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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3 Responses to 5G still in the making

  1. SFYunas says:

    Regarding the last section ‘Spectrum’, you mentioned that cognitive radio is almost a dead topic (for the time being) and more spectrum is being freed up in the UHF band to be licensed to mobile IP-access.

    I was reading this article few days ago by Dr Terry Norman of Wireless Explorers (previously Director Analysys Mason) regarding licensed vs unlicensed spectrum and mentions little bit about cognitive radios and white space spectrum:

    An excerpt from his article:

    “New technologies for MNOs, including white space data bases and cognitive radio will enable networks to self-manage interference in a more effective way. These technologies will remove the need to manage spectrum by licensing MNOs. Most countries anticipate needing between 300MHz and 500MHz of extra bandwidth in the next five to ten years and this requirement will create a more pressing need for the development of cognitive radio and white space spectrum.

    he concludes the article as following:
    “Wireless Explorer believes that the period of exclusive access (licensed) will be much shorter. The reasons behind the loss of exclusivity will be the pressure of traffic and advancing technology (cognitive radios). The main drivers behind loss of guaranteed owned spectrum are the moves and pressures of non-owned spectrum. As an example, 50% of iPhone and 90% of iPad activity is carried over license exempt spectrum. This leaves us with a broader question of how to balance the needs of users and the economic benefits of exclusive access to spectrum for MNOs in the future”.

    What is your take on this? Do you think that these factors especially the part where he mentions ‘percentage of iPhone and iPad activity being carried over unlicensed spectrum’ will play major role in keeping cognitive radio still in race or is it all in all a dead topic?

    Whole article:

    • jzander says:

      As engineer, you always have to be somewhat careful, not overexaggerating the importance of your “pet” technology as the solution to all the world problems. There is, most of the time, a “bigger picture”. From a business perspective – if you invest billions of dollars in a wide area infrastructure (cell towers, fiber, base stations etc) that is going to a last for 25-30 years minimum, spectrum sharing combined with an (in the large scale) unproven technology, with a capacity that is difficult to predict, – is simply too risky business. On the other hand, there is no natural law stating how much spectrum is needed – most estimates of spectrum need are based on the assumption that the mainly the same base station network is going to be used. My take is that operators, when pressed for capacity, will solve their capacity problems with denser (indoor) networks in higher spectrum where interference (and thus exclusive licensing) is less of a problem due to the limited range. If there is a large scale business opportunity for “cognitive radio” I would say sharing with radar could be it. On the other hand, other less complex co-primary sharing schemes, or even unlicensed may work pretty well here. Just look at 5 GHz ISM which is still almost “virgin territory”.



  2. Anon ymous says:

    From the spectrum debate, it seems more and more obvious that “Cognitive Radio” for cellular access, in particular “TV-White Space”, remains dead.

    Hi Mr. Yunas…Jens for years has a desire to bash a company called xG Technology and everything they do…www.xgtechnology.com Jens, anyone reading your quote from above can never take you seriously. Keep fighting the fight though, even if it means ruining your already questionable reputation.

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