How It Works: 5G | Glass Age | Corning

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Science of Glass

Science of Glass

Science of Glass

Science of Glass

How It Works: 5G

5G networks are all the buzz. What you may not know is that Corning’s optical fiber will play a role in their delivery.

Although you may not realize it, when we are chatting, working, watching movies, or playing games on a wireless network, the wireless nodes are interconnected by a substantial network of optical fiber.  

Now, with greater expansion of wireless access points for both 4G and 5G networks, more and more fiber will be necessary to meet the growing demands being placed on these networks.

Why 5G Matters

Remaining connected is now a must for everyday life. Taking a call, sending an email, or streaming a video from virtually anywhere has become the norm. What will be normal for our society tomorrow is likely to evolve further and faster than we may imagine.  The demands for more connections – simultaneous and instantaneous – continue to grow.

The standards that define 5G will require advancements in what consumers consider “enhanced mobile broadband” through faster data rates over dense geographic areas. These standards will also require a proliferation of connection points to support the massive Internet of Things (IoT), in which everything from household appliances to automobiles to industrial equipment will be connected to the web. Certain services and applications will also rely upon low latency – the elapsed time between the sending and receiving of data – and ultra-reliability.

All those requirements are of more importance and demand compared to previous mobile standards. Today, if a wireless network performs poorly, users will be inconvenienced – an app will take too long to load, for example. In the future, the stakes will be higher. Consider self-driving cars that must avoid accidents. Or doctors operating medical instruments remotely, during life-saving surgeries, with no room for error.

Think of other situations where faster and more numerous connections may be useful. Are you investing on the go? Stock prices – where seconds matter – could follow trading in real-time. Smart traffic systems could redirect traffic away from congestion as issues arise. Delivery of packages via drones becomes a more efficient and green option. It will all become possible by the enhanced performance 5G networks will enable.

The technology that enables these wireless connections? Optical fiber.

How It Works

Existing 3G and 4G networks, where a macro cell is placed on a tower or building rooftop, have typically been placed every few miles. Obstructions to the signal often create coverage gaps in the macro network, where additions, such as small cells, have been made to supplement or enhance coverage for users.

5G networks require a much tighter mesh of radio antennas to support the volume of connections, low latency, and connection speeds. Although there are many variables, it’s expected that in some cases, 5G small cells may be placed 500 feet apart or less. More cells covering smaller footprints equals a denser, faster, more connected network.

But what are wireless networks doing when they are densifying? In a word, they are “glassifying” – adding more fiber. They’re creating evolved communications networks where fiber reaches further into cities and neighborhoods and onto street fixtures and building facades.

Corning’s innovation and market leadership in the fiber optic space spans as far back at 1970 when Corning invented low-loss optical fiber.  With more than 1 billion kilometers of fiber delivered worldwide, Corning is excited to support the next wave of infrastructure buildout as 5G comes to life.

“5G needs fiber to transmit the vast amount of data that future services will generate,” said Kara Mullaley, Global FTTx Market Manager for Corning.  “Carriers around the world will each have their own method of deploying, but they will all look to fiber as the preferred medium.”

The Future of 5G and Corning's Role

Corning’s leadership, not only in optical fiber and cable but in connectivity, helps make possible the rapid deployment of access points to serve these new 5G cells. Customers globally rely on Corning to deliver innovations that keep pace with the ever-changing, ever-evolving networks that are transforming our world and the way we communicate.