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                With all the buzz surrounding 5G, have you ever wondered if current generation devices can run on the next generation network? Corning experts discuss properties of a 5G-ready device.

                Is Your Device 5G-Ready?

                Is Your Device 5G-Ready?

                With all the buzz surrounding 5G, it’s no wonder that people have lots of questions about the compatibility of their devices. Can our current generation devices run on the next generation network?

                First, let’s explain the difference between 4G, the network that most of us are using now, and 5G. The “G” in 4G and 5G stands for generation. 5G is the fifth generation in network connectivity that began with the development of the early internet.

                Have you spotted the little 4G or LTE symbol on your phone or tablet? This indicates that you’re connected to the network. We’ve relied on this 4G connection to carry our texts and emails and video calls, stream our movies and music, send our files to the cloud, and more. 5G will help us do those things as well, but much faster and with fewer network interruptions. Imagine opening your favorite video streaming service, selecting a show, and having it play right away, without buffering, from anywhere in the world. Or, imagine being able to lead a multi-user video conference call from a remote location without glitches or dropped connections. The next generation network is poised to take entertainment, business, learning, and daily life applications to new and exciting levels.

                And, 5G will help with expanding some of our emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) programs, self-driving cars, gaming, and more. Imagine a near future where your autonomous car drives you home from work while you relax and catch up on tasks, and with a few swipes on your smart phone, you can have your washer start a load of laundry and your oven heat dinner to be ready for you when you get home. Next generation smart devices will rely on 5G.

                How will this network run? 5G will operate on a new radio interface, the frequency that brings the network from the signal tower locations to your devices. 5G doesn’t use the same radio frequencies as 4G and it doesn’t rely on large cell towers. It instead uses many small signal boxes, some as close as 500 feet apart. You might spot these boxes on buildings, street lights, telephone poles, and some are even being affixed inside manhole covers in streets.?

                5G will rely on more optical fiber, roughly one hundred times more than a 4G network, and require more connection points in order to establish high speed and low latency coverage. “Network operators must use a combination of more spectrum, advanced modulation techniques, and high-density architectures to carry the optical signal deeper into the network, distributing it more effectively through several smaller cells,” explained Claudio Mazzali, senior vice president of technology with Corning Optical Communications. This dense network will enable devices to connect to 5G and utilize all of the capabilities of the network.

                By the time 5G is fully integrated over the next decade, our estimated 25 billion devices -- phones, kitchen appliances, laptops, tablets, autonomous cars, AR glasses, smart watches -- will all be fully connected.

                But, are our current devices 5G-ready? Let’s take a look at the science behind making a device 5G-compatible to find out.

                In order to connect to this network, your device will need a semiconductor chip that is designed to respond to 5G frequency. There are two types of chips that play a critical role in enabling 5G on your devices: Modems and radio-frequency front-end (RFFE) modules. “Modems manage the interface between devices and the network through Wi-Fi or cellular connections,” said Dr. Xavier Lafosse, commercial technology director for Corning’s Precision Glass Solutions. Each new network generation requires more complex modem design to handle increased data bandwidth. Your 5G-ready device will have a modem especially designed for this network.

                “RFFE Modules are complex systems providing all electrical components required to transmit and receive signal to and from the antenna. They convert digital information from the modem into an analog signal that can be radiated from the antenna to the network and vice versa,” explained Lafosse. RFFE modules have been adapted to address the newer, higher radio frequency bands that are specific to 5G.

                The modules must also be able to properly isolate signals from different radio frequencies for different networks, especially during this transition period when 4G and 4G LTE are still being widely used. Many devices manufactured and sold throughout 2019 and 2020 will contain the semiconductor chip technology to connect to 5G, while still being able to use 4G and 4G LTE in the interim. Look to your device’s product information or the manufacturer’s website to see if 5G capabilities are mentioned.

                As more and more devices become thinner and rely on wireless charging, you’ll find that many of these will have glass backs, as opposed to metal or plastic. “Glass is highly transparent to the required electro-magnetic wavelengths, making it an ideal material because it enables wireless charging through induction and supports high bandwidth radio frequency (Rf) transmission,” explained John Bayne, senior vice president and general manager of Corning? Gorilla? Glass. As with wireless charging, glass also makes it easier for the 5G signal to access your device’s modem and RFFE modules. 5G’s frequency is different from 4G in that it is higher and falls in shorter wavelengths that struggle to pass through materials like plastic or metal. The transparency of glass makes it a natural choice for covers on 5G-ready devices. You’ll find that many recently launched devices advertising 5G compatibility have glass covers on back that allow for both ease of wireless charging and strong access to network signals.

                Older devices, particularly those designed to work with 3G and early 4G networks, will not be able to connect to 5G. In order to connect to the next generation network, devices will need to be compliant with 5G. Most device manufacturers are getting ready for 5G and have developed products that will allow customers to transition between 4G and 5G networks. Bottom line: As 5G is not yet fully available globally, and will take several years to become fully accessible, consider choosing a device that can use the 4G or 4G LTE network and also connect to 5G when available in your area.