By 2017, it is expected that LTE will account for about one in eight of the more than eight billion total mobile connections forecast by that point, up from 176 million LTE connections at the end of 2013.GSMA research also reveals that nearly 500 LTE networks are forecast to be in service across 128 countries, roughly double the number of live LTE networks today.
Despite the explosive growth in LTE this year 5G has taken centre stage….even if the first commercial networks will be rolled in 2020….eventhough the standardisation process is half done even though many of the building blocks of 5G-technology architecture are as yet unknown. Now you may wonder why is 5G giving us cerebral thrills ?
If you were blissfully unaware …we are at the dawn of an era in networking that has the potential to define a new phase of human existence. This era will be shaped by the digitization and connection of everything and everyone with the goal of automating much of life, effectively creating time by maximizing the efficiency of everything we do, augmenting our intelligence with knowledge that expedites and optimizes decision-making and everyday routines and processes. According to the venerable Bell Labs there are 3 catalytic technological drivers for this future 5G Network:
1 : A new dynamic approach to networks that creates the sense of seemingly infinite capacity by pushing beyond current scientific, informatics and engineering limits to create a new cloud integrated network (CIN) that not only provides the essential input and output mechanisms, but also, intelligence.
2:The rise of Internet-connected machines and devices that will send and receive a massive amount of new digital information, as well as reshape the manufacturing landscape with a diverse array of 3D printers — reversing the current trend in developed countries of off-shoring manufacturing to lower-cost countries.
3 : New data analysis techniques based on inference of needs and information, instead of seeking “perfect knowledge”. New augmented intelligence systems will use the smallest amount of digital information, derived from the massive amount of data collected, to infer what is needed in each situation and context, to assist − not replace − human intelligence.
So we are entering an era where potentially 1000x more capacity is required, and as such we are obliged to take a different approach to networking, by exploring new architectural dimensions.To achieve 5G by 2020 is heavily dependent on Moore’s Law when it comes to new computing platforms. Increase in device performance will continue at rates predicted by Moore’s Law because the number of transistors and IC’s doubles about every two years.
So expect new gear that enables embedding the cloud in the network to form a new edge cloud to provide the optimum performance (throughput and latency) and economics for both virtualized networking functions and any other performance critical enterprise or web services. Anticipate the emergence of an end-to-end, software-defined networking layer that dynamically connects distributed and diverse workloads, networks and devices, and creates end-to-end virtual network paths or slices . And finally behold the creation of a new ultra-high capacity and continuously reconfigurable network fabric, with the reimagining of the core, metro and access layers and architecture.
Did you catch my drift amigo ? Its software that will gobble up the network of the future. Non-quantitative capabilities of 5G technology include a soft ware- based system architecture, simplified authentication, support for shared infrastructure, multi -tenancy and multi -RAT (with seamless handover), support for terrestrial and/or satellite communication, robust security, privacy, and lawful interception capacity.
In a nutshell 5G will provide an order of magnitude improvement in performance in the areas of more capacity, lower latency, more mobility, more accuracy of terminal location, increased reliability and availability. 5G will allow the connection of many more devices simultaneously and to improve the terminal battery capacity life. The enhanced spectral efficiency will enable 5G systems to consume a fraction of the energy that a 4G mobile networks consumes today for delivering the same amount of transmitted data. 5G will reduce service creation time and facilitate the integration of various players delivering parts of a service.
Consider the healthcare industry in which hospitals can arrange remote robotic surgeries via a customized 5G network that minimizes network latency as if the surgeon were physically present next to the patient. Or how skin-embedded and 5G connected healthcare chips could constantly monitor vital signs, prevent conditions from becoming acute, and constantly adapting medication to meet changing conditions.
With sensors enabled by 5G networks, every water pipe could be monitored in real-time and utility providers could create a network that can sense, process and transmit exact locations and severity of a leak and alert proper resources in real time without the need for humans to laboriously collect and analyze the data. Similar 5G-enabled transformations are only to be expected in agriculture, finance, retail, education, trade and tourism. The possibilities are truly endless.
Last but not least, 5G will open the ecosystem for technical and business model innovation. The extension of the cloud computing model to the telecom industry will unleash innovation and allow new players to access the ecosystem. Since 5G, network services will rely overwhelmingly on software it will strengthen local software industry, including SME developers and solutions providers that can better compete in an increasingly hardware-agnostic market.
We all know that Radio based services rely on appropriate access to EM spectrum at suitable frequencies. To meet the expected growth in traffic and requirements associated with radical applications such as Virtual and Augmented Reality , IoT , Autonomous vehicles… the success of 5G systems and services depends entirely on a more efficient use of spectrum already assigned to terrestrial mobile services; and the timely ability to utilise certain new bands in order to support new capabilities for which demand exists.
Spectrum flexibility can bring benefits of spectral efficiency gains, examples include: increasing exclusive spectrum with emphasis on improving regional/global harmonisation; smart carrier aggregation to use spare frequencies; spectrum trading; and managing fair access to supplementary shared spectrum.So what can we expect on the Spectrum front for 5G ?
The Regulators in Europe , USA , Korea , Japan and China are already investigating the feasibility of wide contiguous bandwidths, higher carrier frequencies above 6 GHz even as networking vendors accelerate their research on new wave forms to push Shannon’s Law to the limit. Whilst access to additional spectrum above 6 GHz is of interest, it should be emphasized that in general low frequency spectrum (below 6GHz), especially sub-1GHz, is still absolutely essential for an economical delivery of mobile services and this holds true for existing systems as well as future 5G systems.The many socio economic benefits of 5 G are entirely dependent on the Spectrum Regulators and Governments.
Supplementary spectrum, made available on a shared basis, will be required to deliver extra capacity where needed, for example additional licensed spectrum made available by an incumbent governmental / public user within a defined geographic area and/or defined time. Access to licence-exempt spectrum as a useful supplement for certain applications and will be seamlessly integrated into the 5G platform.
Pundits say 5G will change the world…you bet. But these positive changes will be felt unevenly across the planet. Infact it might make the Digital Divide even worse. The First world ( USA , Europe , Korea , Japan et al ) will rollout their 5 G because they will have spectrum to do it to enjoy light speeds . And the so called 3rd world ?…they are still battling to get spectrum for 4G so what of 5 G ? So I expect proactive Regulators will make it happen in the First world but break it in the Third world unless the latter get their act together NOW.
Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )