Predicting the Unpredictable: 5G in 2017

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Thursday, January 12, 2017 with No comments

The thing about 5G is, it doesn’t exist yet. But, that isn’t stopping operators and vendors from making educated guesses about what it will mean for their future business models, and focusing their investments with the next generation of mobile telecom in mind.

Around the globe, industry players are engaging in technology trials intended to be the building blocks of 5G. A few examples: KT with ZTE and Ericsson in South Korea, Telus and Huawei in Canada, TIM in Italy, Telstra and Ericsson in Australia, and U.S. Cellular and Ericsson in the U.S.

For 2017, prognosticators including Phillip Tracy at RCRWireless News, Ben Cardwell from CommScope, and Ronny Haraldsvik from KodaCloud see operators investing in technologies that address the continuing data traffic explosion, and that open up new revenue stream opportunities. This year, it’s likely mobile networks will become more densified, more virtualized, and more converged.

IoT and Connected Cars

Everyone seems to agree that connected cars and the Internet of Things (IoT) are major use cases for 5G, and that these will be a big focus for operators during 2017. By way of evidence, Telecom Ramblings’ Rob Powell cited several examples:
  • 5G-NR trials planned for second half 2017 by Qualcomm, Ericsson, and AT&T, using millimeter wave spectrum and sub-6Ghz spectrum to significantly increase bandwidth.
  • A connected car 5G pilot project being undertaken by Ericsson, Orange, and PSA group.
  • ‘ConVeX’ field trial in Germany of 3GPP-R14 vehicle-to-everything technology by Qualcomm, Ericsson, AUDI, and SWARCO Traffic Systems.
  • Verizon's plans to release a development kit for its ThingSpace IoT platform, leveraging Qualcomm’s Cat-M1 LTE modem, with the goal of spurring IoT development. 
One thing you’ll probably notice is that Ericsson and Qualcomm keep coming up in these examples; it’s obvious they’ve “been very busy stirring the post on connected things wirelessly,” Powell noted. He predicted 2017 will bring a better idea of how 5G is more than just an improvement on 4G, concrete examples of practical applications for connected car technologies, and how IoT will turn 5G buzz into reality. No doubt, other vendors and carriers will engage in parallel projects.

On the Edge

Edge computing is another important aspect of 5G development in the backhaul network.

“Rather than having to backhaul traffic generated by applications to a data center, service providers of all sizes will soon be able to provide interactive experiences with real-time applications that run at the edge of their networks,” predicted SDxCentral analyst and reporter Michael Vizard.
When mobile computing devices become capable of much higher bandwidth rates (say, 10 gb/s), that will open up possibilities for many new applications, including augmented and virtual reality, deployed at the network edge. Vizard thinks this change will start with cellular base stations, the first step toward revolutionizing the mobile user experience.

In short, Vizard said the promises of 5G can’t be realized advances being made at the edge of the network.

The concept of edge computing can be taken to an extreme with ‘fog computing,’ which means introducing IT resources into end-user equipment. In the broad IoT market, this capability could support applications like real-time image processing by car-mounted cameras, noted Light Reading News Editor Iain Morris.

Mobile operators may not be eager to adopt fog computing, though, because it will have the most revenue benefits for other players like manufacturers and software developers. But it may be the only practical way to deliver some types of 5G services.

Slicing and Dicing

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that 5G will be built on the the concept of network slicing: splitting a single physical network into multiple virtual networks. This is important, said RCR Wireless contributing writer Juan Pedro Tomas, because 5G networks will involve integration of cross-domain networks, not just a new radio access technology.

Network slicing allows operators to use the as-a-service model to deliver a wide range of 5G use cases, each with their own specific requirements. For example, Tomas noted, augmented reality services and smart meters place different demands on network resources.

What's Next? 

Have a prediction about 5G in 2017? Leave a comment below. 

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