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The Breathtaking Complexity of the Wireless Spectrum

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united states frequency allocations

The Breathtaking Complexity of the Wireless Spectrum

Explore the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

As it turns out, the hottest real estate market may be one we can’t see.

Everything from space exploration signals to HAM radios are vying for room on the radio spectrum, in which frequencies range from 3Hz to 3,000GHz. This spectrum acts as the “transportation system” for all wireless communication, and blocks of it are divvied up for specific uses.

The map above, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, vividly illustrates the complexity of this allocation system.

Plots of “Land” on the Frequency Band

Nearly all of the radio spectrum is already divided into a number of civilian and military uses. Some of the most prominent blocks (turquoise on the map) are set aside for television and radio broadcasting, as well as various types of navigation and satellite communications.

The spectrum also has a number of blocks dedicated to amateur radio and satellite.

amateur radio bands

It’s worth noting that the allocation map only lays out uses within a specific frequency, and that any number of licenses can exist within a frequency block. For categories like “fixed”, multiple licenses can exist in the same part of band provided they’re far enough apart to avoid signal interference.

Most countries claim ownership over their airwaves, so they each have their own versions of the frequency allocation map. Here are a few others: UK, Canada, and South Africa.

The Spectrum Crunch

It’s predicted that mobile data traffic will skyrocket in coming years as consumers’ appetite for high quality video streaming continues to grow. Rapid increase in mobile data usage isn’t confined to specific markets. It’s a truly global phenomenon.

mobile data consumption growth

Rising data consumption, coupled with the explosion in IoT devices and the emergence of the 5G standard, means that space within the radio band is increasingly coming at a premium.

In fact, periodic auctions for space on the spectrum see telecommunication companies shelling out billions of dollars for a piece of the pie. The spectrum auction run by the FCC in 2015 raised nearly $45 billion and 2017’s auction raised nearly $20 billion.

The hills are alive with data

The long awaited move to 5G is a hot topic in the telecommunications world, and for good reason. 5G is the next generation of wireless technology, which will deliver super-fast connections for smartphones and higher capacity for broadband networks. It’s estimated that 5G will be 100x faster than current 4G networks.

For a fascinating and detailed look at the 5G rollout, check out the video below.

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Chart of the Week

The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology

See how 5G compares to older iterations of wireless technology, and why it’s poised to change the way the modern world uses data.

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The Future of 5G: Comparing 3 Generations of Wireless Technology

Wireless technology has evolved rapidly since the turn of the century. From voice-only 2G capabilities and internet-enabled 3G, today’s ecosystem of wireless activity is founded on the reliable connection of 4G.

Fifth-generation wireless network technology, better known as 5G, is now being rolled out in major cities worldwide. By 2024, an estimated 1.5 billion mobile users─which account for 40% of current global activity─will be using 5G wireless networks.

Today’s chart highlights three generations of wireless technology in the 21st century, and the differences between 3G, 4G, and 5G networks.

5G: The Next Great Thing?

With over 5 billion mobile users worldwide, our world is growing more connected than ever.

Data from GSMA Intelligence shows how rapidly global traffic could grow across different networks:

  • 2018: 43% of mobile users on 4G
  • 2025: 59% of mobile users on 4G, 15% of mobile users on 5G

But as with any new innovation, consumers should expect both positives and negatives as the technology matures.

Benefits

  • IoT Connectivity
    5G networks will significantly optimize communication between the Internet of Things (IoT) devices to make our lives more convenient.

  • Low latency
    Also known as lag, latency is the time it takes for data to be transferred over networks. Users may see latency rates drop as low as one millisecond.
  • High speeds
    Real-time streaming may soon be a reality through 5G networks. Downloading a two-hour movie takes a whopping 26 hours over 3G networks and roughly six minutes on 4G networks─however, it’ll only take 3.6 seconds over 5G.

Drawbacks

  • Distance from nodes
    Walls, trees, and even rain can significantly block 5G wireless signals.
  • Requires many nodes
    Many 5G nodes will need to be installed to offer the same level of coverage found on 4G.
  • Restricted to 5G-enabled devices
    Users can’t simply upgrade their software. Instead, they will need a 5G-enabled device to access the network.

