A man climbing a cell tower

Let’s Talk About 5G: How It Works 🤔

In this installment of our Introduction to 5G, we’ll be explaining how this new form of communication functions and how it compares to our existing network.

Let’s Talk About 5G

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

First things first, let’s explain how wireless communication works in the real world. All wireless phones and devices operate along the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum is the complete range of all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) and that radiation is just energy that travels outward in all directions at the speed of light. A lamp, for instance, will trasnmit EMR within a segment of that spectrum (what we see as visible light) and our eyes can interpret that transmission. On the lower end of that spectrum are radio waves which power technologies like AM/FM radio, television broadcasts, WiFi and cellular phones. Radio and micro waves are similar to visible light in that they operate on the same spectrum, just on a lower frequency (30Hz to 300GHz).

Differences: Current and 5G

Bandwidth

Much like our existing 3G/4G infrastructure, 5G is a type network used to transfer data between devices. Each one of these networks operate within a specific range on the electromagnetic spectrum. For decades, we’ve been using the same range for the majority of our devices: 1GHz to 6GHz. As technology progresses, the increasing amount of wireless devices we have are all competing with each other for the same limited bandwidth. The new 5G network is designed to operate within a much larger range above 6GHz all the way up to 100GHz! That’s a substantial increase in the amount of bandwidth in which our devices will now be given for a variety of applications.

Range

Our current 3G/4G signal can travel over longer distances as they operate on a lower frequency which gives them extended range. However, 5G devices will operate on much higher frequencies and those signals can’t travel the distances that lower 3G/4G frequencies can. To work around this, the infrastructure for this new network will require a combination of our existing towers and a much smaller, more condensed grid of “mini” towers every block as these waves aren’t able to penetrate foliage and inclement weather.

Also, most 4G devices were designed to be backwards-compatible with older networks. However, 5G is not meant to be merely an incremental update to existing mobile communication standards. Having said that, your new 5G phone will also still likely work with legacy networks via additional antennas as the transition rolls out.

If you’re having trouble connecting to any of your existing networks, be sure to stop by one of The Fix Hut’s four shops and have one of our technicians check it out. Antennas are usually replaceable, affordable and the turnaround time is quick. Call us if you have any questions!

Worth Noting

There has been much discussion surrounding the potential health hazards regarding the increased exposure to radio/microwaves that 5G will bring. These frequencies for communication have been in use for quite some time, though they’ve never been used on the same scale which we anticipate will be the case with 5G. The arguments for that debate are well beyond the scope of this post, so here are some links to some differing opinions on the matter:

A City Connected By Wireless Communication

Let’s Talk About 5G: An Introduction 📱

5G is coming! And it’s not only going to replace our current existing 4G LTE infrastructure, primarily used by mobile devices. The move to 5G will represent a fundamental shift in the way all of our electronics connect with each other, negating the requirement of hard-wired coaxial and fiber optics for high-speed, low-latency communication.

Let’s Talk About 5G

What network do we have now?

Our current wireless communication networks have predominantly operated within the same 5GHz bandwidth range on the electromagnetic spectrum for decades. That includes your AM/FM Radio, cordless phones (remember those?), bluetooth devices, mobile phones, and both 2.4 and 5GHz WiFi routers which, if you’re sitting at home or work, you’re likely utilizing to have this content delivered to your reading device. We’ve reached a point where there are too many devices competing for the same radio waves and colliding with each other in a traffic jam of sorts.

What is 5G?

While 5G, as you may have guessed, stands for fifth-generation, the changes aren’t merely just a version bump. The implications of this change will be massive! We’re not talking just a speed boost in how fast web pages and YouTube videos load, but also an awareness and focus on location for optimized transfer of data, enhanced security, and reliable, low latency (ultra-responsive) communication. These attributes will enable smart cars, augmented reality, detailed logistics for homes, businesses and agriculture, as well as mission critical data for health and automated appliances at home, work and industry. 5G will enable us to cater to specific aspects of communication depending upon the requirements. We’re only just scratching the surface of the opportunities this level of communication can bring to society.

When do we get to live in the matrix?

We might all have to exercise a bit of patience for this to rollout, so hold your horses. This transition won’t happen as quickly as we’d all like as the infrastructure currently in place must first either be upgraded or completely replaced in order for us to move up to 5G… and it will be costly! You’re more likely to visit our store and get your screen or battery replaced before you start reaping the benefits of 5G in the years ahead. Over the course of the next month, we plan on discussing examples of applications for 5G and what sort of technological innovations we might expect to see in a thoroughly connected world. Stay tuned!

Old mobile phones

Heavy Metal In Your Devices 🤘

In the last three decades, the demand for mobile phones has grown exponentially. What was once a convenient luxury for the fortunate is now a critical component of daily life for the billions of inhabitants. So much so, that the total number of mobile devices have outnumbered the population of the Earth (well over 7 billion) for a few years now! This number is only expected to get larger as with devices becoming more accessible and affordable. It can be argued that, apart from the internet, no other technology has had the effect that mobile phones have had on our modern civilization.

The current trends show there will be more and more devices manufactured, with many users owning more than one device, all of which contain precious metals and materials. One day, all of these devices will become obsolete and disposed in favor of something better, more modern. This cycle will continue just as it has for every other device, appliance or tool we use on a daily basis. According to Asurion [*], 80 million phones are lost, stolen or damaged every single year. Breaking that number down, that’s approximately: 220,000 phones a day / 9,132 phones every hour / over 152 phones every minute / 2.5 phones every second!

Think about the resources it takes to build such complex devices. Every mobile device you have contains precious metals like platinum, gold, silver, and palladium to name just a few. These valuable metals are finite and the process in which some of these have to be mined is dangerous and require a lot of energy. Take a look at the table which lists different types of metals and what they might be used for:

  • Copper: connectors, printed circuit boards, resistors, coils, speakers
  • Nickel: connectors, capacitors, resistors, shield plates, batteries
  • Silver: printed circuit boards, capacitors, resistors
  • Gold: connectors, printed circuit boards
  • Palladium: printed circuit board
  • Cobalt: batteries
  • Lithium: batteries
  • Lead: capacitors, resistors
  • Tin: printed circuit boards, capacitors, LCD displays
  • Zinc: resistors
  • REE: permanent magnets, LCD displays, speakers
  • Gallium: printed circuit boards
  • Indium: LCD displays
  • Iron: resistors, shield plates
  • Chromium: shield plates
  • Niobium: printed circuit boards
  • Tantalum: printed circuit boards
  • Titanium: capacitors

Once these precious metals are gone, the electronics industry will face a monumental scientific task in sourcing materials that will operate in a similar fashion, many of which have no viable alternative. Therefore, it is our duty, as relatively short-term tenants of this planet, to recycle our devices responsibly as many of these components are irreplaceable. Tossing them into a garbage bin for them to end up in a landfill is not something that should even be considered as many of the materials used are toxic and future inhabitants will be left to deal with the consequences of our actions.

We recommend you bring your old devices to any of our shops as we can ensure said devices are recycled responsibly, and in the case we can’t take them, we’ll offer guidance on where you can bring them.