5G Gets Focused with Beamforming

5G promises to deliver what mobile users want – ludicrous speeds, rock-solid stability, and agile versatility vastly superior to any cellularnetwork currently in use.How that’s actually going to be accomplished hasn’t been decided yet. Companies like Verizon and AT&T have already begun testing
components for the new network but they, in conjunction with industry groups and competitors, are working on what 5G will mean in terms of hardware, software, and a mountain of infrastructure.

What everyone involved agrees on is the network absolutely must handle significantly more traffic and zooming speeds, not only when launched but as demand increases, which it most certainly will. Planners are proposing the use of millimeter wave technology, which can handle massive amounts of data with single digit latency, but has one drawback, the signal is easily obstructed. Buildings, walls, and even terrain pose a problem since the mm-wave’s high-frequency 30 – 300 GHz signal doesn’t pass through solid objects well.

Beamforming may be the answer. It is a traffic-signaling system using cell towers to identify the most efficient route for data packet delivery. Current cellular networks broadcast in all directions, while beamforming is akin to using a laser. Beamforming also mitigates interference to and from nearby users because of its directional, point A to B delivery system. Depending on the use and technology employed, there a few ways to implement it into the 5G network.

5G 101
Beamforming helps substantial MIMO (multi-input/multi- output) arrays at base stations to make better use of the available spectrum.The principle challenge for any sizable MIMO is reducing interference whilst transmitting significant amounts of data from an evergreen tree of antennas simultaneously.

Large MIMO base stations use signal processing algorithms to plot the most efficient transmission route to each user. Individual data packets are sent in different directions, bounced off buildings and other features, in a fastidiously coordinated pattern. By precisely choreographing data packet movements and arrival times, beamforming allows the MIMO arrays to exchange significantly more information simultaneously.

Though not set in stone, the new 5G networks plan to be built using millimeter wavesand beamforming can be used for an entirely different set of challenges: the signal being blocked by obstructions and weakening over long distances. Beamforming addresses these issues by focusing the signal into a concentrated, laser-like beam that is pointed at the user, rather than broadcasting in all directions.

Planners hope to combine beamforming and emerging 5G technologies to build a wireless network that autonomous cars, delivery drones, VR gamers and the ever-advancing smartphones, and their increasingly reliant users, will use. Researchers and the companies involved have high expectations for 5G and are promising ridiculously low latency and up to 10Gbps speeds, but they need a little more time to put it all together. It’s a massive infrastructure undertaking and some of the technologies companies plan to apply haven’t even been built yet. That said, most carriers are eyeing 2020 as year 5G explodes onto the market.

Image by TheoLeo pixabay

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