Global 5G Networks

5G still has a way to go before it reaches mainstream adoption. Meanwhile, countries and cities are racing to install the infrastructure needed for the next wave of innovation to hit.

Since late 2018, over 25 countries have deployed 5G wireless networks. Notable achievements include South Korea, which became the first country globally to launch 5G wireless technology in April 2019. Switzerland boasts the highest number of 5G network deployments, currently at 225 and counting.

To date, China has built roughly 350,000 5G sites─compared to the less than 20,000 in the U.S.─and plans to invest an additional US$400 billion in infrastructure by 2023. Chinese mobile providers plan to launch 5G services starting in 2020.

What Does This Mean For 4G?

4G isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As 5G gradually rolls out, 4G and 5G networks will need to work together to support the wave of IoT devices entering the market. This network piggybacking also has the potential to expand global access to the internet in the future.

The race to dominate the wireless waves is even pushing companies like China’s Huawei to explore 6G wireless innovation─before they’ve even launched their 5G networks.

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Debt

Visualizing the Evolution of Consumer Credit

See how consumer credit has evolved through the ages — from its ancient origins, to the use of game-changing technologies like artificial intelligence.

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The origin of credit dates all the way back to ancient civilizations.

The Sumerians and later the Babylonians both used consumer loans in their societies, primarily for agricultural purposes. The latter civilization even had rules about maximum lending rates engraved in the famous Code of Hammurabi.

But since then, consumer credit — and how we calculate creditworthiness — has gotten increasingly sophisticated. This is so much the case that technology now used in modern credit scoring would seem completely alien to people living just a few decades ago.

Video: Consumer Credit Through the Ages

Today’s motion graphic video is powered by Equifax, and it shows the evolution of consumer credit over the last 5,000 years.

The video highlights how consumer credit has worked both in the past and in the present. It also dives into the technologies that will be shaping the future of credit, including artificial intelligence and the blockchain.

A Brief History of Credit

We previously visualized the 5,000-year history of consumer credit, and how it dramatically changed over many centuries and societies.

What may have started as agricultural loans in Sumer and Babylon eventually became more ingrained in Ancient Roman society. In the year 50 B.C., for example, Cicero documented a transaction that occurred, and wrote “nomina facit, negotium conficit” — or, “he uses credit to complete the purchase”.

Modern consumer credit itself was born in England in 1803, when a group of English tailors came together to swap information on customers that failed to settle their debts. Eventually, extensive credit lists of customers started being compiled, with lending really booming in the 20th century as consumers started buying big ticket items like cars and appliances.

Later, the innovation of credit cards came about, and in the 1980s, modern credit scoring was introduced.

The Present and Future of Credit

Learn about the modern credit landscape, as well as how technology is changing the future of consumer credit.

The modern numeric credit score came about in 1989, and it uses logistic regression to assess five categories related to a consumer’s creditworthiness: payment history, debt burden, length of credit history, types of credit used, and new credit requests.

However, in the current era of big data and emerging technologies, companies are now finding new ways to advance credit models — and how these change will affect how consumers get credit in the future.

Modern Tech

Consumer credit is already changing thanks to new methods such as trended data and alternative data. These both look at the bigger picture beyond traditional scoring, pulling in new data sources and using predictive methods to more accurately encapsulate creditworthiness.

Future Tech

In general, the future of credit will be shaped by five forces:

  1. Growing amounts of data
  2. A changing regulatory landscape
  3. Game-changing technologies
  4. Focus on identity
  5. The fintech boom

Through these forces, new credit models will integrate artificial intelligence, neural networks, big data, and more complex statistical methods. In short, credit patterns can be more accurately predicted using mountains of data and new technologies.

Finally, the credit landscape is set to shift in other ways, as well.

Regulatory forces are pushing data to be standardized and controlled directly by consumers, enabling a range of new fintech applications to benefit consumers. Meanwhile, the industry itself will be focusing in on identity to build trust and limit fraud, using technologies such as biometrics and blockchain to prove a borrower’s identity.

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