Within the IT sector, wireless networking has been dubbed the 'fourth utility' for buildings. Accompanying HVAC, Power, and Water - wireless forms the backbone of enterprise mobility - both between enterprise sites, on a larger scale, and within enterprise sites. Inconsistency, low network speeds, and lack of availability for mobile data all motivate enterprises to push for increasingly high quality connectivity.

5G, the next major leap in telecommunications and mobile data deployment, is currently hamstrung by a lack of widespread fiber optic cable infrastructure. Fiber cable availability will bring most networks, which rely on antiquated copper cabling, into a new age of support for IoT and ultra-low latency applications.

Some examples include 5G for machine-to-machine (M2M) and machine-to-everything (M2X) communications, M2X communication for self driving cars, and millimeter wave wireless network densification - clustering radio sites in very small areas to provide reliable, high-speed wireless network access.

Breaking it down

Fiber-optic cabling has to replace copper cabling in order to allow 5G to take hold.

• Copper cables generally have a maximum speed rating of around 1Gbps, the minimum speed for 5G networks.
• Fiber can readily support up to 100 Gbps, approximately ten times the speed limit of 5G implementations
• Some recent research has shown single fiber strands to be capable of supporting 10 terabytes or more per second (single-mode) in some instances.

5G speeds are a firm requirement for cutting edge technology implementations such as self driving cars, smart buildings, and smart cities. As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues expanding - toward an expected 4 billion or more connections by 2024 in just the cellular sector, data throughput requirements can easily exceed current transmission limits of 1 Gbps. M2M communication will allow buildings to carry out tasks, such as controlling light, temperature, and power consumption automatically, just like M2X communication will allow self driving cars to predict the environment ahead of them in advance, further limiting potential accidents before they can happen.

Antenna Changes

Wireless radios, like the wiring infrastructure, will be vastly different in 5G networks - rather than individual radio heads covering square miles, 5G radios will be clustered within single square-mile grids to allow high reliability and high bandwidth connectivity.

• Millimeter wave (24 GHz and above frequency range) will be used for high-quality, short-range data transmission.
• Longer range wireless communication will occur on the sub-6GHz wavelength bands, allowing 5G networks to provide coverage in localized areas while still transmitting effectively over longer ranges, in excess of one square mile.
• 4G networks currently have a range of 10 square miles or more, based on the cell towers' placement and carrier wave frequency they use.

Optical Taps For Network Monitoring

Network monitoring for fiber optic infrastructure can be intimidating at first - one wrong move and the glass in the cables might snap, making them useless. Optical network taps resolve this in a safe and ideal way - passive network taps require no energy, do not move, and have miniscule failure rates when applied correctly.

Optical network taps are vital to network monitoring and maintenance - they do not serve as a potential point of intrusion or failure, but allow admins to keep a close eye on the network and track down any points of data loss or latency reductions. Optical network taps can not only provide valuable diagnostic information in terms of latency and network failure but can also help to identify minor line damage - potentially caused by environmental temperature change or tampering.

Signal Splitting

Signal splitting may enable Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to increase their network coverage and efficiency and reduce fronthaul bandwidth requirements. Fronthaul is the connection between a network architecture of central baseband controllers and remote standalone radio heads. By reducing fronthaul bandwidth requirements, MNOs can provide service to more network participants and save on the cost of network operation. Performance boosts aside, cost savings from effective signal splitting - a currently unoptimized technique - will be substantial. Some recent developments show R&D applications transmitting more than 20 Gbps in the sub one GHz frequency range. This was achieved using Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) arrays within the antennae - and adaptation which experts expect to gain steam over the next few years.

  Further information suggests that experts believe 5G energy consumption may be less than 4G consumption as the technology continues to advance.

Cloud-RAN (C-RAN) and 5G

C-RAN describes a decentralized Radio Access Network (RAN), one of the fundamental aspects of 5G acceptance. C-RAN will allow MNOs to build close knit transmission areas by layering access stations and antennae in small areas to boost network performance while also limiting power costs due to long-range transmission inefficiency.

C-RANs, like 5G, require fiber-optic cable infrastructure in order to reach ideal efficiency levels. The bottlenecks provided by older, copper cabling infrastructure will hamstring even the fastest radios and networks.

Cable Products Regulation (CPR)

CPR is the new EU strategy for rating cables based on their performance in a variety of situations - such as:

• Fire
• Flooding
• Smoke

These requirements are intended to give customers and contractors a better understanding of cabling for permanent installation applications.

CPR compliance is also requiring cabling sold after 2017 to have these ratings - and their explanations listed on cabling boxes for clear identification and appropriate usage.

5G is one of the most hyped technologies of this decade, but without the underlying infrastructure changes mentioned above, it will not come to fruition. Fiber deployment cannot stop at street level. Fiber cabling should be supplied to offices and radios alike in the coming years, to prepare for the onset of 5G networking and everything it brings with it.

Is your business ready for 5G? If not, Fiber Instrument Sales can help align your business with the future, today.