Verizon 5GVerizon 5G a Revolution:

Not many times in the world can we safely use the word revolution. We won’t know if this is one of those times or not, till late 2017 or even 2020 for Verizon 5G. The way cell providers have evolved over the years has changed a lot. When the fourth generation of cellular technologies rolled out, I thought that we had hit the perfect point for wireless. This was before everyone had phones, and wanted to use high definition netflix of course.


trafficjamThe Issue With Current Technology:

Currently we have some fairly impressive standards most places. However when you get into a congested area with thousands of people service comes to a crawl. This is becoming a big issue for the #1 carrier in the nation, they have loads of towers, and spectrum but too many customers.

Imagine a cellular tower as a giant water tower, if you have two people hooked into that tower it can provides 5000 gallons of water per day each. This is the way cellular towers work, it looks good at first, but add 1000 people onto that tower. You’re now getting five gallons a day, per person, which is not enough to do dishes. With cellular data you start off with extremely fast fiber optic lines. Once you have 1000 people on that same line though they must share the resources.

Why Verizon has this issue:

The current issues were not always the case, as you can imagine not everyone was connected 4 years ago. The main issue currently has to do mostly with radio waves and what frequencies we can use for them. The current LTE networks use between 700 megahertz and 2400 megahertz. They can put multiple antennas on a single tower using a spread of frequencies. Each frequency can connect to different phones allowing them avoid using the same shared data lines (fiber optic line).

At this point in our history, we have exhausted all of these frequencies. Yet we continue to add more and more people onto the networks. They have even disabled much of their 3G service areas and reused it as 4G. On top of that, the current radio technology can only transmit data so quickly without adding lots of antennas (requiring more spectrum).

Why not Build more Towers?

A valid question which can be answered a number of ways. The cost of a price would shock you, a single tower is in the millions of dollars to erect. Many areas have smaller towers scattered around to sustain the load, big cities for example. If you ever go to these areas at night or early morning the speeds you can achieve are mind blowing. Speed tests showing 200 megabit per second and faster. Test them out during the day though and expect 20 megabit or less due to congestion.

Another interesting part about building more towers, is the fact it’s becoming difficult. Building the tower is easy, finding where to put it raises the issue. Many places find them to be unsightly and ugly, which is pretty much true. Many jurisdictions are dictating where one can be placed, or demanding specific guidelines. This includes hiding little tiny tower cells in trees, or man made structures including churches.

The next issue if you manage to get past that tape line, is monthly cost to operate. Most towers are on private property, the land owner gets paid for it to sit there. This can range from $500 a month to several thousand, a carrier must decide if its worth it. With current specifications I can only imagine how many structures we would have by 2050.


How Will 5G Solve This?

Five G has been a long time coming, they’re using technology we never thought could be used for such service. Deploying it will also change the way we view towers of today. Everything about 5G is all about making more capacity, faster speeds, and dense layouts to cover several people at once.

Five G frequencies consist of areas in the 20 gigahertz or higher range. These are extremely high frequencies compared to the current standard. Due to their short range vs the current technology they use what we call beam forming. A 5G antenna is only  0.2 inch in size, so several can be packed into a single box unlike current standards. This also allows you to aim multiple antennas in a single direction giving it a much greater range.

Imagine it like a laser, if you add a single beam of light it may not do much. If you had 500 of them though you will burn a hole through concrete. This is how they plan to make long range high speed data, penetrating easily through leaves and rain. A single antenna broadcasting at 28Ghz can only reach a sixteenth of a mile or less. If it rains, cut that in half, high frequencies are effected by outside variables far more.


We’ll Just Run Out of Spectrum again:

An interesting observation in spectrum use, we ran out last time why not this time? It’s true we could in theory run out of spectrum again, however the amount opened up this time is massive. We’re in the thousands megahertz now to use, people hope it will carry us for the next ten years. The amount opened up and bought up by carriers is extremely large.

We mentioned earlier that it was considered very short range before, which meant no one really used it. So we have lots and lots of unused frequencies up there we can expand to. The current signals we use were at one time not long ago used for TV station broadcasting. A clear sign of how desperate the states are for a new technology.


Solving the Tower Issue:

We mentioned earlier about tower locations, a tower can and does cost millions to erect, plus its ugly. The benefit of using much smaller antennas means you can put them literally anywhere. A single city block could have two different mini towers and you would never see it. In a more rural setting you could have little micro cells on every single telephone pole and most folks would never notice. A more densely packed sub division could hide them or attach them to already built structures.

The biggest issue with doing this will be installing so many little devices throughout basically every building in the states. Many places have access to fiber optic cable already so that will only be an issue for some places. Doing the install will take time though, not a lot per device but for hundreds of thousands or even millions it will. I estimate it will take them multiple years for a full roll out. Even longer for a total roll out to cover their current 4G map.

This may also eliminate much of the private land owner payments on future towers. Current towers will no doubt continue operation providing LTE coverage to the out reaches miles around the tower.

mock install

An example of a possible 5G sized antenna using a WeBoost indoor antenna as reference to size.

So 4G Will be Gone?

The most likely case for LTE will be, that it stays. LTE and Verizon 5G will co-exist together, much like 3G and 1x do currently. You may be wondering how LTE will be able to stay if it’s already congested. That answer is easy, once everyone off loads onto 5G the LTE spectrum will once again be empty. You will only be sharing it with people not with in Verizon 5G range. So not only will 5G speeds be blistering fast, but 4G in theory should speed up a little.

Sometime in the undetermined future LTE may very well vanish from our devices. Time will tell of course, no one can truly know what will happen in the future. We can only make educated guesses.

Verizon 5G – Blazing Fast:

How fast is it going to be? Current testing shows that it will be as fast, or faster than google Fiber (1000mbs). That’s 100 times faster than current speeds and 1000 times faster than 3g. You could be watching YouTube on 100 computers at once without buffering. Imagine a world where everyone at home can watch 4k UHD netflix on four televisions at once. This includes some extra benefits also, like instant real time video calling, and remote login for you work from home types. Everything will be real time almost, another reason why self driving cars are a hot topic for new carrier technology.

Many of these benefits are already possible, they’re just not possible with wireless. Low 1ms ping times and gigabit data speeds have been around for a while with fiber optic lines. This will bring it to the hands of every individual though, always at your finger tips. The future looks wonderful and I for one can’t wait for it. I hope others share the enthusiasm and it will be interest to see  how it plays out.