The next generation of mobile telephony, 5G, is expected to be the most transformative one. It promises to open new ways to connect people and consume content. In fact, future modes of transportation including self-driving cars, future of media consumption with AR and VR content will all be seamlessly connected by 5G.
Why 5G is so important?
One of the core promise of 5G is to enable faster data transfer on your mobile device. It is promising to be 10 times faster than 4G and will bring true gigabit download speeds on your smartphone. The enhanced data speed will lead to even more reliable service and most importantly, it will nurture the idea of connecting multiple devices to the network at the same time.
Media consumption will also transform with the introduction of 5G, allowing users to stream 4K as well as 8K videos without breaking your content or leading to that frustrating ‘buffer’ sign. Like every other generational leap in mobile telephony, 5G will connect new forms of devices. It will connect sensors, thermostats, security appliances, cars and robots one day. Since self-driving cars will need to pull traffic data, 5G will reduce the lag time between devices and the servers they connect with to virtually zero.
5G will achieve its higher throughput speed by traveling over super high-frequency airwaves. The higher frequencies will enable faster data speeds and add more bandwidth to enhance user experience. However, it won’t be able to pass through walls, windows or rooftops and can get weaker over long distance.
It is such a big leap that US President Donald Trump and his administration toyed around the idea of a government-funded 5G public service. While the idea seems to have been dropped considering cost, it just shows the extent to which 5G will revolutionize communication. In short, 5G will power a new kind of economy and will bring power to the palm of your hands.
5G is an opportunity for telecom players and companies who build infrastructure to enable smooth data communication. It is also an opportunity for people to build new kind of companies and reach consumers around the world. So when is 5G coming. To find answer to that question and several others surrounding 5G, we caught up with Nitin Bansal, Head of Network Solutions, MOAI at Ericsson. Here is a transcript lightly edited for clarity.
What is 5G? Will it complement 4G or replace it?
Previous generations of mobile networks addressed consumers predominantly for voice and SMS in 2G, web-browsing in 3G and higher-speed data and video streaming in 4G. The transition from 4G to 5G will serve both consumers and multiple industries. With global mobile data traffic expected to grow eight times by the end of 2023, there is a need for a more efficient technology, higher data rates and spectrum utilization. New applications such as 4K/8K video streaming, virtual and augmented reality, and emerging industrial use cases will also require higher bandwidth, greater capacity, security, and lower latency. Equipped with these capabilities, 5G will bring new opportunities for people, society, and businesses.
Looking at the evolution from 4G to 5G, it will not be an overlay network. 5G will work in tandem with 4G. So, for operators to be relevant in 5G, they would need to have a very good quality 4G network. Once that happens, the important thing will be to ensure seamless interworking between LTE and 5G. Recently, Ericsson expanded the 5G platform by launching new radio product – AIR 3246, for Massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (Massive MIMO), to enable operators – especially in metropolitan areas – to bring 5G to subscribers using today’s mid-band spectrum and boost capacity in their LTE networks.
What is India’s preparedness like, considering we were late to both 3G and 4G rollout?
The Indian Government has made it clear that they are looking at 2020 for 5G deployments. Additionally, the Government has recently approved a financial grant for a project to set up indigenous 5G testbed by Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
From a purely technical perspective, we have the capability to offer 5G network solutions to Indian carriers by mid-2019, but the government and industry will first need to decide on a mutually convenient timeline to auction 5G airwaves in the 3300-3600 MHz bands for the 5G systems to work in India.
5G is all about more data, so what kind of bandwidth and data streams can it support?
Over the next 5 years or so we will see industries transform with new capabilities brought on by 5G. Examples of these capabilities include:
1. The ability to download a full-length HD movie in seconds
2. The quick reaction time (low latency) to enable remote robotics
3. The ability to spin up virtual networks on-demand with network slicing
4. Battery lifetimes beyond 10 years for remote cellular devices
To give you an example of the power of a 5G network, we recently piloted a demonstration using advanced 5G technology to track a connected car travelling up to 170 km/hour to demonstrate downlink speeds of 3.6 Gbps and a throughput of above 1.5 Gbps on a 5G network.
When do telecom players plan 5G field trials in India?
With the expected rise in Indian Data traffic (to reach over 18GB per month per smartphone in 2023), Indian operators are looking for the right technologies to optimize networks and provide an enhanced consumer experience. This is where we have been and will continue to support them.
Operator differentiation in 5G will not be based on lab trials, but on what they are able to achieve in live network environments. Our 5G Radio Prototypes are the first products designed to enable operators to conduct live field trials in their own networks. With Ericsson 5G Radio Prototypes, operators move beyond the 5G hype of lab-based speed tests and gain a greater understanding of the potential for 5G in their own network environments and markets. In fact, certain operators are optimistic about running service trials this year.
We are currently conducting massive MIMO trials with India’s largest telecom operators and we are leading the development of new 5G technologies to ensure early success and enable rapid adoption of 5G-enabled applications.
