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

November 17th, 2014, Published in Articles: EE Publishers, Articles: EngineerIT


Nokia Networks was the real winner at AfricaCom 2014 when it comes to the future of telecommunication technology. Mainly focussing on its research on mobile communications, the company showed two innovative concepts:  voice over LTE;  and where the next generation of mobile access is going – giving customers a virtual zero latency gigabit experience called 5G.

5G is on its way: visitors at the Nokio Networks demonstration centre at AfricaCom 2014.

5G is on its way: visitors at the Nokio Networks demonstration centre at AfricaCom 2014.

Alcatel Lucent also demonstrated voice over LTE.  Being an all-IP network, users can expect a much better quality of voice approaching high definition voice. VoLTE, as Alcatel Lucent has branded it,  is already out of the research laboratories  and has been implemented in many areas of the US and Europe.

For South Africa it will still take some time as more users will have to acquire LTE-enabled handsets and the operators will have to get more spectrum to build sustainable LTE networks. Currently only Telkom Mobile has enough spectrum while the others, like MTN, Vodacom and Cell C, are refarming some of their voice spectrum to offer LTE data services. At a recent Wireless Access Providers’ Association (WAPA) forum some of the other operators were critical of Telkom. They said that ICASA should take Telkom 2,4 GHz spectrum back and redistribute it. Their argument was that Telkom had acquired the spectrum for fixed line communication that did not include mobile applications. Telkom was however quick to show that their licence did not exclude mobile!

However, the new 5G is not yet out of the research laboratory, and several parameters and standards still have to be finalised by organisations like IEEE, the  5G Forum, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and others. The 5G technology will offer higher capacity and 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 discussed.

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

5G technology will provide a scalable experience based on densely located, extremely small cells. People and objects will obtain a virtual zero-latency gigabit experience.  Spectrum for 5G should be less of an issue as it will operate on much higher frequencies in the 70 – 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 is on and no doubt others will join in. If you thought LTE was the ultimate, think again!

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