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The Promise of 5G


Next generation wireless technology enables endless innovation.

The fifth generation of wireless technology – 5G – will deliver both huge and tiny services, ranging from spectrum-hungry broadband video programming to micro-signals for Internet of Things (IoT) devices. As technical standards are finalized and field trials proceed in the coming months, telecommunications providers and users are looking at applications that will integrate 5G into everything: entertainment, smart cities, smart cars and financial services. With technology that can operate at least 40 times – and eventually 100 times – faster than today’s standards and provide four times the coverage, 5G is a great leap toward the new services of our dreams.

“5G will be the platform for invention,” says a Qualcomm-commissioned study of the global 5G economy. The PSB Research analysis found that 91 percent of worldwide respondents expect 5G to generate “new products and services that have yet to be invented,” and 87 percent expect new industries to emerge. Along with IoT fundamentals, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, the evolving 5G ecosystem will be used with appliances, alarm systems, health monitors, parking meters and traffic signals as well as for ultra-fast wireless delivery of video and data files.

Using the research data, Qualcomm predicts that the 5G value chain will create up to 22 million jobs worldwide by 2035 and generate $3.5 trillion in global revenue.

0G (1940s-1970s): Pre-cellular mobile radio telephones, usually in vehicles or briefcase-sized cases

“5G will be a unifying, more capable communications fabric that will take on a much bigger role than previous generations of mobile technology,” explains Matt Branda, director of Technical Marketing at Qualcomm. “It’s a layer of connectivity that will become fundamental to our cities, jobs, homes and ourselves. 5G will enable VR headsets that allow us to experience the world in new ways, body sensors that monitor our health and make dietary recommendations and so much more.”

Capabilities such as “beam forming” and “beam bending” will allow 5G transmissions to go where signals have not gone before or been able to reach, such as around buildings and through dense walls. An Ericsson analysis of “5G Opportunities” identifies major applications in eight large categories: automotive, healthcare, financial services, media/gaming, utilities, public safety, high-tech manufacturing and IoT.

For example, the almost-instantaneous (“near-zero latency”) version of 5G offers several types of benefits. A doctor could “feel” a patient’s body in a distant operating room using real-time sensors and haptic interfaces. Thanks to shortened reaction time, an autonomous car could hit the brakes with a stopping distance of one inch compared to the 4.6 feet it takes today with 4G technology. Before widespread deployment of self-driving cars, automotive executives foresee 5G being used to provide quick location-based services, collision avoidance, roadside assistance and “next-generation user-based insurance,” according to Ericsson’s evaluation.

On the broadband side, 5G is seen as an alternative to fiber optics which is why Verizon has begun testing the technology in 11 markets this year.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam characterized 5G as an opportunity to expand the company’s TV and broadband internet footprint at a “miniscule” incremental cost. McAdam told an investors’ meeting in spring that the small cells cost a “fraction” of their price earlier this decade. He says that the delivery system could use today’s home router.

1G (1980s): Analog wireless telephones

“Just put some different chips in it,” McAdam says, noting that Verizon is working with Intel on router technology. He told investors that in tests with Samsung and Cisco, Verizon delivered 1.8 gigabits per second signals at a distance of 2,000 feet and even without direct line-of-sight delivery, the throughput was 1.4 gigabits per second.

McAdam calls TV/broadband via 5G a “no-brainer,” and he expects to deploy it in urban, suburban and rural communities. He characterized it as “an engine for economic growth” throughout the country.

5G means “the automation of everything,” according to Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer at Nokia. The company envisions sports stadiums where 5G lets fans watch on-field plays (and replays) from different camera angles in 4K UHD, and surgeries and complicated manufacturing commands being controlled remotely by networked robotic tools. 5G virtual reality headsets will enable both games and enterprise collaboration in real time, says Nokia in published reports.

