Can replace 5G WiFi 3
Is 5G the new fiber optic?
5G is a new technology in the cellular network: the 5th generation. The Internet connection is via a fixed or wireless connection. Before that, you needed a copper connection for Internet connections. This network is currently largely being replaced by fiber optics.
For the cellular network and WLAN networks, providers, manufacturers and governments are busy expanding 5G. The cellular network has several advantages over fiber optics: a higher data transmission rate and less delay. 5G also works wirelessly. As more and more household appliances function wirelessly and communicate with each other, it is obvious that 5G will replace fiber optics. But is this realistic?
(by: Arnoud Hersbach, Innovation & Development - BNS Data Logistics)
Currently, the Internet infrastructures always work via physical connections (cables). These are fiber optic cables that run from the central office to the distributor (POP). This box distributes the signals within a certain radius to individual connections or households. This last mile - is physical cabling (this can be fiber, copper, or coax). In commercial areas, the buildings are equipped with fiber optics. Workplaces and computers can be connected via a copper cable (Ethernet) or a company network (LAN).
The term 5G broadband is confusing as one expects a complete wireless broadband solution. But this is not true. 5G broadband (or 5G Fixed Wireless Access or FWA) replaces the physical last mile with a wireless network connection. The majority of these 5G networks therefore remain connected to the same fiber optic network as normal broadband.
Bottleneck is the last mile into the building
Glass fibers are laid in large pipes to the central distributors. The problem is to create a connection from the distributors to the individual connections. Since it costs a lot of time and money to replace this last mile with fiber optics, many providers continue to use the current copper connections (DSL and Coax). After all, this network already exists and does not require any new investments. By using new technologies (e.g. pair bonding) for the current connections, providers can often still achieve higher speeds than this actually outdated technology.
With the rapid growth of mobile internet and wireless devices, there is an increasing demand for internet access. Cell phones, laptops and smart home products use radio technology to search for WLAN access or a mobile transmitter mast. This is called device-connected Internet (IOT = Internet of Things). The quality and speed of this connection (and therefore also the price) is determined by the last mile, the type of cable (copper, coax or fiber optic) and the distance between the house and the control center. Because the further the control center, the lower the maximum speed (POP). When 5G radio is fast enough, there is no longer any need for cables to get into the house.
Is 5G much faster too?
The range of high-speed fiber optic connections is often still limited to large cities. Due to the above problem of a greater distance from the control center, more remote or sparsely populated areas have to be satisfied with poor performance (speeds 2 Mbit / s - 10 Mbit / s). The latest technical measurements for 5G show download speeds of up to 50 Gbit / s. Of course, this affects the maximum (theoretical) speed. In practice, the range is between 5 Gbit / s and 30 Gbit / s. That's about 1000x faster than 4G! The decisive factor is the choice of the provider on which frequency the signal runs. Current fiber optic providers generally offer a maximum speed of 1000 Mbit / s. Tests are currently being carried out at speeds of up to 10 Gbit on fiber optics (P2P as XGS-pon) and Coax with docsis 3.1. Customers who can use speeds above 1 Gbit are currently limited. 5G can be faster than the current fiber optic network, but it depends on the frequency chosen. In the Netherlands, frequencies of 700, 1400 and 2100 MHz were tested for the 5G network. In 2019 the frequencies 2 GHz and 3.5 GHz were auctioned off by the Federal Network Agency. In addition to Telekom, Vodafone and Telefonica, 1 & 1 / Drillisch took part in the auction as a newcomer. There are currently around 1,000 5G antennas in Germany, with a further 7,000 to follow. The aim is to connect ten million households to the super-fast Internet by the end of the year.
Deutsche Telekom has installed over 500,000 kilometers of fiber optics in Germany and, according to its own information, more than 80% of its cell phone sites are connected with fiber optics. Years ago, Vodafone and Telefónica reported that they connected more than 10% of their cellular sites with fiber. The companies are currently not giving any current interim status as to how far the expansion is now. It is estimated that more than 50% has been connected on fiber optics.
