Vodafone Spain  has become Wednesday in the first operator in the world to make a  call 5G  -using  smartphone  from  Huawei  supports that has not yet been launched but will be presented at the MWC19- to a phone with  4G already in the market connected to the conventional commercial network. The call has been made from  Barcelona .

The company has deployed around eight 5G  nodes   in  Barcelona  -with Huawei network technology- for the  Mobile World Congress 2019 , from which various demonstrations will be carried out, such as assistance to a  live operation . The first of these, this Wednesday, has been to take advantage of one of the 5G terminals that will be presented in the coming days to make  video calls  to conventional mobiles (such as an iPhone XR) through WhatsApp and demonstrate that the technology is already usable.

In this way, it has become the first operator in the world to connect to its 5G network the first smartphones with the specifications of the 3GPP NSA (Non Stand Alone) standard, which will be used later for the commercial launch.

Vodafone  managed to implement several services, including a video call about the commercial network between Barcelona and Madrid. In mobile tests, download speeds of up to 1.7Gbps were achieved.

This global milestone confirms the leadership of Vodafone worldwide in mobile technology, after achieving in February 2018 the  first 5G connection in the world between  Castelldefels  and  Madrid . On that occasion, the connection consisted of a video conference between a PC connected to a 5G standard test network and a 4G mobile.

Vodafone was also a pioneer in starting the deployment of a pre commercial 5G network in Spain. In July 2018, it installed the first 5G NSA nodes in central areas of Madrid, Barcelona, ​​Seville, Malaga, Bilbao and Valencia. This deployment began only days after acquiring 90 contiguous MHz of spectrum in the 3.7 GHz band

5G technology, everything you need to know to understand it.

In the telecommunications industry 5G are the abbreviations used to refer to the fifth generation of mobile telephony technologies. It is the successor of 4G technology. Currently there are field tests and pilot programs that advance us what benefits 5G connections will offer us.

Tower antennas technology communication mobile Image .

However, 5G goes far beyond smartphones. This technology will undoubtedly be the soul of the new economy, which will allow, for example, self-driving alone, an infinite improvement of virtual reality, smart cities, development of home automation (sensors, thermostats …) and robots that work in the network.

The 5G promises to open the door to new surgical procedures, safer means of transport and instant communication for emergency and relief services. 

The 5G networks will reduce to almost zero the delay time between the devices and the servers with which they communicate. 

To achieve all that, 5G technology will need to travel on very high frequency radio waves. Higher frequencies have faster speeds and wider bandwidth. But, they can not travel through walls, windows or roofs, and they become considerably weaker over long distances.

This means that wireless companies will need to install thousands – or perhaps millions – of miniature cell phone towers on top of each lamppost, alongside buildings, within every home, and potentially in every room. 

Hence, the 5G will complement the 4G, instead of replacing it completely. In buildings and in crowded areas, 5G could provide an increase in speed. But when you’re driving on the highway, 4G may be your only option, at least for a while. 

– Differences between 4G and 5G? 

As in the rest of the different generations of the connection standard, the main difference (and evident) is an important advance in the data transfer speed.

According to the available data, under normal conditions the 5G will be of the order of 200 times faster than the 4G connections. We are talking about figures that move in an orchid that goes from 1 to 10 Gbps, but it is not the theoretical maximum since it is about Internet access speeds in movement. If we consider the point of access and receiver stopped, the broadband connection is multiplied to achieve connections of up to 50 Gbps. 

This bandwidth will be such that, while the current 4G connections under LTE-A technology can reach up to 300 Mbps, these theoretical “50 gigs” will 

allow downloading media files of about 800 MB in just one second while with the 4G we talk about a average of 30 seconds.

However, speed is not the only great feature of 5G. Its unloading capacity will encourage its use beyond what we do today. In fact, 5G connections are expected to be for mobile telephony, which optical tab is for fixed broadband. This premise means that companies involved in the development and evolution of fifth generation networks work on user profiles with consumption of the order of 36 TB.

The truth is that this volume of download is extremely high, but we have to put ourselves in perspective, facing 2020, the year in which it is expected that the 5G will encourage and promote the arrival of new modes of communication. For example, the possibility of enjoying video calls in three dimensions or through holograms, techniques that will require a large bandwidth, is no longer a chimera. We must also consider the arrival of 5G to virtual reality, another possibility that will be possible thanks to another of the technical characteristics of 5G, which is none other than latency. If currently the 4G offers reduced delay values, with 5G that data will be practically eliminated.

