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The Truth about 5G
5G is coming fast, promising to change – yet again – the way we connect to the world and consume data. It will enable ubiquitous wireless broadband, also known as enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), (e.g., wireless-to-the-premises and broadband on high-speed trains, at events and in crowds) and other, entirely new market segments. 5G is closely connected to massive IoT, vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2X), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). To create this brave new world, 5G performance targets are set at 10 to 100 times more than 4G! We’re talking peak data rate of 20 Gbps per device and spectrum efficiency that is three times the bps/Hz of LTE-A. Since it is not possible to reach all targets at the same time, 5G standards recognize usage scenarios and include mechanisms to separate traffic types – otherwise known as “slicing”. To improve efficiency and flexibility, 5G also divides the cellular base station (e.g., LTE’s eNB) into separate functions that can be spread geographically – also known as xHaul “functional splits”. Combining the right network slice with the adequate function split is critical to support such a rich spectrum of applications with such different, and sometimes contradicting, attributes.
The Critical Element Needed to Make the 5G Vision a Reality
All of the above has been discussed extensively at industry events and in trade publications. There’s one issue that hasn’t caught much of the buzz, yet is critical to make the impressive vision mentioned above come to life – that of 5G timing.
The truth of the matter is that higher air interface data rates dictate increasingly stringent RAN timing requirements. That means that mobile base stations require more accurate timing to maximize data rates by boosting spectral efficiency and bandwidth utilization. They also need it to optimize user experience by allowing smooth handover between base stations, lower delay and location-based services (LBS). 5G requirements will be at least as strict as 4G’s and some experts expect them to become significantly stricter – from a few microseconds for the less demanding 5G splits all the way up to a few dozens of nanoseconds. As the 5G RAN adds multiple xHaul options to the traditional fronthaul segments of earlier generations, the result is a growing need for time alignment between clusters of neighboring base stations. In other words, the ability to meet relative (meaning, between neighboring base stations) time error targets renders fuller on-path 1588 PTP support critical. However, since third-party PTP-unaware transport networks will remain in extensive use for 5G, the challenge becomes apparent for operators wishing to join the 5G party yet are relying on wholesale services or are still a long way away from forklifting all of their network segments to enable better timing synchronization accuracy.
A Miniature Solution to the Giant Issue of Timing
RAD’s approach to tackle this issue has resulted in a miniature distributed Grandmaster (DGM) device – the MiCLK®. It’s a 1588 Grandmaster on an SFP with built-in GNSS that provides an excellent timing solution, bringing the PTP Grandmaster function ever closer to the cell site.
You can read all about MiCLK’s timing and GNSS outage protection capabilities here.
If you’d like to learn more about 5G, check out these presentations:
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