5G communications protocols were developed in 2017 and made available publicly in 2019. As consumers gradually upgrade their devices, more people are benefiting from the faster speeds. However, how far along is the implementation of 5G and what obstacles do network operators face when improving coverage for their customers? Here, Marcin Bała, CEO of telecommunications solutions provider Salumanus, discusses these issues, what we can expect from 6G and how new O-band technology is laying the groundwork to handle data requirements.
According to the OECD, some operators experienced up to a 60 per cent increase in data traffic during the pandemic compared pre-pandemic times. To meet this demand, network operators ramped up the development of 5G, putting Europe ahead of its planned rollout targets at around 65 per cent. Targets set out by the European Commission include a 100 per cent coverage of urban areas by 2025 and 100 per cent coverage of at least low-band 5G (Sub-6 Ghz) for all areas by the end of 2030.
Meanwhile, the UK Government released plans in February 2022 to simplify the way councils share information with network providers regarding the use of publicly-owned buildings and curbside infrastructure to increase 5G coverage.
Over the next three to five years, operators will be primarily focused on deploying 5G. However, 6G is already being researched and the first commercial deployment could be expected as early as 2026 in major cities that have a strong investment in telecommunications infrastructure such as Tokyo, Beijing, London and New York. However, 6G Flagship estimates that general rollout will likely happen in the 2030’s.
The requirements for 6G could see latency reduced by five times compared to 5G, with the bandwidth being a few times higher. These improvements will enhance the experience of virtual reality, as the higher data transmission and low-latency will make for a more immersive experience. Areas such as IoT and AI will also be able to make faster, better-informed decisions.
Another benefit of 6G will be improved location accuracy. A whitepaper published by 6G Flagship explains how using 6G simultaneous localization and mapping methods will allow for much more accurate readings. This is particularly useful for self-driving cars, because they rely on having a detailed understanding of their surroundings to make safe and accurate navigation decisions.
When using low-band 5G, operators can use the same infrastructure as 4G, just with optimisation. However, when increasing the frequency to a higher bandwidth, such as 24–100 GHz in the millimetre wave spectrum, it becomes necessary to add more base stations close together. This means that high-band 5G and 6G are only feasible in urban areas.
It is this necessity to add base stations which is the source of a few problems. Firstly, adding them to populated areas has resulted in pushback from citizens who do not want these towers close to their homes. Lastly, more base stations means higher energy usage, which given the current energy crisis, is proving to be a huge issue for operators.
To keep up with the increasing demand for data at lower latency while reducing energy consumption, network providers must upgrade their existing infrastructure. Many network providers still rely on 10 Gbps and 25 Gbps connections for transferring data to and from base stations using optical cables. However, the upgrade to speeds such as 100 Gbps are becoming more necessary.
Achieving this by laying more cable is unfeasible due to cost and time restrictions. Alternatively, there are transceivers and multiplexers, like those provided by Salumanus’ GBC Photonics, that make the upgrade to 100 Gbps using existing cable infrastructure possible. O-band transceivers can boost data transmission on existing cables from 10 Gbps to 100 Gbps without increasing energy consumption or maintenance costs.
Additionally, using passive multiplexers will eliminate the need for active, powered equipment in the aggregation nodes that connect the base stations, further reducing energy consumption. This maintains an optical connection throughout, keeping latency at a minimum.
To find out more about how you can benefit from O-band solutions, visit www.salumanus.com.