What Is 5G and How Does It Work?

By: Daniel Tomlinson
Project Engineer

18th July 2019

5 minute read

Home » Innovation

As a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on data driven applications, 5G promises to provide better connectivity and faster speeds for our network devices. However, whilst the previous generations of mobile communications have been fairly analogous to each other in terms of distribution and multiple user access, 5G will be drastically different – making it a challenging system to implement. So, how does it work?

Initial Concept

Enhanced Mobile, Massive iot, low latency, the 5G Triangle
Fig 1 – The 5G Triangle

 

As with any concept, 5G was initially based on a very broad and ambiguous set of standards, which promised low latency, speeds in the region of Gbps and better connectivity. Whilst no intricacies of the system were known at the time, we knew that in order to achieve faster data rates and larger bandwidths we would have to move to higher frequencies – and this is where the problem occurs. Due to the severe amounts of atmospheric attenuation that’s experienced by high frequency signals, range and power become serious issues that our current systems aren’t capable of handling.

Range & Power

A modern GSM tower features multiple cellular base stations, that together, are designed to transmit 360⁰ horizontally and at a range in the order of tens of miles, depending on the terrain. However, if you were to consider that the received power transmitted from a cellular base station degrades with distance at a rate of…

And that by factoring in frequency, this effect worsens…

…it becomes obvious that transmitting over larger distances and at higher frequencies becomes exponentially inefficient. Therefore, a key part of the 5G overhaul would require thousands of miniature base stations to be strategically placed in dense, urban environments in order to maximise capacity with minimal obstructions.

Directivity

5G Radiation pattern
Fig 2 – Radiation Pattern of an Isotropic Antenna versus an Antenna with Gain (Dipole)

 

One way to increase the range of a transceiver, whilst keeping the power output the same, is to incorporate gain into the antenna. This is achieved by focusing the transmitted power towards a particular point as opposed to equally in all directions (isotropic).

Figure 1 shows such a comparison, in which, a dipole antenna’s energy is being focused in the direction of 180 and 0 degrees. Equation three reflects this additional factor:

However, as the essence of a wireless handset is portability, it is likely to move around a lot with the user. Therefore, a high gain 5G transmitter would still require a tracking system to ensure that it stays focused directly at the end user’s handset.

User Tracking

One solution for tracking devices could be to employ a high frequency transceiver with a phased array antenna structure. This would act as a typical base station, capable of transmitting and receiving, but an array of hundreds of small scale patch antennas (and some DSP magic) would make it capable of beamforming. This would not only allow the structure to transmit high gain signals but to also steer the beam by changing the relative phase of the output.

However, as this is a technically complex system that has yet to be implemented on such a large scale, the technology is still in its infancy and is currently being trialled in select areas only. Considerable efforts will have to be made to ensure that such a transceiver could operate in a bustling environment where multipath and body-blocking would cause strong interference.

5G in 2019

3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project) is an organisation that was established in 1998 and helped to produce the original standards for 3G. It has since gone on to produce the specs for 4G, LTE and is currently working to achieve a 5G “ready system” in 2020.

With certain service carriers already having released 5G this year in certain parts of America, 2019 will be welcoming numerous 5G handsets from several of the flagships giants like Samsung, LG, Huawei and even Xiaomi – a budget smartphone manufacturer.

As with previous generations though, only limited coverage will be available at first (and at a hefty premium), but in practice, it will be fairly similar to Wi-Fi hot-spotting. A lot of work is still required to overcome the issues as discussed above.

As a society that is becoming increasingly dependent on data driven applications, 5G promises to provide better connectivity and faster speeds for our network devices. However, whilst the previous generations of mobile communications have been fairly analogous to each other in terms of distribution and multiple user access, 5G will be drastically different – making it a challenging system to implement. So, how does it work?

Initial Concept

Enhanced Mobile, Massive iot, low latency, the 5G Triangle
Fig 1 – The 5G Triangle

As with any concept, 5G was initially based on a very broad and ambiguous set of standards, which promised low latency, speeds in the region of Gbps and better connectivity. Whilst no intricacies of the system were known at the time, we knew that in order to achieve faster data rates and larger bandwidths we would have to move to higher frequencies – and this is where the problem occurs. Due to the severe amounts of atmospheric attenuation that’s experienced by high frequency signals, range and power become serious issues that our current systems aren’t capable of handling.

