5G can replace cables - but not everywhere

    Analysts from Citi have suggested ( PDF ) that 5G technology in the long run could oust cable Internet providers from the market. Let's talk about how real this "threat" is: where the networks of the new generation will be able to replace cables, and where - this is still far away.

    / Flickr / kahunapulej / CC

    Where 5G can replace cables

    In large cities

    With a high degree of probability, 5G will replace the cable Internet in major cities. The technology offers a high data transfer rate - up to 10 thousand Mbps. This is ten times faster than a wired connection, but it does not have to solve the problems associated with laying cables in a dense metropolis infrastructure.

    There is a known situation when an English company laid fiber optic cables in a sewer system . So it was faster than the classical methods (80%). 5G, obviously, completely eliminates the need to separate the wires “on the ground”.

    And the war with cable internet has already begun in the United States. As noted in their quarterly report ( PDF) analysts from the financial organization Cowen, 5G-services operators Verizon and T-Mobile - the biggest threat to cable Internet in the United States.

    T-Mobile said that by 2024 about 10 million users are going to “win back” from the cable TV and Internet industry (this is the majority of them). And Verizon plans to provide 5G to residents of Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento later this year.

    The company will “ lure ” users with free access to YouTube TV and Apple TV. Verizon CEO Hans Westberg (Hans Vestberg), in an interview with CNBC, said that soon everything will be wireless and 5G networks will push cables out of the market.

    Note that to implement 5G in megalopolises will still have to solve a number of difficulties, in particular,problem with the coating . Since 5G uses high frequencies - 28 GHz and higher - the signal is not transmitted over long distances and does not pass well through obstacles in the form of walls (this is the price for a high data transfer rate). But to solve this problem, for example, special distributed antenna systems (DAS) are being created.

    In data centers

    In June of this year, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology presented a so-called outphasing transmitter. The system developers combined antenna modules and radio components in one microprocessor chip.

    They used a closed antenna with dual power supply, which made it possible to increase the energy efficiency of the solution both during normal operation and during peak loads. It also made it possible to use more complex modulation protocols.

    According toresearchers, the solution will be able to transfer data to the data center 6-10 times faster. Millimeter waves on which 5G works will be used for this. In fairness, we note that data centers that require increased security will continue to use cables.

    / Flickr / Christoph Scholz / CC

    Where the cables will remain for a long time

    In the suburbs

    Due to the fact that 5G uses high frequencies, the signal cannot spread over long distances. In this case , a large number of towers are required . This leads to another problem - these towers still have to be connected with fiber optic cables. But even in developed countries there are still places where there is no “optics”.

    For example, only 3% of homes in England are connected to a fiber-optic network . In most cases, residents of Britain go online using obsolete copper cables that were laid several decades ago. In the United States, according to data for 2016, 20 million people in remote areas and suburbs do not have access to the Internet at all .

    In terms of cost, in such places cheaper to stretch the cable. This is what they are doing now in England - a subsidiary of the BT provider that controls the main Internet networks, will connect 3 million buildings to the fiber-optic network (FTTP) until 2020. If you install the tower, the coverage of users will be very small. Accordingly, the cost of the service provider will increase.

    Therefore, to talk about the massive introduction of 5G in the suburbs and villages is not necessary. There the cables will remain for a long time.

    Note that in some cases, the use of 5G in the suburbs seems possible. For example, on smart farms , because technologies like LTE-U work better in open areas than Wi-Fi. But here again, everything depends on the cost of infrastructure.

    Intercontinental connections

    Submarine cables that connect entire continents will also lie for a very long time. In fact, they ensure the functioning of the entire IT infrastructure on the planet. Now the world is surrounded by three hundred cable systems, and every year there are more and more of them.

    In the world, initiatives are being developed that, in theory, will be able to deliver the Internet to remote corners of the planet and from the mainland to the mainland. For example, some time ago, Google worked on a project SkyBender, in which drones with solar panels were developed. Aircraft broadcast a 5G signal to all devices below them. Now for these purposes, the company uses aerostats. But the project is still far from global implementation.

    In a number of 5G user cases, it will be possible to seize the initiative, for example, new generation networks will become the main technology for connecting IoT devices in large cities. However, the cables will not completely disappear (at least in the near future). The history of submarine cables has been stretching for 167 years , and they will be the basis of the global IT infrastructure for a long time.

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