LTE the ultimate in mobility? Think again, 5G is on its way!

December 4th, 2014, Published in Articles: EngineerIT


Long term evolution (LTE) is not the ultimate in broadband mobility, it is just the beginning. While the new 5G is not yet out of the research laboratories – with several parameters and standards still to be finalised by organisations like IEEE, 5G Forum, the International Telecommunications Union and others – it is waiting around the corner.

The 5G technology will offer higher capacity, lowest latency including fast dynamic UL/DL switching for optimal resource utilisation. Multi-antenna technology, advanced receivers, and rank adaptation, self-organised fractional re-use for interference avoidance are amongst the other features talked about.

Currently in the research laboratory phase, it is expected that by 2016 5G will be through system design and pre-study, and then will go through a pre-definition stage.  By 2020, in time for the Olympics in Japan, 5G  will be commercially deployed.

According to Dave Mundy, head of radio, Nokia Networks in sub-Saharan Africa, unlike 2G, 3G and 4G, it is likely that 5G will not be a single new radio access technology nor will it replace macro cells. It will be a combination of existing radio access technologies in both the licensed and unlicensed bands plus one or more radio access technologies optimised for specific deployment scenarios and user cases.  He said that Nokia has identified the need for a new radio access technology for ultra-dense deployments with the aim of providing a virtual zero latency gigabit experience.

Ultra dense deployment with many diverse use cases and scenarios set a variety of targets and functional requirements for a new system

Ultra dense deployment with many diverse use cases and scenarios set a variety of targets and functional requirements for a new system.

The continuing growth in demand from customers for better mobile broadband experiences is encouraging industry to look ahead at how networks can be readied to meet future extreme capacity and performance demand needs. Nokia Networks shares the view with other industry partners that communication beyond 2020 will involve a combination of existing and evolving systems, like LTE-Advanced and WiFi coupled with new technologies designed to meet the new requirements.

Much more spectrum will be needed to handle increased traffic.  Current spectrum for mobile communications has focussed   on ranges below 6 GHz. This will have to shift to frequencies above 10 GHz and potentially up to 100 GHz.

Nokia expects that systems currently operating in licensed bands will play a major role in providing coverage for 5G. Furthermore WiFi will continue to be a relevant solution for low cost, best effort data, particularly indoors. However ultra-dense deployments with high traffic demand and low latency requirements will be the environment in which revolutionary technologies will emerge and system design will vary according the carrier frequency.

The use of millimetre wave bands will open the door to an abundance of spectrum but the very different propagation properties in these bands will create challenges that require novel deployment, network infrastructure and management that have to be established

Denser networks with small cells

By 2020 small cells are expected to carry a majority of traffic with overall data volume expected to grow up to 1000 times compared to 2010.  Mundy said that the company’s analysis shows that sufficient network capacity at a minimum downlink user rate of 10 Mbps can be achieved using an LTE heterogeneous network configuration. Beyond this date a new approach will be needed to achieve ultra-dense small cell deployment and this is where we expect to see innovative 5G components emerging. These new technology blocks will need to enable ultra-low latency, higher data rates in the order of 10 Gbps with user data rates greater than 100Mbps even under high load conditions  or at cell edge.

He said that the key to meeting these requirements is to bring the access point closer to the user with smaller cells making more radio resources available to active users. This will also substantially reduce the radio roundtrip time for lower latency and increase overall network efficiency by creating sub-networks to handle a proportion of the traffic locally.

Spectrum for 5G should be less of an issue as it will operate on much higher frequencies in the 70 to 90 GHz range, hence the use of densely populated small cells.

Whether the time frame of 2020 is realistic remains to be seen, but the race has started and no doubt others will join in. If you thought LTE was the ultimate, think again!

A comprehensive White Paper on 5G can be downloaded here.

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