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How Global 5G is Truly Transformational

Chris Pearson
President, 5G Americas

September 04, 2019

For years, the promise of 5G has been dangling in front of us, with visions of being able to change the world. Its ability to greatly improve network speeds, manage more devices, have better coverage, use more spectrum, be more energy efficient, and offer lower network latency have profound implications across every industry with social, economic and technological effects.

Network operators and equipment manufacturers have been working furiously in the labs and in the field. Countless engineers, testers, network architects, and technicians have spent untold hours to bring us to this point: 5G is here now.  A commercial reality at the very beginning of its technological lifetime.

Our latest 5G Americas white paper Global 5G: Implications of a Transformational Technology, provided by Rysavy Research working with 5G Americas member technical experts, walks us through the landscape of the 5G world. In the paper, we look at how we arrived at this point and where we’re headed.

The past few months of 5G commercial network launches have been a whirlwind of interest for the wireless industry. As of July 2019, there were 23 commercial networks launched worldwide that adhered to 3GPP standardized 5G technology, according to research firm TeleGeography. That number is anticipated to grow to about 50 commercial 5G networks worldwide by the end of 2019.

These 5G networks will handle the explosive growth of mobile data. Cisco forecasts that by 2022, nearly 12 percent of global mobile traffic will come from 5G, which equates to over 422 million 5G capable devices generating approximately 21 GB of traffic per month. The intensity of the traffic equates to 46% annual growth and an estimated 3.9 billion IoT connections by 2022.

5G: What’s the big deal?

How will 5G networks be able to handle all the increased demand for mobile wireless data? According to Rysavy Research, wireless network capacity doubles every three years. Expanding capacity of the networks is being driven by more (and more efficiently used) spectrum, increased density of cells, smarter antennas, increased fiber density, and improved core and edge network architecture.

These efforts are resulting in 5G networks that offer several improvements over existing 4G LTE networks. 5G has improved network capacity and throughput with peak data speeds up to 20 Gbps downlinks and up to 10 Gbps uplinks. It will have standardized network architecture to support up to one million devices per square kilometer and manage devices that are moving up to 500 kilometers per hour.

In addition, a fully developed 5G network can be over 100 times as energy efficient as a 4G LTE network, while offering one millisecond network latency time. 5G also offers spectrum support for many frequencies, including spectrum bands above 6 GHz (millimeter wave), availability of Time Division and Fixed Division Duplex (TDD & FDD) communications modes, and use of licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

Moreover, the transition to 5G has been happening simultaneously with continued advances in 4G LTE. Because 5G New Radios (5G NR) interoperate with 4G networks, they can be integrated on top of them – which means 5G is delivering its enhancements while 4G LTE continues to be built up.

While 5G is being built, 4G LTE continues to be enhanced with a variety of technologies like Gigabit LTE with Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), Carrier Aggregation, Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), unlicensed band integration, virtualization and high order Multi-In Multi-Out (MIMO). The result is a multi-generational seamless wireless network of the 2020’s that will see greater densification of small cells that will operate at higher spectrum frequencies, such as millimeter wave, for capacity.

Wireless Present & Wireless Future

5G’s Impacts on Cities and the Enterprise

Indeed, 5G can change industries like retail by providing new brick and mortar experiences, the automotive industry with intelligent traffic systems, manufacturing with smart factories, and health care with telemedicine done over 5G networks.

Infrastructure vendors are even using 5G in their own factories to make even more 5G products!

Autonomous vehicles get a boost with 5G cellular V2X technologies that enable do-not-pass warnings, blind-curve hazard warnings, road-works warnings, blind-intersection assistance, coordinated driving with intention sharing, coordinated trains of vehicles (platooning), bicyclist and pedestrian alerts, sensor sharing, left-turn assistance, and real-time driving.

Public safety will build on LTE improvements that enable video and data; proximity-based services, prioritization on congested networks, high power user equipment, isolated operations and relays. 

With these types of improvements, 5G network operators and equipment manufacturers are already discovering new revenue models. What partnerships could occur with the impact that mobile video had on the industry? What new markets could arise with Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled image-recognition capabilities built into 5G sensors? How could drones send gigabytes of video data back on 5G networks to cloud or edge servers?

5G is a technology enabler for the Fourth Industrial Revolution

The Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies of 5G, AI, IoT, cloud and edge computing, robotics, and digital medicine are truly beginning to converge. According to a Deloitte study, 5G will facilitate many emerging technologies – such as autonomous vehicles, mobile payments, and remote monitoring and control. It reported around 80% of the businesses are already prepared for the disruptions that emerging technologies could cause in the next three years.

Growing complexity requires fast, comprehensive, resilient & responsive 5G networks

At the same time, 5G and wireless networks are also being impacted by these same technologies, just as much as it’s enabling them. Technologies are re-inventing the way networks are architected. Key technologies such as AI, Virtualization, Edge Computing, Massive MIMO, and information-centric networking are radically altering the architecture and functionality of today’s wireless networks.

For instance, artificial intelligence and machine learning are being used to manage the growing complexity of 5G networks. Multiple companies that specialize in software-defined networking (SDN) are applying principles of cloud computing to the network.

The Roadmap to Full 5G

The roadmap to full-featured 5G will continue to change with new enhancements over the next decade. Full-featured 5G is occurring in three phases. Phase I (Release 15) was completed in 2019. Phase II (Release 16) is underway – and (Release 17) is expected to be completed in 2021.

  • Phase I – operate in any frequency band; support LTE and 5GNR including dual connectivity; massive MIMO, beamforming; improved carrier aggregation; future proofing; comprehensive security architecture; network slicing.
  • Phase II – unlicensed below 7 GHz; integrated access and backhaul; industrial IoT; NR-based Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X); commercial and regulatory uses; device energy efficiency; satellite network studies
  • Release 17 – NR-light for wearables and IoT with power saving; operation above 52.6 GHz; multi-SIM operation; new radio multicast and broadcast; support for unmanned aerial vehicles and satellite; more industrial IoT; sidelink for V2X, commercial and critical comms; multiple improvements in MIMO, coverage, integrated access backhaul (IAB), unlicensed operation, positioning.
Roadmap to complete 5G

As 5G develops over the next decade, even more improvements will occur across the radios, networks, distributed computer intelligence, and standards. Peak throughput speeds could reach one terabit per second. Typical speeds could be in the hundreds of gigabits per second.

Wireline broadband replacement could be viable for nearly all users. Super high resolution will be available. Immersive telepresence and 3D holographic capabilities will emerge. 99.9999999% (Nine “nines”) of network uptime reliability will be achievable. In terms of latency, even greater timing precision will be possible.

As you can see, the future of 5G wireless communications is very bright. Much like the “overnight Hollywood sensation” that’s taken ten years toiling away to hone his or her craft, the development of 5G networks has been years in the making. The next ten years will see even more technological improvements that will have long lasting social and economic affects.

5G will be a smash hit.


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