Range & Power

A modern GSM tower features multiple cellular base stations, that together, are designed to transmit 360⁰ horizontally and at a range in the order of tens of miles, depending on the terrain. However, if you were to consider that the received power transmitted from a cellular base station degrades with distance at a rate of…

And that by factoring in frequency, this effect worsens…

…it becomes obvious that transmitting over larger distances and at higher frequencies becomes exponentially inefficient. Therefore, a key part of the 5G overhaul would require thousands of miniature base stations to be strategically placed in dense, urban environments in order to maximise capacity with minimal obstructions.

Directivity

5G Radiation pattern
Fig 2 – Radiation Pattern of an Isotropic Antenna versus an Antenna with Gain (Dipole)

One way to increase the range of a transceiver, whilst keeping the power output the same, is to incorporate gain in to the antenna. This is achieved by focusing the transmitted power towards a particular point as opposed to equally in all directions (isotropic).

Figure 1 shows such a comparison, in which, a dipole antenna’s energy is being focused in the direction of 180 and 0 degrees. Equation three reflects this additional factor:

However, as the essence of a wireless handset is portability, it is likely to move around a lot with the user. Therefore, a high gain 5G transmitter would still require a tracking system to ensure that it stays focused directly at the end user’s handset.

User Tracking

One solution for tracking devices could be to employ a high frequency transceiver with a phased array antenna structure. This would act as a typical base station, capable of transmitting and receiving, but an array of hundreds of small scale patch antennas (and some DSP magic) would make it capable of beamforming. This would not only allow the structure to transmit high gain signals but to also steer the beam by changing the relative phase of the output.

However, as this is a technically complex system that has yet to be implemented on such a large scale, the technology is still in its infancy and is currently being trialled in select areas only. Considerable efforts will have to be made to ensure that such a transceiver could operate in a bustling environment where multipath and body-blocking would cause strong interference.

5G in 2019

3GPP (the 3rd Generation Partnership Project) is an organisation that was established in 1998 and helped to produce the original standards for 3G. It has since gone on to produce the specs for 4G, LTE and is currently working to achieve a 5G “ready system” in 2020.

With certain service carriers already having released 5G this year in certain parts of America, 2019 will be welcoming numerous 5G handsets from several of the flagships giants like Samsung, LG, Huawei and even Xiaomi – a budget smartphone manufacturer.

As with previous generations though, only limited coverage will be available at first (and at a hefty premium), but in practice, it will be fairly similar to Wi-Fi hot-spotting. A lot of work is still required to overcome the issues as discussed above.

Can the internet of things save the planet? article image

“Only governments can fix the problem of global warming, right?

The massive change in behaviour that we need across the board is only going to happen because governments mandate it. Businesses and individuals will accept this and do what they are told, or will be incentivised to do so. I guess that’s how we tend to think it will play out…”

Our CEO, Nicholas Hill features in Disruption Hub this week.

To read the full article click here.

Cambridge, UK – 7th May 2019 – UK-based engineering and design consultancy, Plextek is launching a new innovation business unit called Ignite Exponential, to help established companies compete with agile and fast moving start-ups that are driving new disruptive technologies.

Ignite Exponential (IEX) aims to bridge the innovation gap faced by market-leading businesses struggling to stay ahead and meet changing customer expectations in a climate of unprecedented uncertainty and aggressive competition. In particular, the rise of new technologies such as Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are dissolving the barriers to entry, enabling the rapid introducton of new product and service offerings and challenging existing business models.

Ignite Exponential will build on the 30 years’ experience Plextek has working at the leading-edge of advanced technologies to help its partners navigate this changing landscape, through strategic innovation, future-focussed marketing, human-centric design and enabling technology.

Alan Cucknell, who has been appointed to head up Ignite Exponential, summarises how IEX will bring a new approach to innovation:

“I’ve spent my career helping global companies to innovate and seen how trying to create non-standard solutions to strategically important problems can lead companies to adopt standard processes, which can lead to standard results! There is no silver bullet for strategic innovation in these increasingly complex times and it is too important to outsource. Instead, we will look to create hybrid, collaborative and cross-functional approaches that harness combined skillsets, tools and experience and help to build internal ownership”.

