Segment Spotlight: Road to 5G – Ready, Set, Go?
Author: Eugina Jordan, Director of Marketing Communications at Parallel Wireless
Remember “Back to the Future” movie that showed us what 30 years out in the future might look like? As we follow industry’s discussions around 5G (which is still in pre-standards stage), it reminds me of that movie, but with 5G, we are only talking 5 to 10 years out.
As we are entering the second half of the LTE decade (2010—2020), industry visionaries and standard bodies start to discuss what 5G might look like, the requirements, and what it will bring to the end user. Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance has published a 5G white paper at MWC that covers the expectations, challenges and what the ecosystem of standards bodies, operators and vendors need to accomplish to successfully enter the 5G decade (2020 – 2030). Similarly, the 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5GPPP) also released its vision document on 5G. Vendors such as Huawei and Ericsson were demonstrating their 5G vision in their booths at MWC. Our own rural micro network solution that EE is implementing has been labeled 5G by the industry, because we’ve attempted to achieve 100% coverage in a developed country with innovative mesh technology at ultra-low cost to improve lives of rural communities. What is obvious to everyone is that 5G will be a natural evolution from 4G and will drive the ecosystem innovation to deliver great customer experience.
5G will embrace a true HetNet environment: from multiple types of access technologies, multi-layer networks, to many different devices with billions of user interactions – and not just individual users. The new users will present themselves to take advantage of 5G from municipalities to verticals like energy and health, from social organizations to public safety and defense.
5G will enable new services for all these users at low cost by providing a seamless and efficient communication and will really improve the way people interact with each other, with the final goal of improving people’s lives. To do so, the 5G network won’t be limited to the radio access (RAN), but will encompass the whole network, including aspects as subscriber, policy and security management, core network and transport components.
Architecture Building Blocks
Anything and everything software will be a foundation of 5G: from software-defined networking and radios (SDN and SDR) to virtualized network functions (NFV) — all intelligently combined to enable programmable, scalable and flexible architecture to minimize the cost per bit without sacrificing the user experience.
Spectrum regulations and management methods will have to evolve to be allow more dynamic sharing in 5G networks.
5G will be focused on the dense capacity layer, while the macro coverage umbrella will probably remain 4G for many years. It is expected that 5G access networks for some services (like video) will require wide contiguous carrier bandwidth (i.e. hundreds of MHz up to a few GHz) with overall high system capacity. Appropriately scaled backhaul with adequate spectrum will need to support this dynamic high capacity requirement.
The high frequency bands are almost certain to play a key role in next generation wireless, and like many supposed elements of 5G, they will start to have a real impact far earlier.
Key Features of a 5G Network
5GPP vision document lists key 5G features as disruptive and as a result, 5G networks will outperform the current operational capabilities with (just to name an important few):
- Performance of 50Mbps everywhere with network reliability, responsiveness real-time and coverage consistency outdoors and indoors with very low-latency for some of the use cases (i.e. e-health or natural disaster) which will be key for Public Safety LTE (we will cover this topic) in our May blog
- Almost 100% network coverage with deep indoor coverage (+20dB) which might potentially eliminate the need for any Wi-Fi offloads
- Higher user mobility (as in “planes, trains, and automobiles” – to continue with our 80-ties movies theme)
- Broadband access everywhere with extreme real-time communications and lifeline communications (as in natural disaster) enablement
- “Green” with 1000 times reduction in power consumption
- Significantly higher security requirements
This graphic from 5GPP document covers the features well including the 3 top level groupings of use cases (mission critical services, IoT, and user experience continuity):
Source: 5GPP 5G Vision document
NGMN white paper goes deeper in the use cases and outlines 30 use cases across these 8 groupings:
Source: NGMN 5G White Paper
As an 80-ties kid, the most exciting use case for me was a self-driving car, not quite like a Delorean, but still super cool. Car manufacturers anticipate that these self-driving 5G enabled vehicles will result not only in improved traffic flow and less road congestion, but also fewer overall accidents and fewer highway deaths.
Opportunities: Business and Partnerships Models for Value Creation
As we approach 5G, the boundaries between personal and business usage will blur, but so will the boundaries between IT and Service Provider. This will drive the evolution of business models and help to form new partnerships as there will be just one network across telco and IT to share for business and personal users across all verticals and a new, open ecosystem will emerge.
5G will help a new ecosystem to thrive with new vendors, new MVNO players (like car companies for example), which will likely result in fewer mobile operators. As mobile traffic mostly happens indoor, we will see the wireline and wireless operate merge to accommodate this trend towards the unified infrastructure.
As for me, I can’t wait to get on the 5G bandwagon, I mean the car, and let it drive me around while I sip my morning coffee in peace or catch up on my 80-ties movies watching. I hope it will know not to brake too hard…