Entries in 5G (3)
The 5G genie has finally escaped from the bottle. After the first day of MWC I wrote this piece about the relatively restrained advocacy for 5G radio access technologies. For the record, among the big four vendors, only two actually have a candidate technology: Alcatel-Lucent's UF-OFDM and Huawei's SCMA/F-OFDM combo. Ericsson and Nokia are weighing their options.
Within hours a proliferation of groups emerged to stake out their 5G territory (no, I'm not suggesting a causal connection). Heavy Reading analyst Gabriel Brown points out the emergence of these different interests is no bad thing:
“It's good if you're an operator or a vendor to have done work before you go into standardisation because then you come armed with something useful to contribute,” Brown says. “The standardisation progress will go better if there has been proprietary work.”
The 5G process will take up a lot of industry air time over the next five years. It's a tight timetable. NTT DoCoMo wants a commercial-ready network for the 2020 Olympics and the Koreans are keen to have at least a demo system for the 2018 Winter Games.
But Takehiro Nakamura, MD of the NTT DoCoMo 5G Lab, worries that countries outside northeast Asia don't have the same sense of urgency. They have “a very relaxed schedule – 2021, 2023 even as late as 2025.”
Plus he thinks the lack of a rival technology might itself be a hindrance. “Competitiveness is important to promote systems development and system enhancement,” he said, citing 3GPP vs. 3GPP2 and LTE vs. Wimax. “Thanks to that competition, we developed our new system very quickly. Everybody could focus on the same direction.”
That said, there is, following the stunning success of LTE, a widely-expressed sentiment that the industry get to agreement on 5G.
But with aspirations to support a thousand-fold increase in both throughput and the number of connections, and to accommodate low-latency, low-demand connecitivity IoT as well as high-speed millimetre wave while also integrating LTE and Wi-Fi, 5G is not short on ambition.
This is one 5G base station form factor, as envisaged by China Mobile.
The Massive MIMO technology expected to be at the heart of 5G will mean large base stations, containing possibly hundreds of smart antennas, and far too big to be installed on windy mobile masts. LTE base stations use no more than six.
Tod Sizer, head of wireless research at Alca-Lu Labs, thinks it's a creative challenge for the industry. He expects the large antennas will be placed behind billboards and on the sides of buildings in densely-populated downtown areas.
China Mobile's thinking is it can embed the antenna in company names or logos on the side of buildings, as shown off here at Mobile Asia Expo last week.