“5G” - the 5th generation of mobile communication

“5G” as a key technology for digitization

Right after the auction of the frequencies for the fifth mobile communication generation “5G” was completed in June, network operators started offering the new mobile radio standard in several major German cities. Especially for industry, it promises to be of great use in the near future.

In a video interview, Dr. Rüdiger Quay, deputy director of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Solid State Physics IAF, explains the advantages of “5G”, the differences compared to its predecessors “4G” and UMTS as well as the contribution of Fraunhofer IAF to this new technology.

“5G” for the digital applications of the future

The demand for faster data transfers is ever growing. Particularly in industry, the communication between machines becomes increasingly important and requires a network of more and more devices, which needs vast amounts of energy using today’s mobile radio technology. Other applications, such as autonomous driving, which depend on high reliability and speed, cannot at all be realized using today’s mobile network. The new mobile radio generation “5G” promises to meet these new demands exactly where needed, thus becoming a key technology for digitalization.

© Fraunhofer IAF / music: Babylon - Disco Ultralounge by Kevin MacLeod

© Fraunhofer IAF / music: Babylon - Disco Ultralounge by Kevin MacLeod

Increasing data traffic requires higher energy efficiency

The number of mobile phone users and digital applications is constantly growing.  As a consequence, the amount of transferred mobile data is skyrocketing, and so is the energy demand. This is why energy efficiency is of such a fundamental importance for mobile communications. The efficient technology of “5G” aims to meet the growing demand for electronic communication while at the same time keeping the environmental impact as low as possible.

Precise and selective

As before in the “4G” network, data is transmitted from a mobile device via broadcasting towers to a base station, which again transfers the information to other base stations and broadcasting towers. At the moment, data is transmitted in the frequency range of up to 3 GHz. In the current mobile network, these frequencies are broadcasted over a wide area by the transmission towers. This wide range of coverage requires large amounts of energy. The “5G” network, on the other hand, uses frequencies of up to 6 GHz and broadcasts the data with the help of smart distribution modules inside the base stations covering smaller distances via directional radio. In this way, the radio transmission becomes more efficient, transmitting data only where needed. The required infrastructure for this technology will be expanded selectively, i.e. only where high performance is needed.

 

© Fraunhofer IAF / music: Babylon - Disco Ultralounge by Kevin MacLeod

In the “4G” network, the frequencies are broadcasted over a wide area.
In the “4G” network, the frequencies are broadcasted over a wide area.
In the “5G” network, on the other hand, the radio transmission covers smaller distances via directional radio.
In the “5G” network, on the other hand, the radio transmission covers smaller distances via directional radio.

Research on gallium nitride at Fraunhofer IAF

Fraunhofer IAF has decades of experience in researching and developing high-frequency and power electronics based on gallium nitride. This technology is characterized by its extremely high performance and energy efficiency. Therefore, it has many advantages over the commonly used silicon technology, which – due to its physical characteristics – is incapable of the performance required for the higher bandwidths of the “5G” network. This is why network operators rely on more powerful gallium nitride devices. Based on this technology Fraunhofer IAF develops so-called MIMO – „Multiple Input Multiple Output“ – antenna systems for base stations that enable a variable directional radio at high frequency ranges. The reduced dispersion of radio signals reduces not only the energy consumption, but also increases the quality of the signal of the upcoming mobile radio standard.

© Fraunhofer IAF / music: Babylon - Disco Ultralounge by Kevin MacLeod