However, 5G networks will have another feature as backup against 4G. And is that the IMT Advanced wireless networks will have a better response time to the handover, or what is the same, the change of coverage offered by one telephony antenna to another. 

When it comes to energy efficiency, compatible modems are expected to take more care of the battery of future smartphones. On the other hand, future events will have to be expected in this regard. And it is that the greater bandwidth of the 5G will require a much higher technical specifications for these devices, especially as regards the power of the processor and the amount and frequency of the RAM bus. 

– Who is developing this technology worldwide?

With this panorama, the investment effort (measured as capex on sales) has re-shot in the last three years. If in the last decade, most of the exercises, investments were between 10% and 12% of sales -with the exception of 2011, due to investments in frequencies due to spectrum bids- in the last three years, since 2014, that ratio has rebounded, to 16.4%, 18.18% and 14.77%, coinciding at the same time fiber deployments with 4G. The four national cellular operators in the United States Verizon, AT & T, T-Mobile and Sprint- are developing and testing 5G network technology.

In addition, chip manufacturers, including Qualcomm and Intel, work on processors and radios that allow 5G communications. And the major network equipment companies – including Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei – are building the backbone and the equipment to support 5G. 

Research and development alone are already costly, but the construction of 5G networks will be extremely expensive, even for an industry accustomed to paying billions of dollars each year in infrastructure costs. Implementing 5G technology throughout the United States will cost $ 300 billion, according to Barclays.

In this sense, it would not be very surprising that the technological giants, which are also the cloud business, such as Amazon, Microsoft or Google – with a market capitalization of 670,000, 725,000 and 815,000 million dollars, respectively – will begin to be interested in the networks of wireless sites of mobile operators or directly by the large groups of towers, such as American Tower or Crown Castle, the two American giants of the sector, which are comparatively worth much less, only 62,000 and 44,000 million, respectively, not to mention the scarce 5,000 million that Cellnex is worth, the one owned by Abertis, which will offer its potential buyer, in addition, the leadership of the sector in Europe. 

– When would it be ready to be implemented?

The new mobile Internet access system, the 5G, scheduled for 2020, comes with promises. It will multiply the capacity and speed, and it will have a practically ubiquitous coverage, in addition to an almost immediate response speed (latency), which will allow the 5G to be used and intervene in many activities and processes in which telecommunications had never been intermediated.

But all that castle of promises and expectations, is – and never better said – in the air. The problem is that to offer all these wonders, the 5G requires a huge reinforcement of mobile networks multiplying probably by many times the number of antennas deployed in the territory. And the numbers do not come out. In reality, mobile business revenues do not grow or do so marginally, but operators are drawn into a strenuous background race in which generations of technology follow each other every few years, requiring huge investments. It is not clear, therefore, that the telcos cheerfully assume this new wave of capex.

Therefore, the 5G risks not fulfilling all its promises and to deploy much more moderately if viable business models are not found that allow new investments to be assumed. And the operators are there, but it’s not easy. 

And the fact is that the arrival of 5G will require that the number of mobile phone antennas installed multiply, easily by 20 times in order to absorb the increase in traffic and the number of connected devices, whose density can be multiplied by 100 times compared to the current standard until reach one million devices (mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs, clocks, meters, refrigerators, washing machines, cars, parking spaces, garbage cans, wastebaskets, etc., etc) per square kilometer.

So if a big operator has around 20,000 nodes, it should go to 400,000 or 500,000 to fulfill all the promises that the 5G is generating – perhaps in a somewhat irresponsible way – among the population.

In addition, for the 5G to work well, it is necessary to connect the radio (the antennas) to the backbone network using optical fiber, so that this transmission is not a bottleneck. But fiber is connected to homes, offices or premises. Its current deployment is not designed to connect to canopies or lampposts, so it will be necessary to make specific extensions of fiber access to all these urban facilities. And not only optical fiber, but also electrical power and, of course, vandalism protection. Finally, all these antennas must be repaired or undergo preventive maintenance, and that will include a complex protocol – access to the marquee must be fenced while the operator works and that requires a municipal permit – and above all very expensive.