May 6, 2015
New focus group to identify requirements for low-latency 5G network, and the wired connections which will make it possible
Amid all the 5G hype and alliance-building, a genuinely important group has been set up, by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The organization, which coordinates global use of radio spectrum, has set up an open focus group to identify the standards requirements for 5G.
The group, under the auspices of the ITU's standardization sector (ITU-T), aims to identify the technologies which will underpin the next generation of wireless networks, feeding into the IMT-2020 standards definitions. IMT-2020 will be the successor to the IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced frameworks, and as with those processes, candidate technologies will be submitted to seek ratification as official IMT-2020 platforms.
For IMT-Advanced (4G), the successful applicants were LTE-Advanced and WiMAX Release 2, although neither has yet attained all the requirements set by the ITU, such as gigabit speeds to the end user. For IMT-2020, a wider range of technologies, some from non-traditional sources as well as the usual 3GPP and IEEE offerings, may be submitted, because, as the ITU said on forming its new focus group, the remit of 5G will be far wider.
In addition to voice and video, IMT-2020 standardized systems will cover vertical industry applications such as healthcare and industrial automation, and new devices and ways of working, such as virtual reality, self-driving vehicles and real time robotics, said the ITU. Some of those functions make latency - of 1ms end-to-end - critical to 5G requirements, in order to allow technology to replicate natural human interaction with the environment.
Despite its radio spectrum function, the ITU says its work will be particularly focused on wireline communications and how they will be integrated into the heterogeneous 5G picture. The Union believes this aspect of 5G has been under-researched but is critical because core networks and data centers will need to be enhanced to support superfast wireless access as well as new architectures such as Cloud-RAN.
Chaesub Lee, director of the ITU's telecoms standardization unit, said: "Innovation in standardization is essential across core networks, access networks, virtualized data clusters and masses of smart networked units. Moving beyond convergence, the concepts underlying networking must evolve to support the development of integrated fixed/mobile hybrid networks."
The ITU's secretary-general, Houlin Zhao, said: "Air interfaces and radio access networks are progressing rapidly, but there is a need to devote more attention to the networking aspects of IMT-2020. Wireline communications will transform significantly in support of IMT-2020, and the coordination of ITU's standardization and radiocommunication arms will ensure that the wireline and wireless elements of future networks develop in unison."
The new group aims to complete its findings by December 2015, and present them to the ITU's standardization expert group at a meeting near year-end. Of course, it will also be influenced by the decisions made at the ITU's World Radio Conference, WRC-15, later this year. Although many of its topics, such as further allocations of digital dividend spectrum will be relevant to 4G evolution, there will be some important pointers towards 5G, especially for those operators which aim to deploy the new technologies, at least in pre-standard form, before 2020 - potentially in '4G' spectrum.
"Following on from the successful development of IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced, the standards for all of today's 3G and 4G mobile systems, the work to be carried out by ITU-T on the network aspects will be an important complement to the activities undertaken by ITU-R in developing the radio interface standards for IMT-2020," said the ITU's director of radiocommunications, Francois Rancy, in a statement.