Go Big By Going Very Small
Experts estimate by 2020 the telecommunications network will need to support more than 1,000 times today’s volume of traffic. The frequency range used by cellular devices is already strained and with the anticipated growth in the coming years experts are growing more concerned. Smart antennas operating on the millimeter-wave band offer one possible engineering solution to the problem of how to move the future’s data.
To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s Online Masters in Electrical Engineering program.
While these numbers are not surprising, figures used to represent the technology are beyond the average person’s understanding or imagination. Few people can comprehend the idea of exabytes: a unit of information measuring 1 billion gigabytes; the amount of mobile data traffic expected to flow between consumers in Canada and the United States per month by 2020.
Evolution of Mobile Subscriptions
Growth figures for mobile subscriptions leap forward with 25% growth in 2013. The rise in demand exceeded the previous year’s rates in 2014 (40%) and is expected to be 90% in 2020.
Burden on Connections
The pressure North American and worldwide mobile phone use is placing on the current frequency range is causing concern to suppliers and to people who rely on these systems. In 2014, there were 10 times more 4G (4th Generation) connections than any alternative (lower than 4G). While 4G technology in 2014 accounted for 6% of mobile connections, 4G mobile devices accounted for 40% of mobile traffic. By 2020, demands on the mobile network worldwide will be 1,000 times the current level of strain, allowing just 6 years for innovation to catch up with demand before the next explosion in these figures.
Small and Smart
Now this once hefty and awkward portable technology is as small as the human hand can manage to operate. In 2014 alone, consumers added nearly 500 million more of these compact, rechargeable mobile devices to existing networks in the US, frequently replacing landlines with mobile phones or using them for business contact. They are indispensable to traveling professionals. Young people often carry cell phones while parents also carry devices so they can stay in contact with their children. The number of additions globally was 7.4 billion, of which 88% were smartphones. By 2020, there will be nearly 480 million mobile subscriptions including computers, tablets, and handheld devices. All of these pieces of equipment must connect to a communication center using unseen frequency routes.
Growth in Mobile Technology
Mobile phones started appearing in homes, businesses, and movies or TV shows about 40 years ago. They were large and unwieldy back in the 1970s. Communication between the elite few who could afford to own a mobile phone traveled down the same pathway as engineers still use today: Ultrahigh Frequency Range (UHF).
Ultra High Frequency Spectrum
The “sweet spot,” as wireless engineers have come to know it, is a range of 300 megahertz to 3 gigahertz; a channel along which mobile communication of all kinds travels. The UHF band is also used by broadcasters, paging systems, and for satellite communication. 3G (3rd Generation) devices also communicate along these routes. All mobile communication between devices of every generation follow paths over less populated parts of the United States and Canada such as northern and prairie regions.
Growth of Mobile Data Traffic
Numerous householders carry subscriptions reserved for emergency communication or consumers use them for irregular internet connection. Mobile data traffic, however, grew 69% in 2014. This is placing enough demand on the system that IT experts are preparing to expand from 4G to 5G or 5th Generation technology by 2020 at the latest at tremendous cost to private communication companies.
The US government also expects a percentage of that 5th Generation technology to be available for mobile communication: 100 times more than current bandwidth figures set aside for the same purpose. Transfer of information is slowing down as a consequence of demand, but downloading speeds are set to increase. As a result of engineers’ improvements, data could be transferred wirelessly about 1/3 faster than is currently the case by 2020. The cost of building this system is estimated to be close to $2 trillion by the time experts are finished expanding communication networks to their 5G form. Although the ultimate goal for completion of 5G technology is 2020, engineers are confident that by as early as 2017 trials could be underway to test this technology prior to offering it officially to the public.
One Millimeter Band
Today, smartphone developers are already trying to increase the speed at which communication travels between networks. Engineers hope to introduce antenna for smartphones called “smart antenna” which employ the millimeter-wave band. Consumers can expect to see these added to their mobile devices in the near future.
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