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NGMN Kickstarts 5G Initiative

Ray Le Maistre

BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress 2014 -- The carrier-led industry collective NGMN Alliance has begun the process of preparing the mobile community for 5G by launching a global initiative aimed at, well, figuring out what 5G could, or might, be.

At a launch presentation here today in Barcelona, Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Ltd. Alliance members and representatives talked about the need to look at what's required six years ahead and define "the end-to-end requirements for 5G, recognizing that the scope of 5G extends significantly beyond the radio access layer."

And in an effort to dispel any thoughts that a grand vision of the future was about to be unveiled, NGMN operating officer Peter Meissner noted that "this is not about hype."

What followed was certainly not a case of hype, in fact there was a tangible sense of frustration among those gathered at the Deutsche Telekom stand here at Mobile World Congress that there wasn't much more to say than "we're going to do something."

In reality, though, there isn't much tangible to say that's of real value, currently, just a recognition that this is a good time to start discussing what 5G might be and what needs to be done to move beyond 4G in the next decade. (See Ready or Not, Here Comes 5G.)

Executives from AT&T, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, NTT Docomo, and SK Telecom all talked about the need to figure out what the "use case" requirements of the next generation of mobile technology might be, taking into account the needs of individuals, companies, organizations, the vast expanse of connected devices expected to be wirelessly connected to IP networks in six years' time and the enormous network capacity and unrivaled capabilities that will be needed to meet user demands.

"By about 2020, we will need a technology that has a generation gap with LTE -- that we can call 5G," noted Jae Byun, CTO of SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) and the chairman of the NGMN Alliance. This isn't just about an air interface, but about the ecosystem around it, added Kris Rinne, senior VP of network technologies at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).

To get the ball rolling, the Alliance's members are collating their views and thoughts into an initial white paper that will be distributed amongst members in early June, then refined by the end of the year and then unveiled in March 2015 to "support the standardisation and subsequent availability of 5G from 2020. The White Paper will set challenging technical and other ecosystem requirements for 5G, and accelerate the adoption of new emerging technology innovations," the Alliance noted in its official announcement.

The Alliance believes its operator members are best placed to deliver the initial requirements for whatever 5G will be, but is seeking external input from all manner of organizations, from other industry bodies, to regulators, research institutes, vendors, and other 5G initiatives.

But there was no specific reference to the companies that have been leading the way in service and applications innovation in recent years -- the OTT players such as Apple, Google, Facebook, et al -- or the major IT companies that are becoming much bigger playmakers in the telecom space as virtualization takes hold of wide area network infrastructures. Are they involved? Have they been invited to the 5G party?

The door is open to all-comers, noted Rinne, who said a number of major IT companies and research institutes are already providing valuable input to the process at the higher levels of the OSI stack.

The next step is to bring all the ideas from the NGMN's operator members together and start drafting the white paper, and it's clear from the questions and comments at the presentation here today that, whatever the NGMN Alliance or anyone else does in the 5G development space, everyone's keen to make sure there is no repetition of some of the industry's previous errors, particularly around the fragmented multiple approaches taken to the 3G standards.

For more on the 5G topic, see:

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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User Rank: Light Sabre
2/27/2014 | 11:34:32 AM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
I couldn't agree more-- it seems like anything that could appropriately call itself "5G" would have to inherently be about the intersection of cloud services and OTT and ultra-broadband. Start with the next-gen business case-- and then consider the technical and networking requirements to make that happen. It's about what network virtualization and faster air interfaces underpinning ubiquitous, secure and seamless integration of mobile into communications in a way that drives new consumption models, and therefore new revenue and opportunities. IoT will be a key topic I would think--obviously so?
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/25/2014 | 12:24:40 PM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
Based on what I'm hearing, the capex/opex arguments are not front and center - but then I'm talking with network technologists. Once the bean-counters get involved, the story may change. 
User Rank: Light Beer
2/25/2014 | 12:16:21 PM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
the happy scenario: network operators understand that by using NFV and SDN they become cloud operators and therefore enter in this club with new breed of massively distributed IT resources, which everybody will benefit of even the OTT

the unhappy scenario: network operators use NFV and SDN only to reduce cost (CAPEX and OPEX) and cloud operators install remote blades (embedded in end user/enterprise solution) everywhere to implement the edge cloud, and network operators become overlay operators without visibility of the cloud signalling ....
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/25/2014 | 12:09:13 PM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
Given the convergence of cloud operators with mobility in the US, it will be interesting to see how mobility drives cloud and vice-versa.
User Rank: Light Beer
2/25/2014 | 12:08:14 PM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
Definitevely should, but even more on how cloud solution solutions have to be developped...
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
2/25/2014 | 12:05:51 PM
Re: 5G is not only a network problem
Will 5G spec be build on the notion of cloud-based resources?
User Rank: Light Beer
2/25/2014 | 10:12:20 AM
5G is not only a network problem
5G will also have to be a IT issue by providing edge resources (speed of light is not eenough) and a software developement issue since cloud solutions will have to understand how to be more distributed and to cope with the fluctuation of the availabilty of edge it resources...
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