led by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The Initiative will support academic research and the build-out of city-scale testing platforms in four cities.

While the technology will be broadly available to consumers in 2020, these pilots and others around the world will put 5G out in communities as early as 2017.

Why do I care?

We know, we know – people have been talking for decades about the smart refrigerator that orders your milk when it senses you’re out. But the killer communications apps have really been more about streaming and selfies.

5G will definitely give us faster movie downloads, but there are some other things to love about it. With the technology and applications that have evolved in adjacent spaces, 5G promises game changers such as:

  • Improving health by routinely and seamlessly providing information about a patient’s condition to medical professionals anywhere
  • Increasing safety by enabling cars to communicate in order to avoid accidents
  • Delivering education to the world’s 770M illiterate adults
  • Bettering the environment by using sensors in trees to detect pollution levels
  • Reducing product costs by outfitting factories with always-connected smart manufacturing equipment that self-diagnoses and repairs before breaking

Of course, some people are still talking about the refrigerator….

What terms do I need to know?

If you want to get your geek on – or maybe just participate in lunch conversation – here are a few terms that may help:

Term What it Means Why it Matters
5G Fifth-generation wireless systems or mobile networks Next major phase of mobile communications standards expected to deliver 1000 times the capacity and many times the speed of existing 4G networks
MMW or mmW Millimeter Wave or Millimeter Band spectrum Radio waves that enable 5G – they are  in the extremely high frequency (EHF) band with wavelengths from ten to one millimeter
NYU Wireless Multidisciplinary research center focused on 5G wireless research, funded by the NSF and 10 major wireless companies
V2I Vehicle to infrastructure communications Wireless exchange of critical safety and operational data between vehicles and roadway infrastructure intended to avoid collisions
V2V Vehicle to vehicle communications – also known as VANET (vehicular adhoc network) Technology designed to allow automobiles to “talk” to each other to overcome blind spots, avoid accidents, etc.

We’ll be hearing lots more about 5G and the Marconi Society will be working with its expert Fellows and Young Scholars to share our perspectives.