Alan Cucknell, Head of Ignite Exponential, leading an innovation workshop at Cambridge Network Job Fair
Alan Cucknell, Head of Ignite Exponential, leading an innovation workshop at Cambridge Network Job Fair 2019 (source: www.igniteexponential.com)

Nicholas Hill, CEO of Plextek adds:

“Front end innovation requires different mindsets, skills, processes and tools to downstream engineering. That’s why Ignite Exponential draws on the specialist development processes, systems and capabilities that Plextek is well known for, to create a distinct offering – a front end innovation partner that is agile, multi-disciplined and experienced. While the units will work closely together, the teams, systems, environment and culture are independent, to focus on maximising the impact of our work.”

Together, Ignite Exponential and Plextek will be able to partner with clients from defining innovation strategy through designing purposeful business models, platform and product solutions to developing final products and manufacturing to market.

An alternative is for established players to innovate through acquisition, but this can lead to paying over the odds and result in costly mistakes. “More than ever, innovation will determine the success or failure of established companies over the next decade – it is too important to be left to chance” says Alan Cucknell.

For more information about Ignite Exponential and how they are helping partners navigate this new complex landscape, please visit www.igniteexponential.com

Notes to editors

About Ignite Exponential
Based near Cambridge, UK, Ignite Exponential (IEX) is a multi-disciplinary team which helps established businesses grow strategically in the face of the unprecedented uncertainty and aggressive competition. IEX brings together an unusual combination of hands-on capabilities in developing cutting edge with an expertise and track record in strategic innovation and disruptive design.

For more information, call us on: +44 (0) 1799 533 345 or email: hello@igniteexponential.com or visit: www.igniteexponential.com

 

About Plextek
Based near Cambridge, UK, Plextek designs new products, systems, and services for its clients in a diverse range of industries including defence & security, medical & healthcare, and wireless communications.

Central to its culture is the company’s ability to innovate, taking an idea from concept to market. For more than 25 years the team of consultants, engineers and project managers has turned our clients’ business opportunities into commercial success, designing, manufacturing and supplying leading-edge products. Supported by our network of suppliers, commercial partners and research organisations, Plextek is the trusted partner of choice for more than 300 commercial clients, government agencies, and ambitious start-up companies.

For images, information or interview requests, please contact: Adam Roberts via email: press@plextek.com or call: +44 (0) 1799 533200

Plextek Group celebrates 30 years of creating the future

Our parent company, Plextek Group features in Cambridge Network.

Celebrating 30 years of creating the future, Group Chairman Dr Colin Smithers comments:

“I don’t think we ever thought as far forwards as 30 years but somehow we have arrived and with a great group of creative and capable people spread over multiple organisations, helping well over 500 customer organisations from start-ups to FSE-100 organisations and creating world-beating technologies in multiple markets. We are so proud of our agile approach to business; we will always push the boundaries and impact the future of our technology-driven world.”

Read the full article.

Creating the right culture to unlock innovation

Creating the Right Culture to Unlock Innovation

Adam Roberts - Marketing Consultant

By: Adam Roberts
Marketing Consultant

4th April 2018

Home » Innovation

Having a customer-focused mindset is essential in business today. We all know that if you build differential and customised customer service plans you can increase your loyalty, increase revenues and grow your market share.

However, the most successful brands in the world are doing more than this to stay successful and market leading. Companies like Google, Apple and IBM are applying the same customer-focused mindset to building superior employee experiences (EX). So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge?

Let’s start with some research. In a recent study by Accenture, companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than those with poor engagement. Furthermore, leading companies are already realising the striking comparisons between CX (Customer Experience) and EX with 51% of business leaders surveyed planning to create individualised employee experiences comparable to consumer experiences in the next two years.

So employee experiences are important, what does this mean to me?

In order to remain competitive organisations must have employee engagement plans that enhance employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. In doing so, you’ll also promote brand equity, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth. A big part of this, I believe, is creating a culture that unlocks innovation and the keys to accomplishing this are threefold.

