5G: technology, deployment, speed

Launched in November 2020, 5G is a real challenge for operators, who are working hard to deploy their network in a growing number of cities.

What is 5G?

5G, whose official name is IMT-2020, is the fifth generation of standards for mobile telephony. It is characterized by its speed, its low latency and its ability to connect a large number of objects. It was developed to “avoid the saturation of the networks announced in 2022 and make it possible to track objects at high speed, which 4G is not capable of”, recalls Nicolas Sironneau, consultant for the Concorde Foundation. But 5G also has other uses. “We are focusing on radio technology, but 5G is not just that, underlines Lionel Morand, network architect at Orange and president of the chair at the 3GPP standardization body. It will also be the possibility of creating communication interfaces. specialized services for industry (network slicing, editor’s note). To omit this detail is to remove 50% of the interest of 5G.”

What speeds in 5G?

Speed ​​is one of the major advantages of 5G. It should be up to 3-4 times faster than 4G (see our internet speed test). Nevertheless, “it is not the same from one operator to another, or even from one city to another. It all depends on the equipment of each antenna and the frequencies used”, remember at Ariase. In 4G sites using a 5G protocol, the theoretical maximum speed is equal to 240 Mbit/s. In the 3.5 GHz band, Orange mentions a speed of up to 2.1 Gb/s.

What speeds to expect?

Another key advantage of 5G is its data transmission speed. 5G is characterized by:

  • The volume of data transmitted multiplied by 100. Future 5G networks will theoretically be able to transfer 20 gigabits of data per second, from a base station to a device connected to the network, and 10 gigabits per second in the opposite direction
  • Latency should be less than a millisecond, compared to 25-40 milliseconds for 4G.

Future 5G users in the general public will be able to download a high-definition movie in two or three seconds.

The deployment of 5G in France

To take full advantage of 5G, you have to be in Clermont-Ferrand. According to the ranking of major 5G cities established by Lemon.fr and the agency specializing in data Flashs, the city in central France occupies first place with a ratio of 1.03 antenna per 1,000 inhabitants. Dijon and Saint-Etienne complete the podium, with 1.01 antenna and 1.02 antenna marketed per 1,000 inhabitants. Marseille, 17th city in the ranking, hosts experiments by Sony and Orange on future 5G services for the media at the Vélodrome. The capital ranks 27th. At the bottom of the ranking and as in September, Dunkirk (0.28), Amiens (0.30) and Rouen (0.30) still close the march of the 50 largest cities for the deployment of 5G.

How many 5G antennas in France?

Antennas are essential to relay and transmit the 5G signal. According to Zone ADSL, 43,816 5G antennas are active in France spread over 26,432 sites. With 16,056 antennas, the 3.5 GHz frequency band is the one with the most antennas. Conversely, the 2.1 GHz frequency band, with 12,454 antennas, is the one with the fewest 5G antennas.

5G needs frequencies in three frequency bands to provide wide coverage, namely:

  • The 700 and 800 MHz frequency bands. These are those used to offer wide coverage of urban areas and to provide IoT services in LTE-M and NB-IoT
  • The frequency band between 3.4 and 3.8 GHz, necessary for the capacity of 5G and the first industrial uses
  • Millimeter waves at 26 GHz in France, essential to reach the high speeds promised.

A window for open 5G experimentation platforms in the 26 GHz band, known as the “millimeter band”, was launched in January 2019. Eleven project leaders will have access to 26 GHz frequency bands by 1er January 2021 at a price of 200 euros per year and per block of 200 MHz, for three years. Among the projects selected are that of the metropolis of Bordeaux, which aims to set up intelligent lighting along the quays, that of the port of Le Havre which aims to increase its performance and carry out predictive maintenance, or even that of the city ​​of Saint-Priest, to enable the emergence of high-speed IoT in an industrial zone. “We still have little visibility on the use cases that 5G will really allow, which is why we want to associate French Tech start-ups with our experimentation platform”, declared Christophe Trouillet, head of the digital development of the territory in the metropolis of Bordeaux.

5G should also be able to process data of different kinds at different rates. Operators are working on technologies to cut their network into several sections, to circulate more or less priority information. This is called network slicing. The information sent by an autonomous vehicle in motion will be processed with absolute priority, while the data sent by a smart gas meter may be sent with a certain delay. However, this technology is debated, because it is synonymous with the partial end of net neutrality. By virtue of this principle, operators have until now been obliged to treat all data transiting on their networks equally, without analyzing their content. But to prioritize the processing of certain data over others, they will need to know what type of information their customers are passing through their antennas.

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