Wireless networks and mobile communications have witnessed phenomenal advances over the past decade. These changes are motivated by the ever-growing demand for resources, particularly high quality of service requirements and multimedia data, which in the past, have been enabled by 3G and 4G networks. Nonetheless, while the aforementioned network technologies have enabled utilization of advanced communication devices, and fast transfer of communication data, they have not delivered sufficient satisfaction. As a result, 5G wireless network technology has come into existence to mend the multitude of challenges attributed to 4G network, including offering higher data capacity and rate, massive inter-device connectivity, lower cost, and lower end-to-end latency. For this reason, a comprehensive analysis of how current information technology has unlocked the potential for 5G networks and its shortcomings are presented.
Currently, there has been observed a trend of double wireless consumption over the years. According to Liang et al. (2016), the trend is expected to persist due to the convenience and freedom that has been accorded by wireless video traffic and video-optimized mobile devices. With projections indicating a possible inability for telecommunication industry to meet the consumer demand, they have embraced 5G technology as a remedy to this problem. The 5G wireless network is enabled by different technologies, including, dense heterogeneous networks, full-duplex communication, wireless virtualization and software defined networking, energy harvesting and energy-aware communication, and full dimension and massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) (Hossain & Hasan, 2015: Le et al., 2015: Liang et al., 2016). Interference is an essential element when designing wireless network technologies (Liang et al., 2016). As a result, employing interference alignment, which is offered by MIMO cognitive radio technology offers an ideal technique for eliminating interference that may occur among wireless nodes. While MIMO technology has been utilized in 3G and 4G wireless networks, significant innovations have enable the creation of full-dimension- and massive-MIMO, which increases the energy efficiency and spectrum of the 5G wireless network (Le et al., 2015). Furthermore, massive MIMO unlocks the potential to manage co-channel interference as well as radio resource allocation in multi-tier and multi-cell wireless networks.
Another enabling technology is the dense heterogeneous networks. According to Hossain and Hasan (2015), 5G wireless network is a mule-tier heterogeneous network comprised if macrocells connected to low power nodes. To facilitate the 5G cellular network, heterogeneous base stations improves spectral efficiency and broadens the coverage area. Mainly, the efficient is attributed to higher spectrum reuse (Hossain & Hasan, 2015). Furthermore, the network-controlled peer-to-peer communications employed in 5G networks allows nodes, such as M2M gateway and relays, to control communication among the peer nodes seamlessly, since intra-tier and inter-tier interfaces are properly managed through other enabling technologies, such as full dimension- and massive- MIMO technologies discussed above.
Full-duplex communication counts as key 5G enabling technology. According to Hossain and Hasan (2015), full-duplex communication system trans-receiver has the capacity to simultaneously transmit and receive on the same frequency. The technology defies a former assumption that it is impossible to send and receive a wireless signal on the same frequency due to internal interference. Nonetheless, with recent technological advances, including digital baseband technology, antenna technology, and RF interference cancellation techniques, in-band full-duplex commination radios have been designed, which doubles the spectral efficiency of 5G networks at the physical layer. Mainly, the double efficiency occurs due to the removal of separate frequencies needed for upload and download (Hossain & Hasan, 2015).
The invention of cloud radio access networks (C-RAN) has unlocked the potential for designing 5G network technology, in terms of network functionalities and core network potentials that can be achieved through the cloud. As Le et al. (2015) elucidate, C-RAN is cost-effective, flexible, and offers high efficiency, and hence it is considered a promising solution in unlocking the full potential of 5G wireless networks. With C-RAN, there are multiple distributed remote radio heads within a certain geographic regions linked to a central base-band unit. Such a connection allows the network to achieve enhanced energy efficiency, which increases spectral efficiency within the region.
Current 3G and 4G technologies rely on inflexible standardized network architectures and hardware elements that prevent fast deployment of robust wireless services and applications. However, wireless virtualization and software defined networking presents a myriad of opportunities to separate control and data forwarding planes, allowing quick reconfiguration, provisioning, and efficient use of network infrastructure (Le et al., 2015). With the current 3G and 4G network technologies, the need for inventing efficient and flexible sharing mechanisms for wireless infrastructures across virtual wireless service operators and providers is on high demand. Notably, Le et al. (2015) inform that such demands call for shared network resources from the core network. To achieve this virtualization, network resources have to be partitioned and abstracted in a manner that it becomes easier to allocate to multiple virtual operators providing network services. Wireless virtualization includes the slicing mechanism that offers efficient use of network resources (Le et al., 2015). Moreover, Hossain and Hasan (2015) inform that wide network virtualization offers various advantages, including improved system performance, better quality-of-experience for end users, reduced OPEX and CAPEX, and ease of migration to new technologies.
Other enabling technologies include energy harvesting and energy-aware communication. Hossain and Hasan (2015) note that a major challenge inherent with most network technologies is improving on the efficiency of wireless devices constrained by batteries. To improve energy efficiency and battery life when connected to a network, energy harvesting is deemed a viable solution. Ambient radio signals may provide a harvesting network from different hybrid access points using radio frequency. That energy is needed for transmission and processing of information through 5G networks.
While the implementation of 5G technology is expected to unlock vast opportunities, it has various technical and non-technical downsides. Taheribakhsh et al. (2020) informs that 5G wireless technology is prone to technical challenges, such as mmWave communication, technology maturity, and security challenges. mmWave communication is recognized as a core enabling technology for 5G networks. However, it is prone to blockage and absorption by barriers, which makes the technology inefficient for long distances. Further, 5G wireless technology is expected to have various security issues due to virtualization. In this case, it increases the chances for cybercrimes due to the security loopholes that are yet to be uncovered. In that connection, technology maturity may become a hindrance for many people accessing 5G network services. A non-technical issue linked to the implementation of 5G technology is the investment cost, due to high cost of CAPEX may prevent installation of the same technologies from reaching rural areas.
Hossain, E. & Hasan, M. (2015). 5G cellular: Key enabling technologies and research challenges. Retrieved from https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1503/1503.00674.pdf
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Linag, Q., Durrani, T., Liang, J., & Wang, X. (2016). Enabling technologies for 5G mobile systems. Hindawi Publishing Corporation Mobile Information Systems. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/1945783
Taheribakhsh, M., Jafari, A., & Moazzamipeiro, M., & Kazemifard (2020). Loading 5G Implementation: Major issues and challenges. 25th International Computer Conference, Computer Society of Iran (CSICC), Tehran, Iran. https://doi.org/10.1109/CSICC49403.2020.9050110