VTC-14 Spring: 5G in the spotlight

5G certainly is the star of this year’s VTC. The workshop on 5G probably attracted 70% of all the conference attendees on Sunday; the only panel session in the conference is about 5G, one of the two keynotes is again on the 5G enabling technology (although it is showing the same old slides used in DySPAN’14 one month ago).

But apart from the increasing popularity of 5G, what is really new here? From the panel session, it seems that some consensus is being formed regarding the objective of 5G: an improved user experience,i.e., 1/10 latency and much higher throughput particularly at the cell edge. And how do we achieve that? Well, the usual suspect: >10GHz spectrum, small cells, beam forming, Everyone seems to be content with working on improving these concepts, but Dr. Chih-Lin I, the chief scientist of china mobile, perhaps the most outspoken person among the panelist, was not quite happy about this attitude (I really admire her outspokenness and sharp wits). She said that the whole discussion was too harmonious, no real debate in the plenary session. Everybody was simply agreeing with each other on all the ideas about 5G. And that is not a good sign for real innovation. in her opinion, it is easy to talk about the general vision of the 5G era and we have been doing that over the last a couple of years, It is now the time to set down some boundaries on what to be included in the actual 5G ‘standards’, especially when not all of the usage  scenarios  discussed are suitable for operator’s top-down business model.

She also made a few interesting comments about the whole ecosystem of telecommunication. Apparently the operators feel they are being treated unfairly by the regulator with strict rules on privacy and anti-monopoly policy. At the same time the OTT service providers like Google, Alibaba, and etc are given too much advantage by the (lack of) regulation and they are exploiting the benefits of the mobile infrastructure put up by the operators. In a sense I agree that tougher rules should be applied to these internet giants, but I doubt that would help the operator themselves in getting a larger share of the revenue from OTT services, because they had not shown a good track record in providing it. Of course, most of these comments are off the record as we were quite lucky to have sit together with her during the lunch time, where she had continued to express her opinions passionately.

Lastly, a quick recap about my own presentation of our V2V paper, ‘spectrum requirement of v2v road safety’, which is scheduled in the last day of the conference. In fact there are only a few V2V sessions in the conference and they are all scheduled in the last day. But to my surprise, there were still a lot of people showing up in these sessions. In particular, a lot of them are from the car manufacturers. I got the feeling that they would probably consider the papers presented in the conference to be very theoretical or even outdated. For instance, one of the paper showed measurement results with 6-7 cars using v2v communication in a research project, while one of the audience,  an expert from the car company, claims they are already collecting data from 5000 v2v capable cars deployed in a single community! It seems that the car industry has gone far ahead than the academic studies. And my rough guess it is because there is not many fundamental challenges left in V2V communications to be addressed by the academics, and now the focus is increasingly shifting towards implementation and scalability, into which the rich car manufacturers have vastly more resource to commit than the ‘poor’ universities.

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