Smart cities are often cited as a key beneficiary of 5G deployment. In its new Smart Cities Technology Roadmap, the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), an accredited standards-setting organization, focuses on “sustainable smart cities” and the integration of new technologies – including 5G – as a fundamental building block for the “high bandwidth, low latency and pervasive connectivity” needed for “citizen-centric functions, improving traffic flow, public safety and more.”

Tom Anderson, ATIS’s senior technology consultant, describes the evolving 5G use cases as “dreams that are used to create the specifications.” Anderson expects the initial 5G applications will “beam gigabit enterprise services,” but that it won’t take long for the new facilities to deliver “much higher bandwidth that can reach people and devices” throughout a community.

2G (1991): Digital telephony featured encrypted signals, more efficient spectrum use and the first data services, including text and picture messaging and multimedia message services (MMS)

“Everyone stands to gain, including startups,” he says. “Everything will flow over incumbent networks, which will see more traffic.” He expects small operators to “create cool applications that will drive these businesses.” Like others, Anderson foresees augmented reality as an initial popular application, offering users a “more immersive experience as they move through a venue.”

It is part of the migration from text messages to a full visual experience, Anderson predicts. For example, in the public service realm, first responders/firefighters could see building diagrams instantly as they rush into a burning structure or another dangerous venue.

Separately, he notes the extensive efforts to create automotive applications for smart cities, emphasizing the value of transindustry collaboration and implementation of Big Data analytics. Anderson says that cities are working with the auto industry on security and other factors that must be integrated in order to “create an environment [to enable] things you cannot do effectively today.”

As a new report, The Future of IoT in Cities, points out, the complicated planning includes everything from smart trash cans to developing public spaces in the context of transit demand, walkability, pedestrian congestion and storefront size. The study by the NetGain Partnership (backed by the Ford Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Knight Foundation, Open Society Foundations, and Mozilla Foundation) explores these complex challenges – some of which are unique to IoT.

Technology Galore

Equipment makers are revving up for the 5G evolution. Justin Denison, senior vice president of Product Strategy & Marketing at Samsung Electronics America, summarizes his company’s agenda as ranging from “4K videos and gaming in your connected self-driving car to virtual and augmented reality devices to the remote control of machinery in dangerous or hard to reach locations, for services that were never previously possible.”

3G (1998): Information transfer rates of 200 Kbits/s, paving the way for 3.5G and 3.75G which enabled the first smartphones and mobile modems in laptops

Samsung has unveiled an end-to-end portfolio of 5G mobile network products, including consumer devices for fixed wireless access connectivity, a 5G radio base station (Access Unit) and a Next-Generation Core Network infrastructure solution. Pre-commercial versions of the equipment are now in trial networks.

“Samsung has been focused on 5G R&D for nearly half a decade,” says Paul Kyungwhoon Cheun, executive vice president and Head of Next Generation Communications Business Team at Samsung Electronics. “With pre-commercial deployment of our 5G products already underway, we’re starting to see some of the earliest evidence of the potential for new and compelling 5G-driven services.”

Intel has just opened its Autonomous Driving Garage at its San Jose innovation center. It’s the latest factor in Intel’s 5G agenda, which includes a “massive antenna array” chip with 64 antennas (expandable to 256) that enables ultra-high-capacity millimeter-wave frequencies to be sent in specific directions. Among its initiatives, Intel is collaborating with China Mobile and Huawei for a second-phase 5G trial in China, which will test “how to make these connections intelligent.”

In the financial services category, 5G is expected to power highly secure transactions. Financial advisers could conduct secure remote sessions with clients, using cloud-based services to partition various users and information. Mobile trading and high-frequency trading as well as advanced insurance apps will also be enabled by 5G.

Developing The 5G Infrastructure

“We are looking at IoT in the 5G era where proximity sensing – which connects the digital world (mobile devices) with the physical world (location) – is poised to have a major impact on industry operations,” explains Dave Hagan, CEO and Chairman of Boingo Wireless and Chairman of CTA’s Executive Board. “We will continue to collaborate with carriers, venues, end users and industry standards groups to help shape a seamlessly connected society.”