What will be 5G’s impact on connected vehicles, 8K video streaming and AR/VR content delivery?
5G means unlocking the potential for us to interact and connect with machines in unbelievable ways. It will cater efficiently for growing data traffic and enable access to multimedia content, such as 4K/8K video streaming and virtual reality or augmented reality.
Connected Vehicles – When transportation and vehicles are equipped with 5G connectivity, it will revolutionize the way we travel. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will make roads safer and more environmental friendly, while allowing buses and public transportation to run more efficiently. Ericsson recently demonstrated the world’s first 5G remote driving concept, showcasing 5G’s reliability, high speed and low latency – key elements for remotely driven cars.
Video streaming – 5G customers will also enjoy 4K movies downloaded in just seconds without a WiFi connection. 8K video streaming and enhanced AR/VR capabilities will also become a reality.
Live events – With 5G, users will experience broadband access in crowded areas like concerts, sporting events and festivals, alleviating issues with capacity, interference and reliability. High-definition immersive media examples included giving viewers an athlete’s eye-view of the action and being able to switch between multiple on-site cameras at venues in real time.
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How will 5G enable digital transformation and support evolution of smart home?
IoT is quickly emerging as a very significant agent of transformation as it blends the physical and digital worlds and 5G’s advanced capabilities will help work as a catalytic element, connecting billions of devices in some of the fastest, most dependable and efficient ways possible.
In the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, 30 billion connected devices are forecasted by the year 2023, of which 20 billion will be related to IoT. Numerous studies have identified the potential and value of IoT to society, with smart cities and connected homes, including consumer devices, making up as much of that value. An Ericsson survey done some months ago suggests that over 47 percent of consumers are highly interested in the idea of connected home services due to factors such as safety, convenience and control.
As per a recent report by Ericsson on 5G industry digitization, operators can gain an additional 12-36 percent revenue from the 5G-enabled industry digitization market depending on their role in the value chain (network developer, service enabler or service creator) by 2026.
Ericsson has a big focus on 5G technology. How does it complement the IoT business? Also how will its impact on IoT affect end users?
The relationship between 5G and IoT is very close and significant. 5G brings higher performance than 4G, but its benefits are not restricted to just that. It also has performance characteristics that are fit for industries. It is the first G that addresses the need of the industry. While addressing the needs of the industry- IoT has emerged as a key demand, they want their products connected – elevators, generator machines, and coffee machines. Now, any company that is producing modern products, want their products to be connected. So, IoT becomes a basic functionality for any company.
Ericsson’s mobility report forecasts over 30 billion connected devices by 2023. Around 20 billion of them will be related to Internet of Things. Connected IoT devices include connected cars, machines, meters, sensors, point-of-sale terminals, consumer electronics and wearables and will have a significant impact on the end user.
In our endeavor to make 5G a reality by enabling massive adoption of massive IoT, we recently announced the IoT Accelerator Marketplace- a catalog for service providers to find IoT apps from the global ecosystem to offer enterprise customers, helping address the need for collaboration within the digital ecosystem community and benefit developers and service providers alike.
Is it true that 5G airwaves get weaker over long distance and how is Ericsson tackling that as network equipment manufacturer?
In general it can be said that airwaves have a shorter reach if they are in higher frequency bands compared to airwaves that are in lower bands. This natural phenomenon is applicable to any generation of radio standard and thus not directly related to 5G.
But since free spectrum for 5G is typically only available in higher bands (as lower bands are already occupied by 2G, 3G and 4G), it can be said that many 5G implementations will be extra challenged by a potential shorter reach because of the higher frequency that is used. There are several ways to tackle this:
– Operators can use lower frequencies, also for 5G. For instance by reducing the usage of 2G, 3G and/or 4G and thus freeing up lower frequency channels.
– They can also make use of unused low frequencies that were used in the past for, for instance, analog TV broadcasting or military applications. Licenses for these bands are currently being redistributed to mobile operators in many countries in the world and several are planning to use these for 5G, like for instance T-Mobile in the US.
– Operators can use antennas that steer the energy in a smaller area (which gives a higher antenna gain). This increases the cell reach. Antenna gain is related to the size of the antenna and the used frequency. In general, it can be said that antennas with the same size have a higher gain when used on a higher frequency than antennas that are used on lower frequencies. This extra gain on higher frequencies partially compensates for the shorter reach that those higher frequencies have.
– Operators can go even further and use antennas that have a very strong beam forming capability (which means an even higher antenna gain). This only works if the beam can be steered to the users. And that is exactly what is done with Massive MIMO antenna panels with beam steering capability that Ericsson has in its portfolio. Narrow beams with high gain are electronically steered in real-time to the active users in the cell that can be much further away than with conventional antennas.
– And of course, the operator can build more sites to cover the same area with 5G compared to the amount of sites it has for existing standards. This is of course costly, but an additional advantage is that every additional site can add more capacity to the network, which means that operators can get a huge capacity boost in their network when they add 5G on high frequency bands. This high capacity is a strong initial driver for 5G implementations.