Now that I have had time to think about the questions, here are a bit more detailed thoughts. As always, feedback, comments & suggestions welcome
Q: What will network architecture look like in the 5G era?
I have long argued that 5G will not be a single technology but a combination of multiple old and new technologies. You will often find various terms like Multi-stream Aggregation (MSA), Opportunistic Aggregation and Multi-connectivity being used to explain this. Not only will 2G, 3G and 4G have a role to play, Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies would be a part of 5G too.
I have had many discussions on this topic with respected analysts and many of them agree.
One of the approaches being proposed for the initial version of 5G is the non-standalone version of 5G which will use LTE as the control plane anchor and new 5G radio for user plane. Not only will this be easier to deploy along with the existing LTE network, it would be faster and hopefully less costly.This #5G chart sums it up. Start from where we are, go in 4 different directions at once, give it all the same name https://t.co/ETldL8Sr8N— Dan Warren (@TMGB) June 28, 2016
Q: To what extent is 5G dependent on virtualization?
Networks and Network Functions are progressively being virtualized, independently of 5G. Having said that, virtualization will play a big role in achieving the 5G architecture. Mobile operators can’t be expected to keep paying for proprietary hardware; virtualization would help with cost reduction and quick deployments.
Network slicing for instance will help partition the network for different requirements, on the fly depending on what is going on at any particular time.
Q: What is your view on the interplay between standards and open-source developments?
Standards enable cost reduction by achieving economy of scale whereas open-source development enable innovation and quick deployment. They are both needed and they will willingly or unwillingly co-exist.
Q: What do you see as the 3 greatest technical uncertainties or challenges on route to 5G?
While there are many known and unknown challenges with 5G, some obvious ones that we can see are:
- Spectrum identification and harmonization.
- Getting to the right architecture which is backward compatible and future proof, without making it too complex
- SON – Once you have everything in place you have to make many different parts of the network work together with different kinds of loads and traffic. SON will play a crucial role here.
Q: What would 5G actually mean for consumers, business and IoT? / What will 5G allow me to do that I can’t right now with 4G?
There are a lot of interesting use cases being discussed like remote operations and remote controlled cars but most of them do not represent the general consumers and some of them are just gimmicks.
I really like the NGMN whitepaper that laid out some simple use cases.
If done properly, 5G will allow:
- Simplification of the network resulting in low latency – this means that your content will load faster and the delay between requests and responses are small.
- Reasonable speed broadband everywhere - This will also depend on the operators’ rollouts plan but different technologies in 5G network would (should) enable a good speed reliable broadband not just in the middle of the cell but also on the edges. In fact, the concept of edges should be looked at in 5G and a solution to avoid data rates falling off should be found.
- Connectivity on the move – Whether we are talking about connectivity in trains/buses or from public safety point of view, it is important to define group connectivity, direct communications, etc.
Q: What will set companies apart in the development of 5G?
The days of vendor lock-ins are over. What will set companies apart is their willingness to be open to working with other companies by having open API’s and interfaces. Operator networks will include solutions from many different vendors. For them to be quick to bring innovative solutions to the market, they need vendors to work together rather than against each other.
Q: There is a lot of talk about the vision for 2020. What do you think the world will look like in terms of connectivity in 2030?
It would be fair to say that by 2030, connectivity would have reached a completely new dimension. One of the big areas of development that is being ignored by mainstream mobile community is the development of satellite communications. There are many low earth orbit (LEO) constellations and high-throughput satellites (HTS) being developed. These LEO and HTS combination can provide high speed connectivity with 4G like latency and high throughputs for planes/ships which cannot be served by ground based mobile technology. Broadband access everywhere will only become a reality with satellite technology complementing mobile technology.
Disclaimer: This blog is maintained in my personal capacity and this post expresses my own personal views, not the views of my employer or anyone else.