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Why enhancing memory is key to unlocking the 5G future

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By 2023 more than one billion devices will be connected to 5G, according to IDC. From real-time UHD video streaming to automated cars, and even smart cities, the 5G revolution promises to transform everyday life.

At the heart of 5G transformation is a network capable of transferring large amounts of data at lightning speed, while bringing stable connectivity to devices beyond smartphones and computers. With this huge expectation to the increase of connected devices (a 217.2% compound annual growth rate) the importance of these networks cannot be over emphasised.

The 5G promise: superior speed, stability and connectivity

With the introduction of more devices to the network and demands from the consumer like never before, 5G is going to need a different approach to memory. But to understand what that memory needs to look like, we first need to understand the makeup of these new generation networks. They include three key technologies — enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine-type connectivity (mMTC). Together, these enable 5G networks to take giant leaps in improving speed, latency and connectivity.

The first technology, eMBB, is an extension of services first enabled by 4G that allow for a high data rate across a wider coverage area. While a high-definition film takes minutes to download on 4G, it requires just seconds to complete with a 5G connection. With eMBB support, 5G can transmit data 20 times faster than 4G. In addition to seamless high-definition streaming, the technology will also expand the possibilities of augmented reality and virtual reality.

The second technology, URLCC, will cater to multiple advanced services for latency-sensitive applications. 5G networks will be ten times more responsive than 4G, and URLCC opens up new real-time experiences that require quick responses, such as self-driving cars and drones and industry 4.0.

mMTC, the final technology, provides connectivity to a huge number of devices such as sensors that typically transmit and receive only a small amount of data sporadically. Instead of relying on people to manage communications between devices, mMTC will allow IoT devices to interact with one another autonomously for a seamless consumer experience.

Some estimates predict that 5G wireless broadband will support data transfers of up to 20Gbps in addition to virtually eliminating lag altogether. By reducing latency to one millisecond or lower, 5G networks will bring near-instantaneous connections, and be fast enough to support services that require real-time feedback.

Creating the next-generation network

However, with the coming surge in mobile traffic we can expect from innovations with 5G it is integral that we have the memory solutions to handle it.

First, the growth of data-intensive services requires the installation of more edge servers alongside an increase in 5G baseband memory for smartphones, VR devices, autonomous cars, and various IoT devices. Meanwhile, new transmission infrastructure, including macro cells, small cells, and dedicated in-building systems, will need to be deployed to facilitate mmWave connectivity.

Moreover, with the shift towards virtual radio access networks (RANs) and network function virtualisation (NFV) gathering pace, expanding memory capabilities across networks will be critical in the transition from 4G to 5G to keep up with user demands.

On mobile devices themselves, memory systems will need to be able to read and write at the same pace as the network to avoid creating a bottleneck while processing UHD content. Not only will mobile devices require more and faster DRAM like LPDDR5 to handle 5G-enabled multimedia applications and tasks, but increased download speed and volumes will also drive the need for faster and larger storage.

On the data centre side, 5G will catalyse an exponential growth in the volume of digital data, resulting in a boost in the demand for high-capacity core data centres. To keep up, it is vital that we continue to innovate in the field of SSDs, providing the gains in terms of speed and capacity that will allow data centres to cope with the massively increased demand expected over the next few years.

Lastly, with the expansion of edge computing the need for more advanced SSDs will be required to keep networks operating on a scale not seen before. This level of usage will require more resilient SSDs capable of new intelligent ways to offload compute capacity from CPUs and utilising smart routines that maintain top reliability under much higher stress levels in order to keep edge data centres running consistently with ever increasing levels of demand.

Building towards a 5G future

We are standing at the cusp of a historic transformation in mobile connectivity. To truly realise the full potential of 5G, it’s crucial to start laying a stable foundation where memory is concerned.

Data has become the most lucrative resource in today’s digital economy. With the arrival of 5G and its related technologies, we can only expect its strategic importance to increase. From real-time UHD video streaming to automated cars, and even smart cities, the 5G revolution promises to transform every facet of our everyday life.

But this advancement does not come without challenge with transformation requiring a network capable of transferring large amounts of data at lightning speed, while bringing stable connectivity to devices beyond smartphones and computers. And if the world is to reach that one billion 5G-connected devices figure, next-generation memory has to be at the heart of it.