5G Needs More Joined-Up Thinking – Heavy Reading

Iain Morris
12/11/2015

DUBLIN -- 2020 Vision Executive Summit -- The lack of communication between radio experts and other network professionals has left the telecom industry with a tremendous amount of work to do on the standardization of 5G over the next few years, according to Gabriel Brown, a senior analyst with Heavy Reading.

Service providers and vendors are working towards a target of introducing initial 5G offerings in 2020, and some pioneers in Asia and North America are even talking about launching 5G-based services in the next two or three years.

But the "disconnect" that exists between the developers of radio access networks and other parts of the networking community could represent a big challenge for the 5G industry.

"There is no real link between is being done or designed in terms of RAN [radio access network] infrastructure and control and how the rest of the network is designing systems and processes," Brown said during a presentation at Light Reading's 2020 Vision summit in Dublin this week.

Brown likens the situation to what happened with 4G and voice-over-LTE -- which took much longer to get up and running than was originally envisaged -- but says it is potentially a much bigger problem.

At the crux of the matter is how 5G will map on to technologies like SDN and NFV as networks become increasingly software-based.

"This is a network that is coming in 2020 and going to be software-based and yet we are four years away and on-boarding a VNF doesn't really work very well," says Brown. "There is an assumption it will work but not enough people are asking how."

While progress on standardization activities has recently been encouraging, the "Phase 1" services that appear over the next few years will not count as "true" 5G, according to Brown.

The Phase 1 5G launches will include the services currently being touted by Japan's NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) and South Korea's SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM): The former is keen to launch a 5G service in 2020, while the latter wants to have a 5G prototype available in time for the Winter Olympics in 2018. (See DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)

Phase 1 will cover the Release 15 specifications of the 3GPP standards group, which are expected to emerge in 2018 and will cover spectrum bands below 6GHz, while the Release 16 specifications that are designed to support more sophisticated 5G services will appear at the end of 2019 as part of Phase 2.

The Phase 1 technology is essentially designed to meet the requirements of operators pushing for an early launch of 5G but will not be game-changing or what Brown calls "a new business enabler."

"If you are sitting in a Japanese Olympic stadium watching replays and ordering fries [with 5G technology] it's great but not transformative to the industry or carriers," he says.

Indeed, the 5G technology that US mobile operator Verizon Wireless is talking about introducing as soon as 2017 appears to be a fixed wireless access technology that could be used instead of last-mile fiber to support 1Gbit/s services. (See Verizon CEO: US Commercial 5G Starts in 2017.)


Want to know more about 5G? Check out our 5G content channel here on Light Reading.


Operators are ultimately pushing for a range of performance requirements in Phase 2, however, including ultra-high throughput (evolved mobile broadband or eMBB) as well as ultra-scalable IoT (massive machine type communications or mMTC) and ultra-reliable low-latency services.

Phase 2 also seems likely to consider the rollout of 5G technology in higher spectrum bands: During the recent World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15), there was an agreement to focus on spectrum above 24GHz during the WRC-19 event.

Brown reckons "true 5G" could have an enormous impact on various industries, including the use of robotics. "It was always assumed we'd have self-learning devices wheeling around but if you go to a cloud model with 5G access you don't need smart robots -- just finely tuned ones where the processing and intelligence are cloud-based," he says. "The low-latency link allows you to design robots to do anything."

One encouraging sign in the 5G ecosystem is an agreement that the air interface will be based on orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology but incorporate new features such as a lean radio design.

"LTE was a brilliant radio for mobile broadband but it didn't leave space for small packets and wasn't optimized for small cells," explains Brown. "The idea here would be to leave enough space in the stack for mission-critical applications."

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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TV Monitor
TV Monitor
12/15/2015 | 11:24:08 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Dan Jones

Sprint is a badly managed company that can't implement anything right.

As for Chinese handset manufacturers, with the sole exception of Huawei, all Chinese handset manufacturers derive 90% of their revenues in Chinese domestic market. Even in case of Huawei, percentage of their handset revenues from Chinese domestic market is 70%. Accordingly, Chinese handset manufacturer's objective is to support the Chinese 5G standard that will be pushed out quickly in competition with Korean and Japanese 5G standards, not some European standard that will be late and in limited scale . So don't expect Chinese to bail Nokia and Ericsson out, because they got their hands full with their own 5G standard. Who cares the Chinese 5G standard is for China only, Chinese handset manufacturers generate 90% of their revenues in China anyway.
DanJones
DanJones
12/15/2015 | 12:51:25 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Yet Sprint/Clearwire had massive amounts of WiMAX compatible spectrum and couldn't get the deployment done. Still haven't finished the LTE version now, in fact. In part because of mismanagement of course, but backhaul and other issues were also prevelant, and will be again with 5G

Agree, on the handsets, but Huawei and other Chinese vendors are coming up fast. Huawei is number 3 already and would love to move units in the US and Europe.

