5G Mobile Technology and its Arrival in Cities, Roads and Highways

“The fifth wave of mobile technologies, simply known as 5G, is only a few years away from being a reality although it is still in the phase of proposal and definition of standards. It will be seen in all its deployment from 2019-2020, although there are already several pilot projects underway and since 2016 tests have been made of some of the candidate technologies in Finland, China and several other countries in Asia.”

London also has a pilot project since last year. And in Spain, Telef√≥nica started using it in January 2018 in “live laboratories” in pilot cities such as Segovia and Talavera de la Reina. The objective is not to be left behind and to understand on the ground how they can affect the different aspects of each business: infrastructures, users, vehicles or any other.

Two are the main characteristics of 5G in terms of what users will perceive: speed and low latency. The speed will be hundreds of times greater – even a thousand times in certain applications. The latency will be reduced until it is almost imperceptible: that is the technical term that refers to the “delay” experienced by the signals when traveling through the network. The summary is that the responses of the devices will be almost instantaneous, of the order of less than 5 milliseconds, and ultra-fast, reaching up to 10 gigabits per second.

All this will be achieved with a network of smaller but denser telephony cells, using radio spectrum bands different from the current ones. This will require adapting existing antennas, buildings and other infrastructures. And it will result for example in advantages such as that it will improve the precision of the triangulations and of the differential GPS (which uses fixed signals, in addition to the conventional GPS satellites).

Working groups in all areas

The 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP) is one of the groups in which the European Commission works together with operators, manufacturers and service companies. Among the ambitious objectives that have been marked and that are more related to infrastructures are:

  • Make a safer network, in which the “perceived time” in case of failure is practically zero.
  • Provide a thousand times more capacity than what was in 2010.
  • Solve 90% of the energy requirements (using the radio signals of the network itself).
  • Provide greater density, to be able to connect 7 billion devices to 7,000 million people.

The implications of greater speed and better latency are key for the transport and automotive sector. It means that cars, trucks and other vehicles – both piloted and self-employed – will be able to connect to the network and transmit much more information than now. In addition, the lower response times would allow remote control and improvements in autonomous driving.

The 5GAA group (5G Automotive Association) brings together vehicle manufacturers and operators; it focuses on analyzing the cost-benefit relationships of these technologies, the proposals and tests of the different related standards (such as 802.11p for short-distance communications between vehicles).

In addition to improvements in speed and latency, chip makers such as Intel or Qualcomm point to this vehicle-to-vehicle connectivity (V2V) as another key point of 5G technology. Intel has already developed a platform called Intel Go specific for automatic driving on highways and highways with 5G networks. The idea is that by being able to gather more information, autonomous vehicles will work better; if it is possible to connect them from anywhere on the roads and highways with the servers in the “cloud” of the Internet, they could expand their machine learning functions and receive notifications and instant information about their environment – even if they can not “see” what is happening with their cameras.

Other manufacturers extend this idea to communications with other infrastructures, vehicle-to-highway (V2R, V2I) or even vehicle-to-anything (V2X). Qualcomm for example states that the 5G 2VX will offer new possibilities such as:

  • Quick download of ultra-high resolution maps.
  • Visualization of intersections to “bird’s eye view”.
  • More precise positioning and 3D maps.

New ideas

There are those who consider that with the 5G could resurface new formats for old businesses as well as new ones. For example: until now no one had considered offering high quality communications and broadband to the millions of passengers of cars, buses and trains-a kind of Netflix in motion but without the problems of coverage, failures and cuts of today- It could be a profitable business. So it would not be weird to see it as an option on the highways and main roads of communication in the near future.

The biggest challenge facing the 5G is of an economic nature: network operators must find the balance between installing many new 5G communication cells and doing it in a cost-effective way. Given that this network will be able to coexist with the current 4G and 3G networks, the transition will probably be smooth and we will find over time more densely populated and communicated areas -cities, highways, railways- in which the 5G brings us closer to the most advanced technologies of the future.