4G (2008): Added mobile broadband internet access, including mobile web, cloud computing and high-definition mobile video. The 4.5G upgrade encompassed “Long-Term Evolution” technology (2009-2010).

Hagan believes that collaboration on what he calls “the new wireless frontier” is the keystone for 5G expansion. “Start at the edge and transition networks from being focused independently on B2B or B2C solutions to a B2B2C model,” Hagan says.

“To realize 5G, close collaboration will be required between 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), IEEE and all parties involved – mobile network operators, carriers, OEMs, device manufacturers, government entities and cable operators. We’re all in this together,” he says. Los Angeles-based Boingo operates small cell networks for cellular extension services, today mostly in the Wi-Fi range.

Boingo CTO Dr. Derek Peterson says the 5G infrastructure “requires a reimagined network” that leverages today’s underlay architecture, “bringing together network virtualization, edge computing and cloud-based control, which delivers seamless connectivity in nearly any environment to the end user.” We need both Wi-Fi and LTE and future versions of these networks to balance the service needs and costs associated with building and maintaining 5G networks,” Peterson adds.

Today’s frenzy of 5G development, field testing and deal-making present a challenging ecosystem. Countless groups are involved in setting technical standards. For example, the 3GPP, a consortium of seven global standards-development “organizational partners” that worked on earlier wireless standards, is establishing 5G specifications. The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, a Germany-based organization of 80 mobile operators, manufacturers and researchers, is, among other things, examining 5G use cases for their diverse requirements in such categories as user experience, system performance, enhanced services, business models and network operation.

The newly formed 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) also based in Germany, includes electronics companies and automakers on a quest to identify, test and promote communications solutions for connected mobility. It seeks to address mobility and road safety needs along with connected infotainment and automated driving features.

Meanwhile, the vast array of potential 5G applications grows almost daily. Google is reportedly testing solar-powered drones that could expand 4G signals. The results may be translated into other aviation uses, as well as for video production and surveillance. Power utilities foresee 5G machine-to-machine connections as economical tools to measure equipment performance and to protect valuable assets in distant and hazardous locations.

5G (due 2020): Enables hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections, including massive sensor deployments, enhanced spectrum efficiency, improved coverage and reduced latency.

An Ericsson 5G report is enthusiastic about the role that 5G will play for online stores, social networks and digital organizations starting with improvements in ridesharing and travel services. “Building more connections is a priority for internet/digital natives,” the study found. It cites improvements in large-scale, real-time crowd sourcing, increased connectivity to multiple devices, greater access to remote users (to enlarge the audience) and “the tactile internet” as primary goals for 5G use cases.

Qualcomm’s Branda sums up the near-term outlook. “The focus of the industry should be on introducing 5G services based on the global 5G standard, 5G NR (New Radio),” he says. Pointing out that all four major U.S. wireless carriers support the first 5G NR specification, Branda frets that mobile networks in other parts of the world may take different approaches for 5G NR deployments to reduce the chance for “a coordinated information blast.”

“Due to the diversity of services and deployment/business models, 5G will not be a one-size-fits-all network. 5G NR will be a platform for innovation that will allow different mobile network operators and different industries to offer very diverse services and business models based on 5G. You will see lots of experimentation and completely new business models emerge,” he says.

“We have been inventing and designing the building blocks for 5G NR for many years, long before the 3GPP standardization efforts kicked off,” Branda adds, citing Qualcomm’s earlier work on 4G-LTE technology. “LTE Advanced Pro is not only providing a first glimpse of 5G technologies and use cases, it will also play an essential role in tomorrow’s 5G connected world.”

What Carriers Expect for 5G

Here are 5G perspectives from the major U.S. wireless carriers. All four companies sit on CTA’s Wireless Division Board.

