5G – When can we expect it and what does it mean for testing?

The development of next generation wireless technology, going beyond the limits of 4G, are already on the horizon as 5G systems begin to be mapped out in greater detail. This change in mobile technology holds the power to potentially transform the industry entirely – and lead to a major shake up of our relationship with it.

However, while 5G systems remain undefined and without clear standards in place, there are questions about what can be expected from them, and how they will affect testing overall.

This blog takes a closer look at the potential issues that will need to considered by the industry when considering 5G development, and considers some developments that are already in motion.

Defining 5G

The term 5G” itself is deceptive – unlike 3G or 4G, there are no current standards to define it in place. However the concept that governs the proposed technologies around it are beginning to coalesce, and actual technological products could begin to be rolled out within the next six years.

As the next generation of wireless technology, it is intended to transform the wireless industry by significantly improving data speeds and coverage than what is offered at present by 4G. With higher frequency signals, 5G could offer speeds reaching 1 Gb/s. It is also expected to be more energy efficient than current systems, though what this could translate to in actual terms is still unclear.

Emerging developments

Though 5G systems are still undefined, the research into developing instruments that will be capable of working with this system has brought out a number of valuable developments.

One of the most valuable is the 5G Baseband Exploration Library from Keysight Technologies, which includes development into single processing methods that will enable the implementation of antenna beamforming and multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO.

Another key progression is the use of small cells in order to enhance MIMO. As MIMO does not need to be limited to a single base station, they can be used as distributed MIMO, with the use of multiple antennas and base stations. And of course, there is extensive discussion about the Internet of Things – as 5G begins to be refined with greater clarity, both consumers and manufacturers can expect to see 5G providing innovative new solutions and opportunities in this area.

Testing 5G

The development of a prospective new system also calls for the development of new testing tools, and for test-equipment manufacturers, the prospect of 5Gon the horizon calls for a re-evaluation of existing testing instruments and their limitations.

The lack of clear standards means that it is not as straightforward as it may be hoped to define the parameters for testing. However it is likely that frequency ranges will expand to 28, 38, 60 and 73 GHz. New modulation methods and the use of MIMO can also be expected. These anticipated progressions have already seen some new 5G development systems come into existence, to test different aspects of designs and investigate the stability of prototypes.

As 5G systems and technologies continue to develop, test instrument manufacturers will also need to advance the parallel development of tools capable of meeting the new challenges and complexities posed.

How do you think 5G development will change the industry? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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