In our last post, we discussed the incredible potential of 5G wireless networks to impact every facet of our lives, from smart homes to driverless cars and beyond. This week, we explore the hardware and architecture that will make these networks possible.
Network operators have used multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) antennas on their towers since the launch of 3G wireless. These MIMO antennas have commonly had four transmitters and four receivers. However, to support 5G’s massive increase in capacity, they will now need “Massive MIMO”: 64 transmitters and receivers in a single array. These Massive MIMO antennas will require substantial fronthaul and backhaul upgrades as well; a 10G link will likely need to become 100G, for example.
In order to make the coverage ubiquitous, these antennas will also be getting smarter and closer to the user. Beamforming technology will enable data streams from massive MIMO antennas to focus on and follow specific users or devices. Additionally, micro-cells will direct coverage within large buildings in which walls and other obstacles had previously interfered with signals. FTTx infrastructure will need to expand to service all these new endpoints.
The high capacity and bandwidth will also unlock advancements in network function virtualization (NFV) that will enable network operators to manage their networks more efficiently.
One thing that will not change for the time being is the continued emphasis on reliable voice transmission. As such, CPRI is expected to remain in the protocol discussion for fronthaul applications, albeit at higher speeds than before. However, Ethernet remains in the discussion as well.
Check back for future updates on 5G wireless developments. Also check out our new 25G CPRI bi-di transceivers, which are ideal for wireless fronthaul applications.