Fiber and 5G: What’s Next?

The internet has unquestionably become a vital part of our lives. Many people today rely on the internet not only for the distractions provided by social media, but for work, education and navigation. Wherever you are, you can see someone holding some sort of smart device, using the internet at lightning speed. Over that past few years the internet has become a basic need people place in the same category as food, water and electricity. Our use has increased, and with it, the need for faster internet speeds.

The increase from 1G to 4G in the past half century has been vast. The first iteration of wireless communication capabilities was 1G that burst onto the scene around the 1960s, moving at 2.4 kbps (kilobytes per second) and only boasting a basic voice service. 2G and 3G both made their way in the 1990s, designed for voice and some data consideration. Speed jumped considerably from 64 kbps to 2,000 kbps, making it easier to talk and text. Eight years ago, 4G arrived, finally giving us true mobile broadband at speeds up to 100,000 kbps.

From 1G to 4G there has been a huge transformation—but what does 5G have in store for us?

According to CNBC, 5G will perform up to ten times faster than the current 4G networks. That will allow a great boost in data speed. Content that takes us minutes to download now will be downloaded in seconds with 5G. Entire new businesses will be created, and significant advances will happen in areas of health, energy and public safety due to the ability to connect billions of devices and individuals. Accenture recently predicted the birth of 5G in the U.S. will create three million American jobs and drive over $500 billion in U.S. gross domestic product growth.

The promise of new technology is exciting, but it doesn’t come without its challenges. 4G requires large cellular towers dispersed every few miles to work properly. 5G, however, will require a massive deployment of small cell technology to enable the network to handle the sheer amount of data transmission.

While many Americans believe we’re living in a wireless world, 4G and 5G alike rely on infrastructure. 5G won’t even be able to get off the ground without streamlining the process to approve and build these small local cells. Today, it can take a year or more to get a permit, but only an hour to install a small cell.

More importantly, 5G will heavily rely on fiber. Faster speeds of 5G will depend on higher radio frequencies and greater fiber network densification, meaning there needs to be an increased number of small cell infrastructures and a greater fiber network to connect and facilitate 5G usage. To show how important fiber is, Deloitte reports 90 percent of all internet traffic travels over wireline fiber, even if it ultimately terminates on a wireless device.

With that much traffic relying on wireline fiber, it should be installed everywhere we live, work and play. However, fiber passes less than one third of homes in the U.S., and only 39 percent of consumers have access to more than one broadband provider of 25 Mbps (megabits per second) service—the minimum speed definition of broadband according to the Federal Communications Commission. Adding and expanding fiber will not only set the stage for consumers to use 5G, but it will provide them with the internet connection they have been missing.

Today, Indiana Fiber Network (IFN) manages 4,100 route miles of fiber optic cable across the state of Indiana, connecting more than 4,000 buildings. Additionally, IFN provides national connectivity through carrier hotels and INDATEL to expand its footprint. IFN provides the most secure, reliable, and cost-effective telecommunications services possible. For more updates, follow Indiana Fiber Network on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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