Tools to collaborate

Have you ever noticed the technology we use and enjoy at home (in our personal lives) doesn’t always help us carry out the roles and responsibilities of our jobs? Many people find that when they get to the workplace, every app that they have on their phone becomes an unwanted distraction that actually hinders and/or slows them down. Using the right tools enables an open and transparent environment for employees to effectively communicate and work together.

This principle is fully embraced by Google as every employee can view the personal goals and objectives of every other employee. On a similar note, software engineers at Google also get access to almost all of Google’s code on their first day. This might sound a little extreme but by valuing an open and transparent company culture, Google teaches its employees that it believes them to be trustworthy and have good judgment. That, in turn, empowers staff to collaborate as a team to deliver their best work.

Tech SMEs can start to embrace this principle of openness and transparency in their processes by adopting a number of technologies that aid communication, such as open calendar access and/or use of an intranet site or forum. One of the ways we communicate project success at Plextek is through a bespoke project management system where all engineers and project managers can access each other’s workloads. This aids collaboration in meeting deadlines and ease of communicating progress to the rest of the consultancy.

Culture to Collaborate

Create an environment that sparks creativity and innovation. Having rooms and offices that are decorated with pictures and painted with vibrant colours does more than just impress the visitors at the reception desk. There is actually some science behind the layouts of offices and how they can be the catalyst for creativity in the workspace. I’d like to demonstrate this with an office that I’m fairly familiar with – the Plextek office.

We have a completely flat organisation. Directors, Executives, Managers, Consultants, Engineers and Graduates all sit at desks just beside everyone else. There are no pop-up office walls or offices with assistants or secretaries standing guard outside. This means that there are very few barriers to stop people from going to talk to the exact person they need at that moment in time.

It sounds simple I know, however, this physical equalisation, this physical democratisation, makes people at any level feel like their ideas are just as important as anyone else’s ideas. Everyone feels comfortable to speak up and share. We also have a kitchen/coffee point (with a whiteboard) that is placed between different engineering groups. This is another intentional effort to encourage great spontaneous conversation between staff where different ideas and different solutions can take form.

Some of you might be thinking that it is too difficult to implement some of these things into what you already do but the principles are quite simple. Have monthly socials between working teams (we have a Chinese Cook Off and the food is always incredible!), host a running or walking club, whatever the activity may be, it is about creating and having a spontaneous environment for people to come together and cross-pollinate ideas.

Embedding Change

Whatever change your organisation or team is going through it is important to actually make change stick. Teams and organisations not only need to survive with this change but they also need to thrive in it. At the beginning of this blog, I posed the question “What does this mean to me?” and that will be one of the first questions employees will be asking when accepting your change. I believe you must communicate your change to the head, the heart and the feet of your employees to ensure that it becomes part of the new routine.

Head

    Make your messaging for these changes very clear and simple to understand. Customise this message to the different user groups the change will involve and have specific logical reasons that the user can easily consume.

Heart

    Have a carefully picked executive sponsor who is well known and make sure this person is trained on the change, understands it, and leads by example. Promote the desired result in overall company vision and culture with emotion. And if the change is coming from you, make sure you walk the talk!

Feet

    Do they have the behaviours they need? Do they have the training and knowledge required to walk the walk in the new world of your change?


So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge? Yes, I believe that it plays an integral part (but only a part) of a much bigger shift for businesses in the future. Deloitte are calling this shift “The rise of the social enterprise” and ultimately summarises the need for building superior employee experiences in order to succeed in this new landscape.

“Organisations are no longer assessed based only on traditional metrics such as financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, organisations today are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large — transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

Having a customer-focused mindset is essential in business today. We all know that if you build differential and customised customer service plans you can increase your loyalty, increase revenues and grow your market share.

However, the most successful brands in the world are doing more than this to stay successful and market leading. Companies like Google, Apple and IBM are applying the same customer-focused mindset to building superior employee experiences (EX). So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge?

Let’s start with some research. In a recent study by Accenture, companies with highly engaged workforces are 21% more profitable than those with poor engagement. Furthermore, leading companies are already realising the striking comparisons between CX (Customer Experience) and EX with 51% of business leaders surveyed planning to create individualised employee experiences comparable to consumer experiences in the next two years.

