The changes that 5G is poised to bring are huge. In every single industry—from healthcare to transport—could be hugely affected by its implementation… that is, when it arrives.
5G's implementation in Europe has been a subject touched upon endlessly. From the official press releases penned by major industry players to rumours and whispers that have seemingly come out of nowhere, there is no shortage of information surrounding it.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.
If we truly are progressing towards 5G coming to Europe—with some sources saying it could happen as soon as this year, 2019—what specific developments have been made on the hardware front that will make enabling 5G connectivity something that can be achieved by all devices and platforms?
European Authorities Are Taking Proactive Steps
The European Commission has made proactive steps in making 5G implementation a reality for the EU Member States, at least that's the goal for the end of 2020 in the "5G for Europe Action Plan."
A roadmap for both public and private investment on 5G infrastructure within the EU, the Action Plan sets out measures to ensure that the approach to 5G's implementation is coordinated between the Member States and that it is deployed to all of them by the end of the decade.
Examples of Components Ready for 5G
It's all well and good writing out an action plan, but without the hardware components and infrastructure available to handle 5G—a network that will run at speeds above and beyond 10 Gigabytes per second—it cannot be implemented.
Since 5G uses an entirely different part of the wireless spectrum than 4G does, operators will need to switch up their networks; 5G uses a high-frequency millimetre wave for high speeds and a ~6GHz spectrum to deliver data seamlessly across a broader area. Additionally, device manufacturers need to ensure their products work with 5G by using specialised processors that support it.
The Snapdragon 855 Processor
The world's first 5G-ready chipset that will also be the first to be implemented in commercially-available 5G phones, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855 processor is set to power the next "round" of smartphones in the U.S. made by manufacturers such as Samsung.
Image courtesy of Qualcomm.
Built on a 7nm architecture, it is the first mobile CPU that supports 5G and demonstrates prowess with both graphical and AI processing thanks to Qualcomm's fourth-generation multi-core AI engine. Also included on the chipset is a Hexagon 690 processor that features a tensor accelerator and vector extensions to improve vector processing. This demonstrates Qualcomm's desire to demonstrate that 5G is ideal to aid the development of AI and machine learning applications.
The Snapdragon 855 also supports "Wi-Fi 6" which brings with it faster speeds and better throughput, and mmWave Wi-Fi using their 60 GHz platform. All this together can, in theory, deliver speeds in excess of 10 Gbps.
Snapdragon X50 5G Modem
The Snapdragon 855 alone simply wouldn't cut it.
It is the Snapdragon X50 5G modem that is going to support the next generation of 5G mobile devices. When paired with the Snapdragon 855 processor using an integrated LTE modem, the complete Snapdragon X50 5G platform delivers multi-mode 4G and 5G capability.
Image courtesy of Qualcomm.
Supporting up to four ATM052 mmWave antenna modules, the X50 5G Modem features advanced mobility features that improve mmWave signal range and coverage in addition to dual-layer polarisation. To achieve speeds of 5 Gbps, the X50 features adaptive beam tracking and forming for when the device's line of sight is indirect.
While there is not yet a set and accepted global standard for 5G modems, it is highly likely that the X50 will meet those that are established in the very near future.
The Outlook for 5G and Europe
Developments in hardware such as Qualcomm's processor and modem are starting to make 5G look like more of an inevitable reality by introducing actual, real 5G solutions. With other manufacturers such as Intel, Samsung, and Huawei all looking to make their own, the future seems bright.
While initially only launching in the US, in comparison to Europe, the US is lightyears ahead in terms of readiness for 5G implementation—it is only a matter of time until European residents can benefit from it, too.
Perhaps that's a good thing—there will no doubt be issues that need ironing out as the first 5G-ready products become commercially available, and by the time they come to Europe, they will work a lot better.