Doubt that Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei are going to let a minor infrastructure player have it all their way.
TV Monitor
TV Monitor
12/15/2015 | 12:25:09 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Dan Jones

There were three problems with Mobile WiMax.

1. Mobile WiMax deployments were over TDD, while most cell network bands were FDD.

2. There was a handset availability problem, because Mobile WiMax was closely associated with PCs and was made available mostly as dongles. There were no Mobile WiMax capable smart phones.

3. Samsung was still a minor player in handset market back in 2006~2008 launch period, while Nokia and Ericsson were still the king of cell phones.

Things have changed since.

1. Only Samsung's technology can function in allocated the 24+ Ghz 5G band.

2. There will be no handset availability problem, because Samsung is the king of smartphones today.

3. Again, Samsung is the king of smartphones, while Nokia and Ericsson quit the handset business. In fact, there will be no handset support for the proposed European 5G technologies, because all European vendors quit the handset market a long time ago. Because of this handset availability problem, I would give a higher chance to the Chinese 5G standard than the European one. 
DanJones
DanJones
12/14/2015 | 11:43:57 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Yep, and WiMAX had a decent lead on LTE but didn't win out. We can go back through 3G and 4G and see how deployments didn't pan out as expected, didn't happen on time, didn't happen at all. If you're happy on declaring a 5G "winner" now, good on ya! Given the normal lags and setbacks that are bound to happen, and always happen, I'm not going to!
TV Monitor
TV Monitor
12/14/2015 | 10:05:38 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Dan Jones

"Well the happy-clappy vision of 5G has it supporting everything from high-speed comms to low-power M2M."

Those visions came from those who were pushing low-band 5G. As you may recall, the ITU and the FCC have decided against low-band 5G, and only high-band 5G will be able to claim to be the globally harmonized 5G.

"Same as the idea that Samsung will get a free run at 5G without any hitches in deployments"

The maturity of technology is such that while Samsung can show off its 5G technology working at a highway crusing speed with a smartphone sized antenna, everybody else's technology works at a stationary or a walking-speed. Samsung/ETRI have really nailed it and there is no one else who even come close to their achievements.
DanJones
DanJones
12/14/2015 | 1:34:54 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Well the happy-clappy vision of 5G has it supporting everything from high-speed comms to low-power M2M. I havent seen an air interface yet that seems ready to adapt to all of those needs though. So it is probably healthy to be a bit skeptical.

Same as the idea that Samsung will get a free run at 5G without any hitches in deployments (because 3G and 4G shows that's unlikely. Remember WiMAX?) should be taken with a pinch of salt.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané
12/14/2015 | 12:37:01 AM
Re: This article is wrong
Iain, some people I have talked to seem to think that 5G is just about supporting raising consumption of data services. Some seem to be missing the big picture behind 5G. -Susan
DanJones
DanJones
12/13/2015 | 7:31:15 PM
Re: This article is wrong
Actually I doubt the 600MHz prices will go higher than AWS. AT&T and Verizon run a good swathe of their LTE in 700 and 600 is not a good neighbor.
TV Monitor
TV Monitor
12/13/2015 | 10:55:33 AM
Re: This article is wrong
iainmorris

Let's take a look at last AWS-3 auction, which brought in $45 billion for 65 Mhz worth of spectrum. Future prices in upcoming 600 Mhz spectrum will be even higher.  

By comparison, 500 ~ 800 Mhz of bandwidth is cheaply and readily available in the 28/39 Ghz band, if there was a mobile data technology that could tap it. And now there is one, in the form of 28/39 Ghz Korean 5G which also happens to be the very first 5G technology to be rolled out.

So the consumer demands of exponentially increasing mobile data service alone more than justifies the 5G business case.
iainmorris
iainmorris
12/13/2015 | 10:41:43 AM
Re: This article is wrong
So you're saying 5G is just about supporting rising consumption of data services? Not a very encouraging prognosis for the telcos - South Korean or otherwise.
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