What is 5G? Understanding the next generation of mobile networks
From NB-IoT to NFV and SDN, Industrial IoT 5G Insights helps answer the question: ‘What is 5G?’
What is 5G? That’s a complex question, but to start, “5G” refers to fifth-generation mobile technology. This new technology is set to be considerably faster compared to existing 3G and “4G” technologies, offering a huge potential for consumers and industries. Although LTE-based 4G technology has room to continue growing in both developed and emerging markets, telecom equipment vendors and mobile operators in developed markets are paving the way for the future deployment of 5G networks.
Now, what is 5G and what are the underlying goals and technologies?
Developed as an ecosystem, 5G technology is expected to provide multi-access connectivity allowing the use of other technologies such as LTE-Advanced, Wi-Fi and low-powered, wide-area technologies such as narrowband-“internet of things.”
A study by the GSMA reveals that in technologies such as network functions virtualization, software-defined networking, heterogeneous networks, and low-power and low-throughput networks, 5G will provide an array of use cases in areas such as low latency remote activities, augmented reality, immersive internet and more. The move to 5G technology also may be used for smart meters, connected cars, real-time gaming and energy efficient networks.
Nokia considers mobile broadband the key use case today and expects it to continue to be one of the primary use cases driving the requirements for 5G in the years to come. This use case goes far beyond basic mobile internet access and covers rich interactive work, media and entertainment applications in the cloud or reality augmentations. Nokia also believes in new parts of this system we may for the first time see no dedicated voice service since 5G voice is expected to be handled as an application.
The automotive sector also is expected to be a very important new driver for 5G, with many use cases for mobile communications for vehicles. For example, entertainment for passengers requires simultaneous high-capacity and high-mobility mobile broadband, with future users expecting to receive quality connection independent of their location and speed.
Other relevant use cases include smart grids, health, industrial control and logistics.
The standards for 5G technology have not yet been set. According to some industry players, 5G specification will likely be defined as early as 2018, with 5G standards codified by the International Telecommunication Union sometime in 2019. The standards will determine which wireless technologies can be included in the term “5G,” as well as the main features this technology will include.
Industry analysts predict commercial 5G networks will begin in a small number of markets in 2020, mainly in certain Asian markets such as South Korea, Japan and the United States.
South Korea is seen as the most advanced market in terms of 5G development. The local government expects mobile operators, including SK Telecom, KT and LG Uplus, will be able to trial 5G services in 2017, and then introduce commercial services in December 2020. The government previously said operators will be able to launch 5G service demos during the XXIII Olympic Winter Games, which will be held in February 2018 in the city of Pyeongchang.
The development of 5G technology is a priority for the South Korean government. In May 2014, the government established the 5G Forum with the main goal of assisting in the development of the standard and contributing to its globalization.
“Through close collaboration with mobile operators and vendors around the world, we are working toward one goal: to reach a consensus on requirements and timeline for the 5G system and key 5G enabling technologies that will help enable successful commercialization of 5G,” a SK Telecom representative previously told Industrial IoT 5G Insights.
The representative also said the telco has been dedicated to research and development investment for 5G since 2013. “SK Telecom aims to make pre-5G trials in 2018 and start commercialization, hopefully in 2020.”
Japan intends to launch a 5G trial network for the Summer Olympic Games in 2020 in Tokyo. Since May 2014, mobile operator NTT DoCoMo has been collaborating in the 5G field with vendors including Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC, Nokia and Samsung. Rival operator SoftBank has also inked a deal with Ericsson to test 5G capabilities in Tokyo.
North America is also expected to take the lead in terms of 5G development. U.S. operator Verizon Wireless has announced plans to carry out field trials of 5G technology in 2016. Partners for the push are set to include Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm and Samsung. Verizon Wireless also said it expects a limited commercial deployment of 5G services by 2017.
Sprint recently demonstrated 5G tech at the Copa América Centenario tournament in Santa Clara, California. The demonstration was said to use the 73 GHz spectrum band to deliver claimed download speeds in excess of 2 gigabits per second and “low millisecond latency.” The carrier said the tests supported live-streaming video in 4K high-definition quality and a streaming virtual reality system from VideoStitch.
Similarly, AT&T Mobility and vendor partners recently touted a lab milestone by achieving 10 Gbps throughput in addition to expanding research and development focus to include system architecture and millimeter wave transmission.
In partnership with Ericsson and Nokia, T-Mobile US is developing a pre-standards 5G test system for lab and field trials, with actual trials set to begin later this year. Nokia said its work will include the use of “pre-selected spectrum” in the 28 GHz band to trial and test “5G components and accompanying use cases.” Ericsson noted its current work in the space has resulted in equipment prototypes achieving network speeds in excess of 25 Gbps.
According to a recent study by research firm Strategy Analytics, 5G connections will reach nearly 2 million by the end of 2020, and are likely to grow to 116 million in 2022, with modems and routers driving early volume.