5G – We are only getting started

Dr David Soldani; Chief Technology Officer and Cyber Security Officer at Huawei Technologies Australia Dr David Soldani; Chief Technology Officer and Cyber Security Officer at Huawei Technologies Australia

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The Future of 5G and its Global Rise

As we speak, 386 operators in 125 countries are investing in 5G, and 81 carriers in 42 countries have already launched one or more 3GPP compliant 5G services.

In little more than six months, China will have more than doubled its number of 5G base-stations and will have a staggering 600,000 5G operational nodes – that is a simply incredible number when you think about it.

There are already some 36 million – 36 million! – 5G end-users in the Chinese market just one year after 5G spectrum licenses were allocated so you can see quite clearly that whilst South Korea is emerging as the 5G front-runner that China is not far behind.

The 5G Bands n77 (3.3 – 4.2 GHz) or n78 (3.3 – 3.8 GHz) are the most used spectra with 173 operators investing, followed by Bands n257, n258 or n261 (24.25-29.5 GHz) with 123 operators identified as investing.

The big challenge in 5G is to do something different, there is no sense in 5G just delivering faster speeds and more capacity than 4G, it really has to support something more transformational.

That’s why it is so heartening to see what is happening in China reporting that there are over 400 5G innovation applications in the country, covering sectors including industry, transport and medical treatment.

However, consumers and businesses can only really start to use 5G when devices really become accessible at reasonable price and right now we are not quite there, although more 5G devices will obviously become available in the coming months.

Right now, according to the GSA, there were some 112 fully certified 5G devices available on the global market with around 40% of these being 5G handsets, 28% CPE for fixed wireless access, and nearly 16% modules for drones, robots and other manned/unmanned platforms, but comparatively few 5G enabled laptops or Mi-Fi type devices are on the market right now.

However, the key thing to remember when we think about 5G is that this is not a technology that is set in stone, it is a technology that is constantly evolving and will continue to evolve over the next decade or so until we hit 6G.

Indeed, the second phase of 5G is currently being finalized in 3GPP, with the Rel-16 version of technical specifications. Also, the set of features to be included in Rel-17 have been already agreed and scheduled for completion by the end of next year..

The first 5G release (Rel-15) addressed predominantly the immediate needs of enhancing the mobile broadband experience, but the Rel-16 and Rel-17 take 5G toward the full 5G vision, balancing the needs of mobile broadband operators with expansion into new markets including vertical players.

3GPP Release 16 is the foundation for Industrial IoT (IIoT) supporting: Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communications (URLLC) with the ability to achieve unprecedented levels of reliability, down to packet error rates of 10-6 (“six nines”); integration with IEEE Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN); Private Networks (Non-Public Networks, NPN) with both an NPN-specific authentication mechanism for UEs without a universal subscriber identity module (USIM) and an Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA) mechanism for UEs with USIM card; and NR in Unlicensed (NR-U) spectrum in the 5 GHz and 6 GHz frequency bands, which may coexist with other systems such as IEEE 802.11 variants or LTE Licensed-Assisted Access (LAA); and vehicular communication (“V2X”), featuring  a sidelink for direct communication between terminals.

Beyond this, it supports Full 5G System Resilience with security features for service-based interfaces, Transport Layer Security (TLS) and token-based authorization; Wireless-Wireline Convergence; Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS Phase 2); Network Slice-Specific Authentication and Authorization (NSSAA), which allows a third party to add, remove users to and from a network slice instance; Network Automation Phase 2; Integrated Access & Backhaul (IAB); Device Power Saving; Mobility Enhancement; and Enhanced MIMO with the possibility of multiple Transmission & Reception Points (TRP).

3GPP Release 17 targets a wider ecosystem expansion, supporting: native Time Sensitive Communication (TSC); High-Accuracy Positioning (cm-level); Sidelink enhancement for public safety and pedestrians; Multicast; Non-Terrestrial Networks (Satellite and HAPS); FRMCS enhancements; Network Slicing enhancements; Network Automation enhancements; New Radio (NR) in the 52–71 GHz frequency range; Device Power Saving enhancements; Further enhanced MIMO; Multiple USIMs; Cloud gaming QoS, and “NR-light” for Industrial IoT (IIoT) and Consumer IoT (CIoT), particularly suitable for industrial cameras, high-end wearables, smart grid, high-end logistic trackers, and healthcare monitoring.

So, once we get to Rel-16 and Rel-17 then we will see an expansion of the ecosystem that can take advantage of 5G, by adding features to provide the full range of functionality required by new industry segments, as well as making 5G networks easier to deploy and optimize.

Indeed, further down the track the next 5G progression of Rel-18 and beyond will meet the needs of new market opportunities and deliver huge value for much of the present decade.

Dr. David Soldani is Chief Technology Officer at Huawei Australia.

A full copy of David’s presentation can be downloaded from here: http://huaweihub.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Global-5G-Evolution.pdf

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