5G: A Year in Review

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The Good, The Better, and The Future

5G has been the topic of much attention and hype over 2016, and will continue to be so throughout 2017. Ever since the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) published its 5G White Paper at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, 5G has been one of the major driving forces of industry speculation and innovation. More recently, the US took some significant steps forward when the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to open the millimeter wave band spectrum for 5G development. This, coupled with the White Houses’ new Advanced Wireless Research Initiative, have done much to raise hopes and expectations of 5G development in the United States.

5g_fig1_122016

A visualization of the process of cell virtualization, where spectrum blocks are assigned every millisecond.

As we reach milestone after milestone on the path towards 5G deployment through 2016, there are several key moments which deserve reflection and consideration, as we move into 2017.

When the NGMN released their White Paper, the mobile operator community described 3 broad use cases for their vision for 5G. These are:
1. Enhanced mobile broadband
2. Massive Internet of Things deployment
3. Low latency-high reliability applications

Considering the key performance requirements for these use cases, the 5G White Paper took a view that future network architecture must be based on Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Network (SDN) if it is to be dynamically reconfigurable and future-proofed against the rapid introduction of new services. This will be unsurprising to many in the mobile operator business, who have seen large-scale adoption of both NFV and SDN through 2016.

5g_fig2_122016

CommScope’s cell virtualization with OneCell is a C-RAN small cell solution.

Another key milestone revolved around the 3GPP standards body committing to 2 phases for the initial standardization of 5G — with Phase 1 set to be completed by mid-2018. Following this, the second phase is scheduled to be completed toward the end of 2019, which will be the formal mobile technology for the IMT 2020 submission, with the intention of addressing all identified use cases and requirements for 5G technology.

In more recent news, the 3GPP has now published both the associated deployment scenarios and formal performance requirements that will be used for the design of the 5G radio system technology. It was decided that for Phase 1, the New Radio will support sub-6 GHz and mmWave spectrum, and must work both with and without LTE.

From a spectrum perspective, we’ve seen a lot of progress, particularly by the World Radiocommunication Council. The council has set aside various global frequency bands for new 5G technology, including the 700MHz and 3.5 GHz. Not only this, but the council has begun to evaluate 11 mmWave frequency bands for harmonization at the next WRC meeting, to be held in 2016. Considering that the mmWave spectrum has been a priority in the US, with several operators announcing imminent trials at 28GHz, this will be a welcome decision. With the FCC’s opening up of the high-band, millimeter wave spectrum, 2016 saw the US truly take the mantle as the most advanced in the world when it comes to 5G technological development.

Many operators have begun deploying NFV and SDN technology in order to support and grow their 4G networks; this is seen as a key part of the future end-to-end architecture of 5G. The virtualization of network functionality will also be including part of the radio access network, in addition to the core.

In 2017, mobile edge computing will be one technology being developed and standardized to support low latency use cases. The new year will also see the technical specification on the next-generation core network finalized.

Test beds have been planned at a global level in anticipation of upcoming trials of 5G technology, organized by governments, operators, and even universities and suppliers. As leading industry organizations are continuing to help marshal resources, while simultaneously painting the 5G roadmap, there are several key groups to keep an eye on. These include:

5g_fig3_122016The U.S. Advanced Wireless Industry Consortium — Announced recently by the White House, this consortium includes more than 20 companies and organizations who will contribute resources for 4 city-scale 5G wireless research platforms. These platforms will provide opportunities for researchers to collaboratively shape and focus fundamental research in areas such as millimeter wave, dynamic spectrum, 5G architectures, and white space.
(https://nsf.gov/cise/advancedwireless/ and https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2016/nsf16585/nsf16585.htm)

5g_fig4_1220165Tonic — This open research and innovation laboratory for 5G founded by Telefonica and IMDEA Networks, has been testing CommScope’s Cell Virtualization with OneCell. (www.5tonic.org)

5g_fig5_1220165G Americas — The Board of Governors of 5G Americas (formerly 4G Americas) is an influential industry trade organization composed of leading telecommunications service providers and manufacturers. (www.5gamericas.org)

5g_fig6_122016Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance — This group is focused on 5G and accelerating the development of LTE-Advanced and its ecosystem. (https://www.ngmn.org/home.html)

Considering all of the activity we have seen through 2016, it is amazing to consider how rapidly 5G development has occurred. There is no doubt that the bridge to 5G will include the progressive evolution of LTE. As such, 5G will succeed only in applications where it can offer significant advantages over LTE — an advancement that an entire industry is endeavoring to make happen.

To read or download “NGMN 5G White Paper”, published by Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (NGMN) at the 2015 Mobile World Congress, please visit https://www.ngmn.org/fileadmin/ngmn/content/downloads/Technical/2015/NGMN_5G_White_Paper_V1_0.pdf.

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About Author

Kevin Linehan is VP in the office of CTO for CommScope. His responsibilities include the monitoring of industry trends, technologies, and standards as they relate to wireless technology and product development. Kevin is also responsible for the scouting, evaluation, and introduction of emerging antenna systems technologies through collaborative innovation and strategic alliances. Prior to CommScope, his responsibilities included management and design positions for base station antennas, terrestrial microwave antennas, and earth station antennas. For more information, please email kevin.linehan@commscope.com or visit www.commscope.com.

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