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5G standards work enables global scale

Industry leaders discuss the importance of involvement in 5G standards process

There’s a lot of industry excitement around 5G and associated use cases, but, as it stands, there’s still a lot of work to be done in locking down the definitions and features of an ultimate 5G standard.

The going timeline for a first 5G standard is 2020. That’s the date set by the International Telecommunication Union for its IMT-2020 (more on that later), and 3GPP is working to submit specification materials to inform IMT-2020.

3GPP, from a high-level, divides its work into four technical specification groups covering radio access networks, service and systems aspects, core network and terminals, and GSM EDGE radio access networks.

Some portions of likely 5G networks are being incorporated into 3GPP’s Release 14, which is currently in development, and is set to support eLAA, four-band and inter-band carrier aggregation, LTE support for V2x services and other new features.

Back to IMT-2020. The term was coined in 2012 by the ITUs Radiocommunication Sector International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector and means International Mobile Telecommunication system with a target date set for 2020.

From the ITU: “In early 2012, ITU-R embarked on a program to develop ‘IMT for 2020 and beyond,’ setting the stage for 5G research activities that are emerging around the world. Through the leading role of Working Party 5D, ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector has finalized its view of a timeline towards IMT-2020. The detailed investigation of the key elements of 5G are already well underway, once again utilizing the highly successful partnership ITU-R has with the mobile broadband industry and the wide range of stakeholders in the 5G community. In September 2015, ITU-R has finalized its vision of the 5G mobile broadband connected society. This view of the horizon for the future of mobile technology will be instrumental in setting the agenda for the World Radiocommunication Conference 2019, where deliberations on additional spectrum are taking place in support of the future growth of IMT.”

Workshopping will go on throughout 2017 followed by IMT-2020 proposals in 2018 and 2019. Then comes evaluation of those proposals and consensus building ahead of standardization in 2020.

The ITU-R Working Party 5D, charged with developing future standards for 5G, met earlier this year in Beijing. One major aspect of the group’s task is to identify and harmonize 5G spectrum in frequency bands below 6 GHz.

“Following additional spectrum allocations for mobile during the World Radiocommunication Conference in late 2015, ITU is continuing to work in close collaboration with governments and the global mobile industry to make rapid progress in bringing the vision of IMT-2020 to fruition,” explained ITU secretary general Houlin Zhao. “Future steps in 5G mobile technology are aimed at a new paradigm of connectivity among people and things in a smart, networked environment encompassing big data, applications, transport systems and urban centers.”

Liu LIhua, vice minister of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said IMT-2020 “is speeding up and the ITU-R WP5D is playing a key role in international standardization and global spectrum issues related to 5G.”

In a recent interview with RCR Wireless News, Jim Nolan, InterDigital Executive Vice President – IoT Solutions, discussed the importance of being engaged in the ongoing standardization work. InterDigital, an R&D focused company that enables network interoperability and scalability, whose predecessor company was founded in 1972, has been an active member of 3GPP since its inception in 1998.

“There’s been a good amount of work being done worldwide over the last couple of years in preparing for what 5G will be,” Nolan said. “It’s the next-generation wireless standard…and what it promises, as each of the last improvements, each G has done, is an order of magnitude improvement in terms of throughput, latency and price/performance. But there are actually multiple elements.”

We’re not just talking about an air interface, Nolan said, noting the fundamental importance of software-defined network and network functions virtualization to an ultimate 5G standard, but also technologies that present immediate utility for network operators looking to gain agility and market share in a market rife with threats from low-cost OTT players.

“These are improvements that are happening right now in terms of how networks are being built,” he explained. “These will be tremendous enablers and also critical components of 5G. I think you will see elements of 5G happen…even before 5G’s approved standards are released.”

But how does involvement in the highly-technical standardization process create value across the ecosystem? It’s a matter of global scalability, Nolan explained.

“We went from several standards that were regional or distinct…to worldwide standards. When we moved to worldwide standards, what we did is we created an ecosystem that created such tremendous scale. That scale provides the ability for other people in the ecosystem—application developers, equipment developers—to develop products for a much, much broader market. What that does is it drives down the price of not only the handsets and the terminals, but of the networks themselves. The other thing that I think is important from an end-consumer perspective is the level and rapidity of development for performance and cost that has happened given these standards. All of the companies are competing to a common denominator, a common standard, that ensures that customers get a minimum level of performance and it also enables a multi-vendor ecosystem. That competition drives pricing down.”

But despite the lack of a shared definition of 5G, there are several aspects that are widely agreed upon. The 5GPPP, a European Union public-private partnership devoted to developing 5G, rounded up what it sees as major 5G tenets.

  • Providing 1000 times higher wireless area capacity and more varied service capabilities compared to 2010
  • Saving up to 90% of energy per service provided. The main focus will be in mobile communication networks where the dominating energy consumption comes from the radio access network
  • Reducing the average service creation time cycle from 90 hours to 90 minutes
  • Creating a secure, reliable and dependable Internet with a “zero perceived” downtime for services provision
  • Facilitating very dense deployments of wireless communication links to connect over 7 trillion wireless devices serving over 7 billion people
  • Ensuring for everyone and everywhere the access to a wider panel of services and applications at lower cost

According to that group, “The shared vision is that 5G is not just another generation of mobile networks.  It is a new network concept that enables the integration of a ubiquitous access continuum composed of cooperative, cognitive fixed and heterogeneous wireless resources, with fixed optical access reaching at least the 10 Gbps range, while implementing new functionalities that allow simplified and unified control. There is a shared awareness that the development of new communication networks is dependent on the emergence of globally accepted standards in order to ensure interoperability, economies of scale with affordable cost for system deployment and end users.”

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