Whilst 4G might only just have started to be appreciated by personal and business users, the wireless industry is already awash with discussions about 5G. Whilst Boris Johnson’s prediction that London will have 5G by 2020 is ambitious, it’s a solid bet to say it will start to be rolled out – in some form – in the early part of the 2020s, with a few non-standard networks trialling it before this (at the Tokyo Olympics, for example).
But at the same time, the reality is that the 5G technology isn’t actually defined yet. To make matters more complicated, there’s little appetite for rolling out an expensive new generation of cellular technology that only offers the “usual” higher speeds and bigger capacity benefits we have come to expect.
Instead, 5G is aiming to be the first wireless generation that is designed to explicitly cater to the needs of specific vertical industries. These could be anything from the emergency services, to broadcasting, smart highways, and utility networks.
As a result, the industry is fully aware that the end technology will need to be hugely flexible, capable of providing wide range connectivity to wireless sensors in remote locations, through to the short delay communications required to meet the needs of M2M. There are also niche use cases, such as in hyperdense venues like stadiums, where it needs be capable of handling tens of gigabits per second of data.
This in turn requires new, more flexible network architectures at all levels. The core network needs to be able to route traffic quickly and efficiently, adapting to suit the current application and available transport networks. The radio network needs to be flexible enough to suit the various needs of immensely different applications, some of which could be decades of battery life, gigabits of speeds, and milliseconds of latency…
…fingers crossed it’s not having to provide all of those at the same time!
To meet this need, and to ensure that 5G becomes a timely reality, Real Wireless is playing a key role in the research it first requires via initiatives, which include:
1. The EC socio-economic analysis – Catering to all these needs could prove immensely expensive, it’s therefore particularly important we closely examine the business case of the new business models it could enable – and the associated social and economic benefits these in turn could provide.
In May, the European Commission launched a 12-month study into the socioeconomic benefits of 5G. The study will help provide a better understanding of the potential impact that 5G will have in a variety of industries including health and travel.
After working with the European Commission on several other projects, Real Wireless was selected, along with three other key independent project stakeholders, to perform the analysis for this assessment.
The study will include a series of stakeholder hearings starting on 22nd September and a workshop on 19th October.
2. 5G Architecture research – The technological elements of 5G are – and will continue to be – the subject of intensive international research over the next few years. Real Wireless is contributing to this research, some of which is being funded by the EU – to the tune of €700million, no less – including as part of its 5GPP programme.
A great example of our involvement in this work is our recently announced 5G NORMA project. In this piece of work, we are working to identify the optimum architectures for 5G – you can find more details on this here.
3. Membership of research centres – The 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey is the UK’s only research centre dedicated to the next generation of mobile communications.
Real Wireless is now a pioneering SME member of the centre and will advise it on regulatory, technical and business challenges — driving the delivery of a mobile communications network capable of meeting the tomorrow’s needs.
We have also been contributing to the work of the world-renowned CONNECT research centre at Trinity College Dublin.
With the upward trend in mobile device adoption levels, 5G will become the crucial network underpinning almost every application, so the work we do now is crucial to ensure the infrastructure is ready when the world needs it.
It’s therefore important to us that we continue to play a key role in the development of the technology – both from an economic and technological standpoint.
Our work is also not without direct benefits for Real Wireless customers. Our insight in to the development process allows us to provide truly informed advice to both wireless industry players who wish to establish a position towards 5G, and to our wireless user customers who want to be sure that they are best placed to make the most of 5G’s potential to address their particular needs – at a time which is right for them.