Why 5G Is a Different Beast

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
11/26/2014

It might be at least six years before the first expected commercial launches, but already 5G is shaping up to be a beast that is different from any preceding cellular generation.

The divergence is driven mainly by the need to build out a platform for more than just human communication. There's an almost universal industry view that it should support low latency and high-volume connections for IoT, deliver high capacity for the forecast 1,000-fold increase in traffic, massively improve energy efficiency, and be deployable in high-frequency spectrum.

Another difference is that the industry hasn't broken down into factions over radio interfaces.

At its annual mobile broadband forum in Shanghai last week, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , which has committed US$600 million towards 5G R&D up to 2018, kept the volume down on its candidate technology, SCMA (sparse code multiple access). (See Huawei CEO Pledges 5G R&D Investment.)

In fact, Eric Xu, one of Huawei's "rotating" CEOs, didn't even mention SCMA during his presentation. Instead he talked about 5G in general, noted that he couldn't truly identify what 5G is, and without nominating anything specific, called on the industry to develop "breakthrough technologies."

While it's hard for anyone to truly pin down what 5G will encompass, that vagueness may also be in deference to customers such as NTT DoCoMo Inc. (NYSE: DCM) and the three major Chinese operators, which are canvassing other radio technologies.

Takehiro Nakamura, managing director of NTT DoCoMo's 5G Laboratory, said it was expecting 5G to include "enhanced LTE" as well as another radio access technology. In lower frequency bands -- up to 30GHz -- it is trialing OFDM (orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing) and is also considering NOMA (non-orthogonal multiple access) or a new technology for higher (and possibly also existing) spectrum bands.

Wang Zhiqin, deputy chief engineer at the Chinese Academy of Telecom Research (CATR), nominated PDMA (polarization division multiple access), MUSA (multiple unit steerable antenna) and Huawei's SCMA as under consideration, but added there were others.


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


Rahim Taffazolli, head of the 5G Innovation Center at the University of Surrey, agrees that a new air interface is needed, but describes OFDM is a "lousy technology for carrier aggregation" in high frequencies.

"We need a new wave form that does low data rate for IoT, all the way to broadband as well, and which is scalable," he said. With spectrum likely to be highly fragmented, the new waveform needed to support flexible aggregation, such as 20MHz with 1MHz. "It will not always be 20MHz and 20MHz."

Taffazolli unnerved the audience by suggesting that "the 5G we define is supposed to stay to serve the market until at least 2041. If you say the volume of traffic to 2020 will be 1,000x over 2010, and design it for 1,000x, that's not sufficient."

He said IoT would carry "most of the national critical infrastructure, from energy, water, all the way to transport and policing" right up to 2040 or 2050. In "modernizing these 100-year-old industries" and supporting smarter cities, it ultimately would have a greater impact than the improved connectivity between people, Taffazolli said.

However, Huawei's Xu appeared skeptical about the commercial potential of IoT. "IoT on its own is not sufficient to support 5G development," he said.

"Different industries have to build connectivity into their machines, and that cannot be dominated by the telecom industry alone," he added, calling for partnerships between industry verticals and the telecom industry.

Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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nasimson
nasimson
1/16/2015 | 11:40:25 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
@ Gabriel:

> As an aside, it's interesting how we seem to talk about nation
> states (or groupings thereof) as the unit of innovation or "influence
> bloc". You might think more company-specific ideas and preferences
> would emerge.

A lot of innovation is happening in regional blocks like Pan European or South-East-Asian. Universities in certain geographies have more exchange programs among themselves than with other regions, joint reasearch centers. 

Also the jointly promoted standards are coming from the countries that have strong trade relations.

So its not surprising if its coming that way.

 

 
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
11/30/2014 | 1:34:12 PM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
 

So like WiBro then? Or TD-SCDMA? 

More seriously, I see your point and, yes, the influence of Asian nations is on the rise and will inevitably (and rightly) impact the specs. But I don't think publicising something first is neccesarily an indicator of leadership or eventual success. I like how NTT DOCOMO presents it: we'll do these trials to see what works, and feed that into the specification process. Of course, if you have trial data and experience, you'll have more influence in the process.

