Not mutually exclusive: Why 5G requires fiber optics?
5G has been lauded as the next big technology innovation and rightfully so, too. With the capacity to download a HD movie in a second compared to the 10 minutes it takes for its 4G and LTE counterparts, there’s a lot riding on its growing prevalence. The conversation around 5G also means other digitally-driven innovations can come off the back-burner and onto the front. From IoT to driverless cars to health monitoring devices, surges in the medical field and so much more, the possibilities are endless. In fact, 5G will soon cement a frictionless future. However, 5G wireless will need fiber and they aren’t mutually exclusive.
In order to understand why the next generation of wireless will need, well, wires, it’s important to understand the mechanics of how global telcos will harness the capabilities. Although 5G will use radio waves, it requires telecommunication companies to not only utilise the underused parts of the spectrum but cables to support it, as well. In essence, leveraging the full potential of wireless 5G will require vast amounts of transmitters to relay the data across the network through fiber optic cables.
In order for everything to come together, companies such as OFS Optics and other fiber-optics and cable companies are commissioned to manufacture millions of miles of fiber cables and fiber optics tools and equipments. The demand requires twice as many fiber pairs: one for uplinking and one for the downlink. All the tech-speak going over your head? LifeWire has an informative article on the 101.
It’s not uncommon to take a pause when you realise that fiber optic cables substantiate the capabilities of 5G. Fiber networks running underground are, in fact, crucial to reaching global 5G goals. As such, the rise of 5G will also see an uptake in the wireline side of network infrastructure so much so that the very performance and success of 5G is dependent on the availability of fiber cables in the area.
Traditionally, 2G and 3G networks use copper-based circuits. Although these circuits have proven effective over the years, the rise of 4G has made them more redundant. Intrinsically, mobile backhaul networks (MBH) are undergoing upgrades to packet-based transport over fiber, enabling higher capacity and satisfying a higher demand. Additionally, mobile network operators (MNOs) are utilising small cells with radios placed closer to the user to improve coverage, quality of experience (QoE) and capacity. Although fiber-based small cell MBH is the prefered option due to the security, scalability and cost-effectiveness, it is not always the most viable option. Therefore, small cells can be backhauled over copper and air, as well.
In order to be fully 5G compatible, devices must be perpetually connected regardless of the density of traffic. More than mobile devices, this is a mandatory requirement for other digital products and services. For instance, driverless cars need to be always connected in order to communicate and be aware of road hazards and read maps to be up to date on directions and route changes. As such, with 5G supporting IoT and big data, the creation and transfer of real-time data is imperative for functionality purposes. Decision making on 5G is instantaneous and thus requires fewer (or no) dropouts, reduced latency issues and higher bandwidth. Devices that operate independently of human interaction (surveillance cameras, digital displays, etc) rely on an always-on connection to the network. As a result, a fiber-based connection supports the demand and is proven to be a choice selection.
5G isn’t a standalone improvement in wireless network connections. In fact, a fiber-based wireline is important to bring to fruition the true capabilities of 5G. Fiber-rich network infrastructure will deliver the key performance indicators of 5G including longer battery life, faster data transfers, higher reliability, more connected devices on the network and lower latency. 5G won’t eclipse wireline networks but rather work hand in hand to drive network speeds never seen before. If you’re in the market to take charge in 5G development and deployment, partner with the experts who can take you forward. Whether you’re looking at solutions to fiber test or enable, assure and optimize 5G networks, VIAVI offers 360-degree solutions for validation, verification and visibility of your 5G capabilities. Understand the network and command it too, with innovative solutions from VIAVI.