5G standardisation on its way
Even if it has accelerated in recent weeks, the process of 5G standardisation has not yet been completed. However, trials are flourishing worldwide and investments are likely to be massive.
5G tests and early services
Myriads of 5G tests have been conducted worldwide and the number of trials is growing every day. Communication is pushing expectations and commercial 5G services are widely anticipated. In the absence of 5G specifications as yet, operators need to base 5G trials on their own definitions of what 5G could be. Obviously, they hope their trials will help shape the final 5G standard developed by 3GPP. Most of trials are focused on delivering very high data rates at very low latency. There are numerous examples worldwide in the most advanced mobile markets. Less-advanced mobile markets are also considering 5G, notably Brazil, Indonesia, Middle Eastern countries and Russia.
Today, a consensus has been built in the ecosystem around a deployment of 5G services in three phases:
- fixed-wireless services;
- eMBB services;
Operators in every world region are testing 5G. However, the USA and advanced Asian mobile markets are at the forefront.
On the one hand, 5G-based fixed-wireless services are broadly seen as pre-5G services. They will be mostly commercially available in the USA before the end of 2017. There have been very few tests on verticals so far because deploying 5G on verticals is part of the Phase 2 scheduled for 2019 at the earliest. Nonetheless, the buzz surrounding 5G and verticals, notably in the automotive, health and manufacturing sectors, is increasing tangibly.
On the other hand, MNOs are testing 5G in a wide range of frequencies, mostly very high. Of the trials listed, the 28 GHz is the most commonly trialled, but not exclusively: the 15 GHz band is also under serious consideration.
Moreover, high data rates are demonstrated. To date, 70 Gbps is the highest data rate reached by some MNOs using 70 GHz bands. A number of players reached data speeds of 35 Gbps. The objective with 5G is to achieve data rates of 10-20 Gbps and above. Most trials have resulted in latency of close 1 millisecond or less.
Key 5G technologies identified
Key technologies for 5G include the use of mmWaves, massive MIMO, additional new waveforms, spectrum sharing, multi-Radio Access Technologies (RAT) integration, Ultra-Wide Band (UWB) radio modules, cloud or Centralised RAN, Device to Device (D2D), Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), Software-Defined Network (SDN), Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Network Slicing. Most of them are being tested, mainly the use of mmWaves, C-RAN, MEC, NFV/SDN and Network Slicing. 5G innovations are increasingly applied to 4G to leverage investments. The race for 5G investment seems to preclude new entrants.
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