5G still in the making

The Johannesberg Summit turned out as a great success. As expected, the impressive list of speakers delivered a number of interesting analyses and opinions on where the Wireless Industry is (or should be) heading. Key bottleneck problems are that should come in the spotligth of research were identified – as well as a number of “non-issues”. Some highlights (as I see them):

  • M2M – communication seems to be the least problem as we are rapidly converging to very few standards – WiFi and Cellular are actually the main bets, not because they are necessary very efficient, but because they are becoming “dominant design”. The main players are not really the telcos but the system integrators. A more challing scenario was presented by Gerhard Fettweis – the “tactile l internet“, i.e. how can we manage to build networks that are capable of handling real-time control at the ms-level.
  • Cellular architecture – most of the participants made the analysis that 4G/LTE is capable of handling most of the wide area traffic increase that we can forsee in the next years. The debate raged more about what to do in hot-spots were the vast majority of the users are. Is it centralized solutions (C-RAN) with primarily outdoor micro/picocells that will save the day , or has the bulk of the traffic carried by indoor solutions ? In the latter case, what should these look like and who will operate them ? To what extent is WiFi the solution – and will operators be let in into this party as more and more facilities owners deploy their own networks ? The challenge is this domain remains efficient solutions for IP-level mobility.
  • Spectrum – does to be a “management” problem. With 1 GHz below 6 GHz for mobile/local wireless access available, there seems to be plenty of spectrum for the next decade, if we play our cards right (i.e. do more indoor/shortrange solutions rather than outdoor). There is, however, still a lot of “handiwork” to be done in the ITU in the short term perspective to make sure that the transition of spectrum from antiquated single-purpose (“one-trick-pony”) systems to general purpose (e.g. IP access) system continues. From the spectrum debate, it seems more and more obvious that “Cognitive Radio” for cellular access, in particular “TV-White Space”, remains dead. Why invest in a complex new technology with uncertain benefits, when the UHF-spectrum is gradually going to be licensed for mobile IP-access in the coming decade anyway?

Missed the live webcasts ? Watch all the plenary talks from the summit on our Youtube channel. The Summit website will soon be updated with photos and with interviews with the participants.

About Jens Zander

Professor Jens Zander is professor in Radio Communication Systems at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden. He has been among the few in Swedens Ny Teknik magazine's annual list of influential people in ICT that have been given the epithet “Mobile Guru”. He is one of the leading researchers in mobile communication and is the Scientific director of the industry/academia collaboration center Wireless@KTH. His research group focuses on three main areas – the efficient and scalable use of the radio frequency spectrum, economic aspects of mobile systems and application and energy efficiency in future wireless infrastructures.
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