The 3.5 gigahertz frequency will be auctioned in 2022. Then comes the 26 GHz frequency. Only when we go to 3.5 gigahertz and higher will speeds be achieved that are equal to or higher than the current fiber. To achieve these higher speeds, a single fiber optic connection to the base station and the necessary 5G infrastructure are sufficient. Put simply, it depends on the construction of small base stations, which are distributed over antenna masts and across buildings.
Installing 5G is cheaper than fiber
The advantages of 5G broadband or 5G-FWA compared to fiber optic broadband are not only in the speed, but also in the relatively low construction costs. No mechanic is required to physically connect the house to the wiring. Providers have lower costs because there is no need to install physical wiring in the ground. Of course, the 5G antennas must be able to be connected to the fiber optic network. It is estimated that 5G providers will be around 50% cheaper to build the network. The 5G solution is plug-and-play: it works as easily as connecting to a WiFi router. As a result, it may be enough for providers to post the installation guide on the Internet. These savings can translate into a lower internet contract price. There are forecasts that assume that households connected to 5G can save up to 200 euros a year. The contract period can also be shorter, as the providers do not have to amortize the installation costs.
Fiber optic broadband is cheaper to service
So much for the advantages of a broadband connection via 5G. But there are also a number of disadvantages to be named. For example the operating costs. Thanks to the on-site maintenance costs and energy consumption, using fiber optic ribbons is much cheaper than using 5G broadband. After the cables are buried, there are practically no maintenance costs. As a result, the maintenance costs are very low. This is in contrast to the transmission towers needed for 5G. They have to be kept clean and are sensitive to weather conditions and, for example, arson.
It is estimated that the cost of ownership of 5G broadband is 5x higher than that of fiber. This can be interesting for operators, as the initial investment is low. Network maintenance is expensive, but the broadband connection can be used for more than 5G. 5G broadband infrastructure is the same infrastructure that is needed for mobile telephony.
There are therefore several advantages to installing 5G broadband.
5G chooses the radio technology for the use of radio frequency. Radio frequency waves have a shorter range but provide faster internet. But even short waves can be prevented more easily, even tree leaves can be a problem. Since a lot of importance is attached to sustainability in new buildings, a lot of insulation is used. This limits the range of radio waves. With 4G we already have the problem that the range in new buildings is limited and with 5G this will make this even more difficult. An outside antenna is then the solution.
Is 5G harmful to health?
Many people are concerned about the health effects of 5G. In February 2020, the Federal Network Agency counted more than 85,000 mobile phone locations nationwide. That number is likely to increase with the 5G expansion. The discussion is about, for example, making the roofs of public buildings more accessible to new cell phone towers.
To determine whether the radiation has an impact on health, the radiation from 5G is compared with current radiation-generating technologies. The electromagnetic radiation from 5G is non-ionizing radiation. This means that the radiation has a lower frequency than the ionizing radiation from, for example, X-rays or radioactive radiation. So one can conclude that 5G does not have the same harmful effects as ionizing radiation. The radiation is so low that it is hardly or not at all harmful according to generally applicable standards.
Although 5G sends the same radiation as 2G, 3G or 4G, there is a difference in how the signals are received: 5G is more difficult to penetrate through walls, but the rays are only bundled when the user establishes a connection (beamforming) with the 5G mast. One advantage is that smartphones, for example, require less contact for communication. Lower power can therefore reduce overall exposure to radiation.
In addition, there are also fewer electromagnetic fields in the immediate vicinity. 5G uses high radio frequencies that penetrate less deeply into the body than 3G or 4G radiation. So there will be more masts to ensure the same good coverage.
Research is currently underway to determine how far this radiation is harmful in the long term. It therefore remains important to keep an eye on these results.
Is 5G replacing fiber optics on the last mile or not?
No, 5G does not replace a fiber optic connection, but it is a good alternative for the last kilometer for fast internet access. Fiber optics are always required to connect the antennas. In the short term, within 5 years, 5G will not achieve speeds that can be measured with fiber optics and that would be comparable. Only from a frequency higher than 3500 MHz can speeds be achieved that are the same as or higher than glass fiber. Opting for fiber is still a good one.
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