Head of Wireless Business Unit
Regional initiatives on 5G are already under way in Japan, South Korea, China, USA and Europe. Cooperation is also being established between these regional initiatives in order to foster R&D and standardization work.
Even though standardisation for 5G has not yet started, there is already a broad consensus on what kind of performance 5G technology will have to support.
• 5G will have to be suited to a whole raft of services, ranging from consumer services to any vertical market in the industry, going through public safety organisations. Whereas 4G was rather conceived purely as a mobile broadband technology, 5G will have to be flexible enough to allow new services or business models to emerge.
• 5G will thus have to function on any kind of spectrum, be it low or very high spectrum, shared, licensed or unlicensed. It will need to collaborate more easily with other technologies (terrestrial or not), perform perfectly in both densely-populated and rural areas, and operate in traditional cellular mode as well as in new mode, such as in mesh/relay mode when necessary.
• 5G will also have, of course, to be more spectrally efficient but also more energy efficient to allow new use cases, new devices or objects to emerge and communicate with the resources available. Together with energy efficiency, cost efficiency will play an important role in 5G.
• In terms of concrete specifications, METIS, the EU-funded project, defines 5G as a technology to support mobile data volumes 1,000 times higher per area; numbers of connected devices 10 to 100 times higher; typical user data rates 10 times to 100 times higher; battery life 10 times longer for low power MMC; and end-to-end latency five times lower.
5G will not just be about improved throughputs but about the good throughput for the right user, on average and not just in theory. Although 4G has improved throughputs quite a lot as compared to 3G, there is a sizeable difference between peak throughputs and average throughputs. As an example, with 5G, the target is to provide 50 Mbps connectivity everywhere, thus addressing both coverage and capacity issues.
The efforts to reach standardisation of 5G will begin with the Release 14 of LTE but will continue in further releases. The 3GPP has started to make plans for its upcoming standardisation with the submission of the technology to the IMT 2020 process in ITU-R. Under 3GPP plans, work on requirements should start by the end of 2015, lasting until end-2017, when proposals should begin for standardisation work to gradually start in the first half of 2018, lasting until 2020. This standardisation process should first enable 5G deployment below 6 GHz while the final specification will have to enable the support for all the candidate bands.
The IMT-2020 requires that the technology be submitted by June 2019 with a high-level description, and by October 2020 with a complete description. The first submission is aimed at enabling an initial evaluation of the technology against the IMT 2020 requirements. The initial plans of 3GPP are to have the technology in frozen stage by December 2019.
Looking further into details, the various initiatives worldwide do agree, relatively speaking, on the same roadmap to be followed. There should be an initial focus on mobile broadband use case in order to secure the transition between LTE and 5G since this is the main LTE use case.
In this first phase, the focus would be on lower frequencies but there does not seem to be any consensus on what ‘lower frequencies’ means. Some players – a minority of them, it should be said – consider that these development and standardisation efforts should focus on frequencies below 6 GHz while others, such as Ericsson, Nokia and Qualcomm, think that the frequency bands between 3 and 30-40 GHz should be addressed straight away in the first phase while the second phase would address the whole frequency range envisioned, i.e. from 1 GHz to 100 GHz.
Learn more about the nascent 5G framework in our in-depth market report