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5G – The Road to a Super-Connected World

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VENDOR VIEW – Huawei partnered with Telecoms.com Intelligence to look at the road ahead in the development of 5G, and what steps the industry as a whole should be taking now to ensure a common strategy for the next generation mobile technology.

Written by Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman and Acting CEO, Huawei Technologies

Some people ask whether it’s too early to discuss 5G. In many countries, 4G deployment has just begun, with just 8% of global mobile connections relying on 4G, and more than 60% still using 2G.

Even so, the time to start discussing 5G is now. As we move toward the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet, new technologies are reshaping industries and society. This transformation, while exciting, poses huge challenges for mobile communications technologies. A few examples:

Connections required by IoT: As impressive as 4G is, it can only support connections numbering in the tens of billions. In the era of IoT, the number of connections will reach more than 100 billion. Everything we see will be connected: our toothbrushes, sneakers, glasses, and watches, as well as the forklifts and robotic arms used in factories. The connection capabilities of 4G are not enough to meet this future demand.

Latency required by the new industrial Internet: Applications from self-driving cars to industrial control systems will require much lower latency than existing networks can offer. For example, with 4G networks, a self-driving car travelling at 100 km/h will continue moving 1.4 meters from detecting a failure to applying the brakes. This can be the difference between life and death. A latency of 50ms is too high for self-driving cars.

Greater bandwidth. Existing 4G technology does not support the bandwidth required by holographic technology and other modes of communications emerging on the horizon.

What defines 5G

Huawei began researching 5G six years ago. We believe it will possess the following characteristics:

Ability to support a 100-fold increase in connections. The connections provided by 5G for each cell will number in the millions — exponentially more than 4G networks. 5G networks will increase the total number of global connectable smart nodes to more than 100 billion. 

An ultra-low latency of one millisecond. This will increase the response speed of 5G networks 50-fold compared to 4G.

A 10 Gbit/s user data rate. The peak data transfer rate of 5G will be 100 times faster than what is currently achievable with 4G. This means the time required to download a high-definition movie will be reduced from two or three minutes with 4G to two seconds with 5G. At such speeds, real-time visual communications and holographic multimedia interaction will become a reality. Remote education and telemedicine platforms will also be able to offer a better user experience.

Getting there from here

Making the transition to 5G will involve several steps, each with its own challenges.

  1. The development of 5G requires more open cooperation across industries. Developing 5G requires synergies between application needs, technical standards, and technological innovations. Driven by this concept, the telecom industry should open its doors and proactively embrace and dialogue with other industries to jointly define 5G standards.

The current situation still falls short of expectations. Take the Internet of Vehicles (IoV) as an example. The widely accepted standards in the automobile industry are the US’s WAVE and Europe’s C-ITS. In the wireless industry, 3GPP has set LTE-V standards. But too many standards mean no clear standard. Stakeholders should establish dialogues that recognize shared needs and unify standards. We also hope governments and industry standards organizations can play a more constructive role in this process.

  1. 5G requires many technological innovations. Rather than simply upgrade networks, 5G will totally revamp them. Ultra-high bandwidth, ultra-low latency, massive numbers of connections, super-fast mobility, all-spectrum access – all of these require 5G technology in order to advance to the next level. A few examples: 

New 5G air interface technology will significantly increase spectral efficiency. From 2G to 3G and from 3G to 4G, spectral efficiency for air interfaces increased more than three-fold. New 5G air interfaces should be designed to maintain this pace of development. Huawei has developed an adaptive and software-defined air interface framework technology that includes sparse code multiple access (SCMA), Filtered-OFDM, and Polar coding. This will significantly increase spectral efficiency and allow for more connections and an ultra-low latency of one millisecond.

Virtualization technology will enable a new 5G network architecture. 5G networks will adopt an open and software-driven architecture that will enable tens of thousands of 5G application scenarios, such as the IoV, IoT, and mobile broadband networks.

All-spectrum access. Spectrum is the scarce resource for wireless communications. We expect a five-fold increase in bandwidth as we go from 4G to 5G. This is a huge challenge as spectrums below 6 GHz are rather limited for mobile communications. To achieve all-spectrum access, we need technological innovations, combined with more spectrum allocated by regulatory authorities.

  1. Adopt effective technology commercialization strategies.

On the road to 5G, operators will be able to apply innovative technologies prior to large-scale commercial deployment. These technologies can be integrated into existing networks to increase performance and improve user experience. Operators will also enjoy more benefits, stimulate user demand, explore new markets, and get ready for the arrival of 5G.

For example, we’ve begun to incorporate our achievements into LTE-M, which allows for 100 times more connections and fully meets the demands of various scenarios such as meter readings. We think such commercialization strategies will support a smooth evolution from 4G to 5G, which will fully protect our customers’ investments. These efforts will help to maximize network performance and better stimulate demand for 5G.

Ultimately, the success of 5G will depend on the success of the entire ecosystem, one in which innovation will become the key driver behind 5G development market demand. Our ability to imagine the future is still quite limited, but we know it will be a super-connected, super-intelligent world. The doors to technological and business innovation have just begun to open, and we are at the beginning of the beginning.

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