Industry Insights

Will 5G actually deliver on the promise of a seamlessly connected society with faster data rates available to all?

2018-12-06  |  7 min read 

With the advent of technological improvements, then yes it will be possible to provide levels of access to the ‘fast lane’ for more users than previously possible.

This will be enabled by more flexible networks delivering new types of services to support the ever-increasing end-user demands. Network feature virtualisation promises an infrastructure which can be rapidly reconfigured and redeployed, beamforming technology promises to deliver ultrafast data rates and spatial frequency re-use by focusing and steering the output of a discrete number of antennas to specific users, new millimetre wave (mmWave) band spectrum is being allocated that allows for substantially wider bandwidth supporting higher data rates.
With flexible allocation of bandwidth and resource then we must have an on-demand based service that can accommodate the different needs of many users. 
But if you are the service operator ‘for all’, just exactly how to do you provide for such a diverse set of requirements?

  • The proliferation of always connected devices such as IoT will place an unprecedented level of demand across the network and on a completely unplanned basis.
  • The increasing proliferation of VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) requires those features to have almost instantaneous feedback.
  • Security implications across the network for financial applications (FinTech) mean there are even higher levels of authentication needed in any handshake or transfer.
  • Mission critical applications must have the guarantee of high reliability i.e ‘always on’.

As 5G is being ‘turned on’ with field trials around the world, we are seeing real examples of how 5G is being brought from vision to reality. The service provider Orange in Belgium recently showed 5G real use test cases including a 3D holographic concert; live 360 deg camera streaming; three constantly moving robots to demonstrate the factory of the future and an example of the need for low latency in autonomous cars.
And without relying on captive network capacity how do service providers such as these verify the diverse operation of such needs.

  • There are tools that can simulate an experience of a journey across a network e.g drive test which would give a snapshot of behaviour at one point in time and space but to investigate any anomalies found how do we reproduce this in a controlled environment?
  • For multiple cells in a network how are these managed to ensure interference (or intraference) is kept to a minimum.
  • How is the security and authentication verified against DDoS attacks as an example?
  • How safe are mmWave focussed beams with multiple basestations (gNodeB) proliferating across the network?
  • How can you verify beamforming and beamsteering is actually providing the best signal to noise ratio for your channel? Which is essential for maximising the capacity of any channel.

In the market place just now, the early adopters in both infrastructure and user equipment are working with a discrete number of vendors who are being very diligent in their adherence to conformance and performance specifications.   Compare and contrast that to a very similar industry segment in ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) where to maintain consumer confidence there are very many public trials of the technology and the press media report on any anomalies found.  Where is the same level of scrutiny regarding 5G services just now? Most information is being strictly controlled for commercially sensitive reasons but at some point this must enter the public domain.  From where will the information be derived to satisfy the general masses that 5G is safe, reliable and high enough performance to justify any purchase decision?    The NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Networks) is one such organisation who will share results from several new projects at their conference in Vancouver addressing some of these topics directly.

But if you are a design engineer working on an individual component or device what will 5G mean for you at the technical level?  To meet the 5G design targets 3GPP 5G NR release 15 introduces both evolutionary and revolutionary changes in the physical layer compared to previous versions of LTE. In his webcast “Understanding the 5G Physical Layer”, Javier Campos, 3GPP RAN WG1 delegate for Keysight, grouped these key changes into a number of categories: waveforms and frame structure, millimeter wave (mmWave), low latency and forward compatibility.

Massive MIMO is another key innovation used additionally by 5G to help increase the spectral efficiency in the sub 6 GHz bands especially where allocation of bandwidth is at a premium. Massive MIMO increases capacity by having far more antennas in the base stations than the number of user terminals. By using TDD channel reciprocity, the power-consuming calculations are done by the base station transmitter thereby making massive MIMO possible for battery-powered devices. The Keysight white paper, “Examining the challenges in implementing and testing massive MIMO for 5G” provides a deeper insight into massive MIMO starting from basics to addressing its challenges in test and implementation. 

As you may see even from just these two topics there are more than enough challenges facing the makers of a device, or component; the providers of a service; and the users themselves based on their experience.
Today Keysight Technologies collaborates with more of the market-leading companies implementing 5G around the globe. This gives unique insight into the issues, challenges and solutions that will enable the delivery of that seamlessly connected society.