AT&T President of Internet of Things Solutions Chris Penrose

While speed is important for 5G, the true 5G promise is much more. 5G will unlock new experiences such as augmented realities, virtual presence, driverless cars, telemedicine and connected homes and it will help enable management of the upcoming “massive” IoT explosion, which is projected to bring 20 billion connected devices in coming years. 5G will add a new dimension to our multi-network strategy that enables us to address a full range of use cases for our customers via cellular, satellite, Wi-Fi and low-power wide area networks.

Our goal is to create a seamless fabric of networks. We expect 5G technology to enable lower latency, increase battery life and handle more data. We’re making great, tangible progress in 5G through real-world field trials and lab testing to help set 5G industry standards. We currently have 5G labs operating in Austin, TX; Middletown, NJ; Atlanta, GA; and San Ramon, CA; as we march toward full commercial deployment. We’re not waiting until the final standards are set to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G. We will support next-generation applications with our software-based, Big Data and Open Source network approach, combined with our spectrum position and broadband build-out commitment. As the industry works toward 5G standards, we’re promoting open collaboration.

T-Mobile Vice President of Engineering Karri Kuoppamaki

Nationwide consumer mobility is the biggest 5G opportunity. We expect to see new innovations and applications built for nationwide 5G. Smartphones will be much, much faster. 5G enables low-cost, continually-connected, embedded sensors with decade long battery life so everything you own is trackable. Imagine augmented reality heads-up displays with real-time information and real-time augmented reality translation.

You can see more of what T-Mobile envisions 5G will bring in our vision video and our nationwide 5G video. T-Mobile expects to bring 5G services across the U.S. starting in 2019, with nationwide coverage in 2020. We believe that true mobile 5G must be nationwide and T-Mobile is committed to deliver nationwide 5G coverage.

Sprint Vice President of Technology Dr. Ron Marquardt

Sprint’s priority is mobile 5G. We expect augmented reality and virtual reality to be important in the consumer space. This is unique and different from LTE and it will require different business models from today’s handset-based model. For example, smart factories will likely generate a great deal of traffic, but most of it is expected to remain private to the enterprise or factory and will not be transmitted across our entire network.

We also see great promise with IoT. 5G will make IoT much more scalable and cost-effective to deploy widely. Sprint, Qualcomm Technologies, and SoftBank have jointly agreed to develop technologies for 5G, including the 3GPP New Radio (NR) standard in Band 41 (2.5GHz) for accelerated wide-scale 5G deployments. The companies plan to provide commercial services and devices in late 2019. Sub-6 GHz spectrum such as 2.5 GHz will be foundational for providing nationwide 5G coverage. Millimeter and centimeter wave bands will serve as capacity hotspots, providing the highest capacity and throughput where needed. Some early deployments of 5G in the U.S. will be for fixed services. To the degree that our competitors label this as 5G it will cause confusion in the marketplace because consumers are used to each generation as being a service specifically tethered to their phone.

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Verizon Vice President of Network Planning Adam Koeppe

Fixed wireless use cases and applications that require very low latency are the focus of our pre-commercial 5G network deployments. VR, robotics and autonomous vehicles are initial examples of applications that 5G will power. Longer term, 5G will enable a new class of mobile applications and provide tremendous growth opportunities in IoT. Pre-commercial trials are underway in 11 markets and we expect to have trial customers in the second half of 2017. With continued success of the trials, we expect to launch our fixed commercial 5G service in 2018, with mobility expected in the 2019 timeframe.

Our positioning will remain the same for this network technology launch as every other launch. We’d like to see a standard set as soon as possible by the 3GPP. We’re working hard with our 5G Technology Forum partners to help influence that. Another potential challenge could be marketplace confusion created by players who claim 5G, but are not delivering true 5G. As we’ve done before, we’ll educate customers and industry observers alike by showing them, not telling them, what true 5G technology is capable of delivering.

Gary Arlen

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