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Introduction to the Physical Layer

Imagine yourself making a typical morning office commute in a 5G-connected car in the future.


The vehicle is constantly exchanging position, behavior, and system status information with other cars, the highway infrastructure, and traffic control centers. Doing so in a fast and reliable manner augments the car’s awareness of its surroundings and allows you to turn several functions over to the car’s semiautonomous driving system. You can now focus your attention on the morning’s first conference call.


On the call, your team is trying to find the root cause of a turbine malfunction. After you put on your augmented reality (AR) set, wireless 4K video feed of an airplane turbine overlaid with sensor data and gauge readings fills your screen. Collaborating in real time with a group of engineers in three different countries, your team guides a technician to isolate one of the components and recommends a troubleshooting procedure.


A few minutes later, when your intelligent-highway exit comes up, you take back control of the car and switch over to a low-bandwidth voice-only connection. The car guides you to the closest available parking spot with an electric charging station. Then the parking sensor detects the car and updates the parking availability information on the network. Once you plug in the car to charge, the terminal establishes a low-data-rate connection to verify your account and process payment.


This example shows the three broad use cases that 5G wireless technology seeks to transform:


  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
  • Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC)
  • Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC)


The requirements of these distinct use cases pose complex technical trade-offs that call for delicate design decisions. And because designers, industry experts, and the market haven’t yet defined all the possible new uses for 5G technology, the 5G physical layer needs to have a flexible structure.


Get started on shaping the future with this introductory tutorial on the 5G physical layer and how it supports the key 5G target applications.


Download the white paper >>