Self-driving cars, sprawling smart cities, and doctors performing remote surgeries - it sounds like the stuff of science fiction. But with 5G infrastructure now rolling out around the world, a new era of technology is well within our grasp. From lower latency communication to lightning fast download speeds and a vast IoT ecosystem, 5G is promising to change the way we work and communicate.
Some consumers are already experiencing the benefits of enhanced mobile broadband as 5G networks launch around the world and more 5G-ready devices have become available for purchase. Not only is the next generation network already bringing lightning-fast streaming and downloads to mobile users, its promising to fundamentally change the way we live and work.
From self-driving cars to a vast ecosystem of IoT products, 5G is the key to opening the door to opportunities for new businesses, products, and services. Industry giants and new start-ups are already working on promising new technologies, like combining VR and telemedicine to conduct remote surgeries, that leverage the power of 5G.
But despite the rising demand, and the progress in delivering 5G to people around the globe, there are still obstacles in unlocking the full potential of the technology. Delivering network capabilities is only one part of the puzzle. The massive data transfer rates enabled by 5G technology require advanced memory systems that can keep pace with network speeds and avoid creating bottlenecks.
How will memory solutions unlock the full potential of 5G technology as the world demands more advanced communication infrastructure? Read on to find out.
Extraordinary Promises Require Extraordinary Solutions
When most people think of 5G, they think of faster web browsing and higher-quality video streaming. But the promises of 5G go well beyond mobile communications. There are three key applications of 5G that promise to revolutionize the way we live and work: Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC), Massive Machine-Type Connectivity (mMTC), and enhanced mobile broadband (emBB).
The low latency of URLLC is opening new opportunities for applications such as factory automation, remote surgery, online gaming, and smart energy grids that require sub-millisecond latency. Massive Machine Type Communication, on the other hand, will connect billions of devices without overloading the network and is important for industrial applications such as sensors and metering and monitoring devices.
These technologies will help deliver some of the more futuristic applications enabled by 5G. A world full of self-driving cars that take us wherever we need at the push of a button, for example, will require URLLC to connect vehicles to each other and to roadside systems such as traffic lights and maps. Future factories and smart cities will leverage mMTC to create hyper connected ecosystems that allow us to save energy and improve safety for workers.
The first wave of 5G infrastructure and specifications have mostly delivered on enhanced mobile broadband – the fast network speeds that allow consumers better mobile communication and entertainment streaming experiences. According to a report from Allied Market Research, the first wave of 5G technology has helped drive the value of the global Small Cell 5G Network industry to $344 million and is expected to reach $6.87 billion by 2026. Much of that growth will come from the opportunities in the high-frequency millimeter wave segment as enhanced mobile broadband drives consumer demand and the industrial applications of URLLC and mMTC generate new business prospects.
But while the allure of 5G may be driving demand, these applications can only exist if they have the hardware to meet performance requirements. Without the memory to handle the massive amounts of data, the experience of 5G will be defined by its weakest link.
Throttling the 5G Revolution
When you think about all that we do with our smartphones, it makes sense that memory has become so important to developing next-generation mobile networks. Gone are the days where texting, phone calls, and the odd 8-bit game were the only things for which we used our devices. Modern mobile networks are just as much about 4k video and high-quality images as they are talk and text.
Recent trends show users are creating and sharing more of their own data, not just reading or storing it. A fact punctuated by the alarming statistic that over 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That seems like a drop in the bucket considering the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that are generated every day, according to a report from DOMO, a business intelligence and research company.
As 5G networks roll out, the wider bandwidth will allow users to create and share even more data at unprecedented rates – generating up to 7 times the amount of traffic of 4G by 2021, according to a report by Qorvo, a semi-conductor manufacturer. Many of the current memory solutions in smartphones are not ready to move data as fast as 5G connectivity will allow.
Legacy e.MMC 5.1 solutions that were adequate for 4G networks simply will not cut it. To keep up with the data demands of 5G, memory solutions require more bandwidth than even the UFS 2.1 storage found in many premium smartphones can handle. Besides flash storage, RAM is also creating bottlenecks for 5G.
The trend towards higher resolutions and real-time playback of native 4K content, for example, requires a minimum of 3GB of RAM. As 5G makes improvements on other elements of mobile communication, such as video conferencing, even mid-range devices are featuring dual-facing cameras powered by high-density image sensors that require more computing and storage.
Samsung is already responding to those needs in its latest flagship devices. The Galaxy S20 Ultra, Samsung’s first standalone 5G device, sports up to 16GB of RAM and up to 512GB of UFS 3.0 storage. And that’s only the beginning.
Breaking Through the Bottleneck
With a record number of 5G smartphones expected to ship in the near future, and 5G expected to generate a large amount of the world’s total mobile traffic as well, the pressure is on for memory manufacturers to deliver innovative solutions to meet the demand.
Answering that call, Samsung began production of its cutting-edge 512GB UFS 3.1 flash storage solution. A breakthrough for mobile memory technology, the latest solution raises the bar for smartphone storage speeds, capable of supporting download speeds of up to 1,200MB/s and making gigabyte write speeds the new gold standard for mobile memory. Manufacturers are also developing more powerful RAM solutions to handle the multimedia applications and tasks powered by 5G.
Earlier this year Samsung began production of its 2nd-generation 10nm-class 16GB LPDDR5 mobile DRAM – the same found in the Galaxy S20 Ultra that enables the device’s enhanced 5G features, including 4k video streaming and PC-like gaming graphics. Data transfer rates of 5,500Mb/s make the latest LPRDDR5 DRAM 1.3 times faster than the previous generation LPDDR4X DRAM. Later in 2020, 16GB LPDDR5 memory solutions based on the third generation 10nm-class process technology is expected to push the boundaries even further with transfer rates of up to 6,400Mb/s.
The 5G Future is Here – Are We Ready?
While our highways are not yet filled with self-driving cars, and sprawling smart cities may still be years away, the 5G revolution is at our doorstep. Tapping into the full potential of the technology will require more than just delivering network capabilities. The entire system must grow together, and memory solutions will be an integral part of building the future of 5G.