So employee experiences are important, what does this mean to me?

In order to remain competitive organisations must have employee engagement plans that enhance employee satisfaction, productivity, and retention. In doing so, you’ll also promote brand equity, competitive advantage, and sustainable growth. A big part of this, I believe, is creating a culture that unlocks innovation and the keys to accomplishing this are threefold.

Tools to collaborate

Have you ever noticed the technology we use and enjoy at home (in our personal lives) doesn’t always help us carry out the roles and responsibilities of our jobs? Many people find that when they get to the workplace, every app that they have on their phone becomes an unwanted distraction that actually hinders and/or slows them down. Using the right tools enables an open and transparent environment for employees to effectively communicate and work together.

This principle is fully embraced by Google as every employee can view the personal goals and objectives of every other employee. On a similar note, software engineers at Google also get access to almost all of Google’s code on their first day. This might sound a little extreme but by valuing an open and transparent company culture, Google teaches its employees that it believes them to be trustworthy and have good judgment. That, in turn, empowers staff to collaborate as a team to deliver their best work.

Tech SMEs can start to embrace this principle of openness and transparency in their processes by adopting a number of technologies that aid communication, such as open calendar access and/or use of an intranet site or forum. One of the ways we communicate project success at Plextek is through a bespoke project management system where all engineers and project managers can access each other’s workloads. This aids collaboration in meeting deadlines and ease of communicating progress to the rest of the consultancy.

Culture to Collaborate

Create an environment that sparks creativity and innovation. Having rooms and offices that are decorated with pictures and painted with vibrant colours does more than just impress the visitors at the reception desk. There is actually some science behind the layouts of offices and how they can be the catalyst for creativity in the workspace. I’d like to demonstrate this with an office that I’m fairly familiar with – the Plextek office.

We have a completely flat organisation. Directors, Executives, Managers, Consultants, Engineers and Graduates all sit at desks just beside everyone else. There are no pop-up office walls or offices with assistants or secretaries standing guard outside. This means that there are very few barriers to stop people from going to talk to the exact person they need at that moment in time.

It sounds simple I know, however, this physical equalisation, this physical democratisation, makes people at any level feel like their ideas are just as important as anyone else’s ideas. Everyone feels comfortable to speak up and share. We also have a kitchen/coffee point (with a whiteboard) that is placed between different engineering groups. This is another intentional effort to encourage great spontaneous conversation between staff where different ideas and different solutions can take form.

Some of you might be thinking that it is too difficult to implement some of these things into what you already do but the principles are quite simple. Have monthly socials between working teams (we have a Chinese Cook-Off and the food is always incredible!), host a running or walking club, whatever the activity may be, it is about creating and having a spontaneous environment for people to come together and cross-pollinate ideas.

Embedding Change

Whatever change your organisation or team is going through it is important to actually make change stick. Teams and organisations not only need to survive with this change but they also need to thrive in it. At the beginning of this blog, I posed the question “What does this mean to me?” and that will be one of the first questions employees will be asking when accepting your change. I believe you must communicate your change to the head, the heart and the feet of your employees to ensure that it becomes part of the new routine.

Head

    Make your messaging for these changes very clear and simple to understand. Customise this message to the different user groups the change will involve and have specific logical reasons that the user can easily consume.

Heart

    Have a carefully picked executive sponsor who is well known and make sure this person is trained on the change, understands it, and leads by example. Promote the desired result in overall company vision and culture with emotion. And if the change is coming from you, make sure you walk the talk!

Feet

    Do they have the behaviours they need? Do they have the training and knowledge required to walk the walk in the new world of your change?



So is having the right employee culture the new competitive edge? Yes, I believe that it plays an integral part (but only a part) of a much bigger shift for businesses in the future. Deloitte are calling this shift “The rise of the social enterprise” and ultimately summarises the need for building superior employee experiences in order to succeed in this new landscape.

“Organisations are no longer assessed based only on traditional metrics such as financial performance, or even the quality of their products or services. Rather, organisations today are increasingly judged on the basis of their relationships with their workers, their customers, and their communities, as well as their impact on society at large — transforming them from business enterprises into social enterprises.”

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