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5G is coming and it is the future of mobile

Alan Carlton | June 27, 2016
In 5G, wireless will grow up into a true horizontal industry that provides a support system for literally everything.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

February 1st, 2016, a date that I am sure will inspire an equal measure of panic and excitement among those on the frontier of mobile communications. Mobile World Congress (MWC), our industry's flagship event, kicks off in a little over three weeks, and the scramble to get new products, demos, and presentations ready and sparkling is now entering the final stretch. As usual, the present and future of mobile will be on display at MWC, and this future is very bright. From the guarded whispers of 5G last year, I am sure what we will see in a few weeks' time will be some much bigger shouts.

It is fair to say that it is still early days for 5G, but research efforts have been rolling for some time and standardization is expected to start in the next few months. Perhaps the two most-cited requirements in 5G are the 1000x improvement in peak data rates (on LTE 2010) and a big reduction in end-to-end latency. These KPIs are important, of course, and keep us engineers pointed in the right direction. But really, they only tell a small part of the 5G story.

A better way to understand 5G is first through a historical lens. It is astonishing to reflect that this mobile industry adventure really only began a little over 20 years ago with the proliferation of GSM. In those days, peak data rate support was a massive 9.6 kbps! Today, deployed LTE systems have improved upon this metric by 100000x. Presented in this context, the 1000x goal of 5G doesn't really seem so crazy, does it? GSM or 2G, of course, was not designed for data. 2G was designed really for only one thing: basic telephony applications. 3G raised the bar with a specification that supported more voice users and the beginnings of a mobile internet.

4G took this further with the first real system designed principally to support video. It is this evolution that has driven the 100000x. And further, it is this service roadmap that has also driven latency reduction on a parallel path. At the simplest level, 5G will certainly be about more of this. However, the true 5G vision is a lot more interesting.

In 5G, wireless will grow up into a true horizontal industry that provides a support system for literally everything. 5G is the first generation to target supporting the full array of vertical markets (e.g. Automotive, Transport, and Health) that in themselves will define the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). This is the real 5G challenge, and in this respect 5G and the IoT are simply two sides of the same coin. Think about this challenge: what do a car and a thermostat have in common? They are all part of the IoT! So, how will 5G go about tackling this "everything" challenge?

 

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