What is 5G Architecture and How Will It Impact Remote Work?
By: Alan Seal on January 15, 2021
These days, when people talk tech, specifically mobile technology, 5G gets all the attention. Who’s got it? When is it coming? How will it change things? Even though every carrier reports to have a 5G network, PC Mag’s speed tests reveal that 5G speed on our phones may not be quite yet ready for primetime. That’s not the fault of 5G technology though, we’re just not quite there yet and infrastructure, in many cases, will need to catch up first. Still, its potential to change the way we work and live is significant. With faster networks and less latency, it really will herald a truly mobile world. Before that time comes, and it is coming, it’ll be good to take an in-depth look at what is 5G and, more importantly, what is the potential of 5G technology.
Literally, 5G means 5th generation in terms of wireless technology. Each generation of wireless technology has brought with it changes in data transmission speeds with 1G having essentially brought us the ability to transmit phone calls and 2G introducing other forms of data. 3G and 4G built on existing capabilities to transmit greater amounts of data on spectrums that were previously unavailable.
5G will, again, have us see significant upticks in speed, lower latency (it’s more responsive), and include the ability to connect more devices to the network itself. This last one is, for many, what makes 5G so exciting in that it truly heralds the widespread use of the Internet of Things (IoTs). However, all aspects of a 5G have the potential to change quite a bit in regard to how we experience our world.
The 5G Architecture Overview
When we refer to 5G architecture, we’re really talking about two separate entities. There is the physical infrastructure required to transmit the data, the hardware, but there’s also the network infrastructure, the engineering piece.
5G network hardware is, currently, mostly piggybacking on 4G towers. It relies on smaller cells and their wide distribution matters. Whereas the 4G towers cover large areas, the 5G cells or nodes create, essentially, greater density. Where the 4G waves cover large areas, 5G nodes transmit high frequency waves in smaller areas such as cities and densely populated areas. It’s this high band wave spectrum that delivers 5G’s impressive performance metrics.
The Radio Access Network (RAN), a network of antennas that allows end-user devices to communicate with one another through publicly available spectrums, will also be changed by 5G. 5G’s New Radio (NR), also referred to as RAN for 5G, allows multiple input/multiple output antennas and wide band networks that are largely responsible for the increase in speed and the reduction in latency.That said, these networks rely fairly heavily on fiber optics and deployment of fiber cables to support 5G technology and speeds will be crucial to its success.
Benefits of Leveraging 5G in Your Remote Workforce
In 2020, many businesses and many workers shifted to a work from home setup to help flatten the curve of the Coronavirus pandemic. While this has, for many, been a trying time, it’s also allowed businesses and workers alike to discover that working for home isn’t just a nice perk, there’s also a ton of potential. Largely, that potential lies in a remote workforce, which means not just working from home, but having access to workers from all across the globe, workers who are truly remote, not simply away from the office.
5G has the potential, when more widely rolled out, to be a true game changer in the remote work world in three major ways: reliability, adaptability, and accessibility.
Reliability (and Speed): As anyone who has worked from home can tell you, remote work technology, particularly ISPs, can be fickle. When we stop to think about the infrastructure required to utilize the internet in our homes, any number of things can go wrong. We rely on modems, on routers, and on the infrastructure of our service provider, and anywhere in that system, speed can be slowed.
5G networks, on the other hand, are faster and more reliable. Simply put, its uptime is greater and it can and will deliver those speeds more consistently than 4G which ebbs and flows depending on any number of factors.
Adaptability: 5G technology also puts control of the workplace in the hands of the worker. This means not only can you adapt to changing needs by finding the employees you want, regardless of where they live, but employees can also work where they want. In fact, recent research suggests remote workers are happier, stay in their jobs longer, and are more productive.
Because 5G network components and infrastructure are adaptable, meaning they can be developed and deployed anywhere and users can connect through multiple devices, it changes where we work.
Accessibility: One of the final ways it impacts a remote workforce is in terms of accessibility. 5G and its ability to handle large amounts of data means, with remote and intelligent monitoring tools, many workers no longer need to be onsite. It means the ability to not just monitor but also manage facilities in remote places or even different countries from your home or workplace.
The final benefit that all of these add is productivity. As noted, your employees are happier, living where they want, working from where they want, and are able to interact with and manage workplace issues quickly and with minimal latency. Mobile network infrastructure has already decreased our response times when we have business critical issues, but 5G holds even greater potential for us to use our time effectively and efficiently.
When Will 5G be Readily Available to Companies?
With all the promise of a 5G world, the big question for many remains when we’ll actually see a true 5G experience. While 5G rolled out for many mobile companies in late 2019, many networks and significant infrastructure just isn’t ready yet.
As mentioned above, 5G networks rely fairly heavily on those small cells which means cities will be the first to experience 5G and, in some cases, already are. There are plenty of spaces, towers, buildings on which to place 5G nodes, but in rural areas, it will take quite a bit longer. Further, most of the major carriers are currently only using low band 5G, due in part to limited infrastructure, and so the speeds aren’t quite yet impressive. Finally, we’re relying predominantly on phones to drive this shift right now, and 5G’s full power relies upon many devices all transmitting data back and forth to one another, quickly.
One of the ways businesses can be prepared for 5G technology is by ensuring their network and data storage solutions are ready to handle not just remote work, but the edge computing that supports 5G network performance. vXchgne’s data centers, located throughout the U.S. are already tapping into the power of edge computing and its data centers provide the network infrastructure and support businesses will need in a 5G world. Get in touch today to talk about the future.
About Alan Seal
Alan Seal is the VP of Engineering at vXchnge. Alan is responsible for managing teams in IT support and infrastructure, app development, QA, and ERP business systems.