There's definite progress being made on the road to 5G, or at least planning for progress still to come, as operators and vendors team up to work out the kinks in their next-generation network plans.
In the past week or so, coinciding with the LTE World Summit in Amsterdam and an International Telecommunication Union (ITU) meeting in San Diego, there have been a number of 5G-related announcements, some serving only to feed the hype machine, and others proving there is significant work being done to make 5G a reality -- with the promised speeds and features, and the business case to back it up -- by 2020.
The news has also demonstrated how important industry collaboration amongst operators, vendors and research institutions will be to develop this revolutionary new network. While there is a lot of overlap between the industry consortiums being formed to tackle 5G, as our recent Prime Reading feature outlined, there also seem to be lines being drawn between different countries, vendors and operators. (See 5G: Meet the Influencers.)
Here's a look at a few of the announcements in recent weeks:
- Today, the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Ltd. announced its next step after releasing a white paper on 25 5G use cases at Mobile World Congress. The operator association said it would launch a comprehensive work program to evolve the white paper's guidelines with "the intention to support the standardization and subsequent availability of 5G for 2020 and beyond." (See NGMN Chairman Outlines His 5G Vision and 5G Use Cases, Pre-Standards Groups Proliferate .)
In the coming months, dedicated working groups will tackle a number of 5G-related challenges, including the business principles behind it, the technical requirements and architecture guidelines, the spectrum needs and the 5G patent pool considerations.
- The NORMA project was also announced today, an initiative of the 5G Infrastructure Public-Private Partnership (5GPPP) to define the 5G mobile network architecture inclusive of the radio and core network. The Europe-centric group is made up of a number of operators and vendors, including Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), Orange (NYSE: FTE), Telefónica , Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Nokia Networks and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) is noticeably absent. (See Eurobites: NORMA Joins the 5G Fight.)
- Ericsson did, however, have some 5G news of its own this week. It teamed up with SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) to demo a 5G network in Stockholm that it said improved communications efficiency by 215% and reduced interference between small cells, which will be a crucial tenet of 5G networks. The pair plan to open a 5G test bed at SK Telecom's Bundang Building this year. (See Q&A: SK Telecom Talks All Things 5G.)
- SK Telecom has also tapped Nokia Networks to partner on a 5G research and development center it plans to run in Nokia's South Korean office. The pair have been particularly focused on the potential of SDN in the evolved packet core, which will enable it to build a hybrid core network architecture for 5G. (See SK Telecom, Nokia Tackle 5G Core Network.)
- All of these groups are hoping to influence the standards process for 5G, which will ultimately be determined by the ITU, which met for a week last month to talk roadmaps. As Inside5G pointed out, the ITU did not set 20 Gbit/s as the required peak speed for a network to be considered 5G as many reported, but rather only said that it would outline its IMT-2020 vision later this year. Full technical specs for 5G will take until 2020, but the ITU tells Inside5G that, "As of now, the peak data rate of IMT-2020 for enhanced Mobile Broadband is expected to reach 10 Gbit/s." (See ITU Unveils Its 5G Roadmap.)
- NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM), one of the most aggressive operators when it comes to 5G, might not be able to wait until 2020 to deploy its network. The carrier's director of RAN, Takehiro Nakamura, said at the LTE World Summit that it is already testing 5G technologies and will likely begin deployment ahead of standardization. Then, in 2020, it will kick off a two-phased approach to the roll-out, Mobile World Live reports. It will start on the sub-6GHz spectrum bands, focusing on higher data rates and higher capacity, and when new bands are available in 2022-2023, it will begin phase two, 5G+, with a focus on low-latency requirements. (See DoCoMo & EE Share 5G Visions.)
This is just a sample of some of the recent 5G news announcements. More companies are weighing in every day, and the groups involved will likely winnow and coalesce as we get closer to commercial launches. At the same time, hype will continue to give way to the practicalities of deployments -- there's still a long road to go before 2020. (See You Can't Spell 5G Without LTE and 5G: What Is It & Why Does It Matter?)
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading