Article on status of 5G in 2016
How 5G is shaping up
Still in its development stage, its massive speed, network capacity, lower latency and ubiquitous connectivity are reasons that 5G mobile technology is attracting much attention globally. Although global standards have yet to be set, regulatory authorities, network operators, vendors and special interest groups of all ilks are investing resources with an eye towards a stake in what could be a very fruitful pie.
In winter 2016, the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) commissioned a global survey that shows how 5G is shaping up, with the support of InterDigital and Tolaga Research.
Current and future strategies
The network operators surveyed had annual service revenues ranging from US$1 billion to US$146 billion. They span Europe (32 percent), Asia and Oceania (24 percent), North America (22 percent), Latin America (15 percent) and Africa (7 percent). In-depth interviews were conducted by Tolaga with 19 out of the 31 qualified network operators, who responded.
The survey brings into focus the current and future 5G strategies of network operators. It reveals that 32 percent of respondents have already begun technology trials, and a further 26 percent are planning to undertake 5G trials in the next two years. About half of respondents expect to make 5G investments in their capital expenditure by the end of 2020. By this time, 33 percent of respondents expect their companies will be offering commercial 5G services.
Next generation launches before standardisation
The survey added that 5G is unusual in that extensive trials are being conducted even though the standardization process will not be complete for several more years. The slew of trials being aggressively pursued will play a critical role in determining the initial 5G services that operators are likely to deploy.
One highlight is the joint development programme between EU and South Korea with 700 million euros and 1.1 billion euros committed by the parties, respectively. It is notable that almost a third of respondents plan to launch pre-standard 5G products. They are prompted to invest in pre-standard 5G in line with politically motivated efforts by nation-states and to achieve competitive advantage, even accelerating their development programmes to coincide with major events, according to the TIA survey.
Global events catalysts for pre-standard 5G services
The winter Olympics in South Korea in 2018 and summer Olympics in 2020 in Japan are two global events where consumers may get to experience pre-standard 5G, according to InterDigital, a pioneer in mobile technology, in a separate whitepaper.
The report highlighted the race to demonstrate some form of 5G at the winter and summer Olympics by South Korea and Japan, respectively. Giving examples, it cited scenarios where spectators can switch between vantage points, from a player’s connected HD camera to a bird’s eye stadium or drone view, or even enjoy 3D holograms and renditions of the sports action. Spectators can also choose which athlete they want to follow for an event taking place over a wide area or live stream short clips to friends, barring broadcasting restrictions. It will also be feasible for spectators to obtain a pop up providing biodata on athletes they point their phone cameras at.
Ultimately, self-driving vehicles are good examples of a development ideally suited for 5G which is capable of cutting down time lag of ubiquitous connections to single digit millisecond, a goal not attainable with 4G. The TIA survey reveals that 70 percent of respondents see the opportunities and identified 5G autonomous vehicles as very or extremely important.
While variations of 4G technology are measured in megabits per second for connections, the next generation of mobile service is into the league of gigabits per second. It will add a whole new dimension of experience for users and opportunities for network providers across all aspects of work and living. As such 73 percent of respondents expect 5G will fuel unprecedented demand for industrial automation applications, given its massive connection densities and low latency connectivity capabilities.
Many hurdles need to be overcome across existing and new component wireless technologies to understand the complexities and to determine performance parameters in practical operating environments. After the trial and deployment activities through to design priorities for various component technologies, there is a requirement for harmonisation of standards, systems and radio frequencies for 5G to work seamlessly across different global regions.
At a 5G World event in London this month (June), Deutsche Telkom called for ‘radical changes’ to successfully prepare for the challenges of the next generation mobile technology. As reported in mobilewordlive.com, Uwe Janssen, VP of innovation and research said that investing in 5G would require looking at fixed access, mobile access and the core network – where it was getting hard to draw the line between fixed and mobile. He also warned of the issues facing network operators which have only ‘a handful of suppliers left in the industry’.
He drew attention to a 2016 Barclays study which predicted ‘only a few global operators would be able to participate in all three main projected fields of 5G enhanced mobile broadband, massive IoT and ultra-reliable and low-latency networks.