Ericsson CTO: 5G Needs Broad Brush

Ericsson's CTO doesn't think the next generation of wireless communications will necessarily be encompassed and defined by a single radio interface, given all the applications that 5G is expected to support.

5G -- the fifth generation of mobile communications -- is a hot topic among carriers and vendors now. That's because just what the standard will become is being hammered out now.

Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC)'s CTO Ulf Ewaldsson chatted with Light Reading last week about the possibilities for the forthcoming specification. "5G will be an evolution of LTE," he suggests, as carriers will want to eke more of their investments in deploying LTE.

"Then there is the notion of the shortage of bandwidth," Ewaldsson says. This, he suggests, is driving the industry towards higher frequencies where there is more spectrum available. He suggests millimeter wave technology "beyond 15GHz" and in the 60GHz band as 5G possibilities.

For more on 5G strategies, check out our 5G channel here on Light Reading.

Connecting the hundreds of millions of machine-to-machine (M2M) devices expected to arrive on the network in the Internet of Things also presents new challenges too. Supporting devices like "smart sensors" means low-power, low-bandwidth connections for much longer battery life. M2M devices today typically use 2G, WiFi or Bluetooth connectivity -- high-bandwidth air interfaces, like LTE today, aren't synonymous with long battery life.

That's a lot of work to get done before 2020, which many in the industry have pegged as the start of the 5G era. "We've set a target to launch somewhere in 2020," the CTO notes. He doesn't, however, expect widespread deployment of 5G in 2020.

It's conceivable that there will be competing air interface technologies developed for 5G. It happened around 2G/3G with GSM and CDMA in competition and in the early days of 4G before LTE largely beat out WiMax.

Ewaldsson, however, says that there is a more collaborative approach afoot now, with Ericsson more involved with the operators and talking about the development of new applications and technology.

"This is not about proprietary information, this is about driving the industry forward," the CTO says.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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