5G cellular: Set to revolutionize daily life?
Comprising technologies specifically designed to maximize capacity for machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and enshrining reliability and low latency, 5G could make cellular the preferred connection for IoT devices. Using 5G will enable many promised services and innovations to transition from research fantasies to become commercial success stories. These include vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X) communication, self-driving cars, and autonomous smart factories as the foundation of Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution.
The 5G standards embody current M2M communication technologies such as NB-IoT and LTE-M LPWA from the 4G-LTE specifications. They will further enhance IoT connectivity by adding massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC) in the future. By also engineering-in ultra-reliable, low-latency communications, 5G enables ordinary cellular networks to support mission-critical applications. With this, organizations such as manufacturing businesses and logistics companies can leverage the flexibility and reach of cellular while at the same time benefiting from reliable connections and deterministic real-time responses.
5G will be everywhere
These aspects of 5G have energized new initiatives to encourage the development of 5G standards that serve the needs of specific types of users, such as the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA) and the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA). Despite the provisions built-into preceding cellular generations to deliver the reliability and efficiency IoT applications need, only 5G now has all the ingredients to be suitable – and this is before we consider the influence of 5G’s enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) capability. Arguably, this is the aspect that will have the most noticeable impact on consumers’ daily lives. It allows mobile devices to give the same or better experience than fixed high-bandwidth fiber-optic connections when handling data-intensive applications such as video streaming or immersive gaming.
5G network architecture will differ significantly from previous generations to be able to support these new services, which require massive numbers of connections to smart “things” and consumer handsets. In 5G, the bandwidth available at the air interface depends heavily on the distance between the transmitter and the subscriber device, and obstructions can easily disrupt the high-frequency signals. Large numbers of closely spaced picocells and femtocells effectively act as wireless access points in the licensed spectrum, augmenting the 5G cells. These cells will help maintain reliable connections and high aggregate bandwidth for each connected device utilizing technologies such as antenna diversity and beamforming to support multiple connections.
In urban areas, demand for large numbers of these small cells will likely see street signage and lamp pylons take on an additional role as the location for picocell and femtocell sites. On the other hand, installation challenges could slow the expansion of 5G services into rural areas where less existing road furniture is available.
Moreover, with greater cell density and higher bandwidth, 5G will drive intelligence out from IoT devices towards the network edge. The revolution in edge computing will be a key enabler for 5G to handle factory automation. A new edge layer, Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) is set to emerge, which will enable applications typically handled in the cloud to be hosted locally, contributing to lower latency and also helping reduce network congestion.
In the industrial space, the combination of 5G with high-performing and flexible edge computing brings the opportunity for companies to create private networks that replace bulky and inflexible wired LAN with secure and easily scalable wireless connectivity, protected by customized security policies. Users will also be able to set up multiple virtual networks optimized for the needs of different user classes and tasks.
At the infrastructure level, the design of network equipment will be driven by familiar design pressures such as size and power consumption. Keeping control of these will be critical to ensure that the infrastructure can be installed in a suitable location and can be powered from an appropriate energy source. This may be a mains electricity supply if a convenient AC line is available nearby. In other cases, however, a battery or energy-harvesting system may be needed, placing even greater pressure on power and energy management.
With the explosion in the number of cells installed to support 5G connections, equipment reliability is a critical need. Access to some sites will be difficult, and the maintenance burden could become unsustainable for owners or operators of public or private industrial networks. In addition to maximizing battery runtimes, ensuring minimal component failures is vitally important.
While battery energy is always precious, the increased subscriber capacity of 5G networks, and low communication latency, can help allow subscriber handsets and other connected devices such as IIoT assets to become more energy efficient. With fewer attempts to connect, and reduced instances of retransmissions being necessary to complete a typical exchange of data, there are fewer demands on battery energy. The migration of intelligence to the edge also allows opportunities to move functionality out of handsets. The 5G smartphones of the future could therefore become more compact, with a lower profile, while at the same time running for considerably longer between charges.
5G’s dependence on system reliability and smallness keeps the pressure on component vendors to deliver new devices that cram ever-greater performance into smaller packages without sacrificing characteristics such as temperature stability.
Their responses include 3D packaging, such as KEMET’s stacked multilayer ceramic chip (MLCC) capacitors that double the capacitance provided within a standard EIA surface-mount device (SMD) package footprint (Figure 2). KEMET also developed its polymer tantalum capacitors, commonly used in power-supply decoupling and noise-filtering circuits, to combine the high volumetric efficiency of a tantalum capacitor with low equivalent series resistance, superior capacitance retention over-temperature, and a safe failure mode. The T540 and T541 series are the first polymer electrolytic capacitors available with failure rate options as defined by KEMET’s KO-CAP accelerated method for reliability assessment.
As a companion to these space-efficient capacitors, KEMET METCOM power inductors leverage advanced material technologies to deliver increased performance within a smaller footprint to help keep switching power supplies quiet in network infrastructure equipment. These metal-composite inductors feature an innovative construction that combines an internal coil of rounded copper wire and an external core molded from a sintered magnetic metal-composite powder (figure 3). With superior magnetic flux density, compared to traditional ferrite-core inductors, they provide high inductance and high current rating within tight space constraints.
Ensuring electromagnetic compatibility
Rule makers are already making plans for a future that will be more densely populated with wireless devices than ever before. The EU’s Radio Equipment Directive (RED) places increased emphasis on efficient use of radio spectrum to minimize interference and allow coexistence between different items of equipment. The RED references numerous EN standards such as EN 50360, which defines limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields for wireless communication devices ranging from 300 MHz to 6 GHz. This encompasses mobile phones, including the 5G Frequency Range (FR1) of the 5G New Radio (NR) standards.
Advanced materials such as KEMET’s Flex Suppressor® helps designers deal with stubborn electromagnetic interference (EMI) issues. The Flex Suppressor structure comprises a polymer composite that contains overlapping, co-aligned metal foils of just a few microns thick. Its ability to absorb EMI is much greater than traditional ferrite components, providing a fast and cost-effective solution that can be applied up to a late stage of development to help pass EMC testing.
While the high streaming speeds offered by 5G promise superior experiences for consumers, its combination of high reliability, high bandwidth, and low latency should prove to be more transformational. With these attributes, 5G brings the reach and flexibility of cellular connectivity to mission-critical applications. Dependable infrastructure equipment, predicated on advanced electronic component technologies that deliver proven reliability, is an absolute pre-requisite.