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When it comes to alphanumeric phrases (terms that combine letters and numbers), a few stand out for their prevalence in our daily lexicon: V8 engines, 32-bit processors, several notable car models and even a favorite lemon-lime soda (7-UP, anyone?). But as for the one that’s most likely to be used every day? That’s 5G. Two little letters that have brought impactful changes to our lives and the way we connect to the world around us.
As the number in its name suggests, 5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. Phones started with 1G before graduating from 2G to 3G and to 4G in the 2010s, which up until recently (through 2019), remained the standard. The goal of the latest iteration of network technology is to connect all devices via a wireless network that provides low latency, ultra-fast speeds, the ability to move more data and higher responsiveness. In comparison to 4G and LTE, 5G is exponentially better in every metric listed in the previous sentence (speed, latency, data, responsiveness) and is enabling a slew of exciting technology such as autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and more. It’s no wonder why 5G has become the standard around the world.
Now that we know what 5G is and how it’s become a part of our everyday lives, now it’s important to know what makes 5G possible. The simple answer, of course, is the same as it was to the question of what was powering 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G: fiber optic networks. But the complexity, location and density of those networks is what is evolving to meet the current bandwidth demands of 5G.
Accommodating 5G and IoT technologies is no small task, as they put undue pressure on existing network infrastructure, which drives demand for more reliable networks. So even as our technology goes wireless, the root of what powers our devices is the physically tangible fiber optic networks installed throughout the world that have had to advance to support the surge in traffic that these 5G rollouts have brought. In terms of types of networks, fiber’s performance far exceeds that of its alternatives, including satellite, copper coax cable and Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), and is a clear standout when it comes to reliability, speed and availability.
Traditionally, to accommodate devices, all that was needed was fiber-based backhaul between a remote tower and a centralized headend. But 5G requires never-before-seen levels of densification of existing networks, essentially meaning many more cell sites and antennas located closer together so that 5G’s higher frequencies don’t fall victim to signal dissipation and poor service quality. So, instead of concentrating solely on traditional backhaul, wholesale operators can offer fronthaul to a multitude of small cell sites. These include installations like light posts, for example, that can supply the information needed for future tech like autonomous vehicles.
In short, wholesale operators and fiber providers like DQE Communications are critical in providing the resources needed to power 5G.