2018 was a critical year in the move towards 5G technology or fifth generation mobile networks. An initial agreement defining a roadmap to develop this technology was published within the 3GPP Alliance in the middle of last year, and there is a second phase to underline certain aspects of the technology planned for the end of 2020.
Following on from a previous article on DSL and its scientific bases, I now want to review the fundamentals of another technology: radio. As with a DSL, the ability to transmit data in any radio communications system – from the very first Marconi experiments to 5G networks – is bound by Shannon’s equation, based on the channel’s bandwidth and signal-to-noise ratio. In radio, we also have another interesting equation that can tell us the received signal strength when the transmitter power and frequency, antenna characteristics and distance to the receiver are known.
Every day we hear more news on 5G, its progress and evolution, as the demand for connectivity between vehicles, towns and cities, devices and sensors continues to grow. As you might expect, the railway sector and it’s train communications are no less affected, being one of the main players anxiously awaiting these new developments to adapt the 5G technology and use in their area of railway intra and intercommunication.
Future deployments of 5G mobile telephone networks will bring large-scale small-cell roll-outs. A small cell is nothing more than a miniature base station, or low-powered mobile telephone node, that improves a network’s spectral efficiency by allowing the same frequencies to be reused within a geographic area thanks to its limited range (10 meters to a few kilometers).