As an aside, it's interesting how we seem to talk about nation states (or groupings thereof) as the unit of innovation or "influence bloc". You might think more company-specific ideas and preferences would emerge.
TV Monitor
TV Monitor
11/28/2014 | 1:07:42 PM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
Gabriel Brown

> If these companies (and nations) want to export technology they will adopt global standards.

What China and Korea are saying is that what they develop are the global standards. At least Korea has signed EU to join its standard(http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-14-680_en.htm), and the US is all but cetain to select the Korean standard because of the FCC plan to allocate above 24 Ghz spectrum for 5G services(Only the Korean standard operates above 24 Ghz spectrum) and a US ban on Huawei and ZTE infrastructure equipment.

China has signed up Russia, Singapore, and Taiwan to adopt its 5G standard, and is going after developing countries to select its version of 5G over more costly Korean standard.

So in a sense that both standards are already "international".
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
11/28/2014 | 4:27:11 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
@TVMonitor -- we've seen his movie before with WiBro, WiMax, TD-SCDMA, AXGP in these Asian markets. If these companies (and nations) want to export technology they will adopt global standards.

I do agree, however, they will seek to deploy their own systems in an effort to gain influence in the standards. Then, if your ideas and IPR become important to the eventual solution, you can claim victory. That, to me, is what all these regional variants are about. (In addition to the inherent technical value of the trials).

I suppose you could argue that this time its different, and there will be cyclical return to regional standards. I don't really see much evidence and the only market with enough volume and power to have success is China. The amount of effort China has put into aligning LTE TDD and FDD indicates it sees more value in a global standard.  

 
TV Monitor
TV Monitor
11/27/2014 | 1:45:15 PM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
Gabriel Brown

> this talk of nationally-specific standards seems very short-sighted and very unlikely to be successful.

They are not nationality specific standards, they are "global standards" that China and Korea are trying to sell to other countries. To do this, they need to bring out their versions before their competitors hence why there is a race to turn on their respective networks first.

> Japan, like China, has discovered the benefits of global standards and the associated economies of scale.

That was before Japanese corporations lost competitiveness. When was the last time you saw a Sharp or Panasonic phone at the store? Yes, Sharp and Panasonic still sell phones along with Sony, the sole Japanese major electronics firm still trying to market phones overseas, and they are content with not having to compete with foreign firms in their homeland.

For God's sake, flip feature phones outsell smart phones in Japan, and Japanese consumers see no reason to switch to smart phones because they are used to T9 keypads for typing.

R Clark

> G is so broad in its functions and spectrum range that there will surely be multiple radio access technologies as well. Whether that means more contention or less, we'll see.

You will see the world divided in a manner similar to CDMA/GSM era, because neither Chinese nor Korean sides are willing to compromise and their respective technologies are too dissimilar to even attempt a bridge.

So the LTE will serve as a common denominator for travellers around world, but your Verizon 5G phone will not work in China and your Xiaomi 5G phone will not work in the US, etc.
R Clark
R Clark
11/27/2014 | 10:25:57 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
@TV Monitor - I think the comment by Huawei's Eric Xu about IoT was really a call to the industry not to assume that on its own it will make the 5G business case. It's not that they're not positive about Iot - they're predicting 30b connections by 2018.

@Gabriel Brown. Yeah, agree there'll inevitably be some factions but 5G is so broad in its functions and spectrum range that there will surely be multiple radio access technologies as well. Whether that means more contention or less, we'll see.

 
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
11/27/2014 | 3:51:25 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
SachinEE, I disagree. Japan, like China, has discovered the benefits of global standards and the associated economies of scale. Its interests will be better served contributing to an international standard. Japanese industry knows this.
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
11/27/2014 | 3:47:51 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
TV Monitor -- this talk of nationally-specific standards seems very short-sighted and very unlikely to be successful. I would characterise it as "sparring". The real fight will be influence on global standards.
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown
11/27/2014 | 3:42:42 AM
Re: Why 5G Is a Different Beast
nasimson -- that's a big leap of the mind: to link elderly care in Europe with 5G development. I'm not sure the two are meaningfully connected.
SachinEE
SachinEE
11/27/2014 | 2:22:30 AM
5G seems to be the solution for IOT
IOT has been bottlenecked due to its network architectures not being able to use the current data networks to the fullest potential, however with 5G, integrating the IOT under a common network would be easy.
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