The future of wireless is 5G but the real focus should be on broader 3GPP mobile wireless technology
Cary Snyder, E2E Wireless Solutions
January 2016: Everyone on the planet is familiar with cellular technology in one way or another. Fewer know or care that 5th Generation or 5G cellular technology is coming. However, no one knows precisely when or how 5G appears. No doubt, the 5G + LTE Advanced Pro promise of ubiquitous wireless information and communication technology (ICT) networking creates incredible opportunity for companies and organizations worldwide. Their collective challenge is to either figure out a way to capitalize on 5G ROI before their competitors else secure schedule-tolerant 5G-related R&D funding. A lot has been made of partners in the Verizon 5G Technology Forum claims they will deploy 5G technology in early 2016. People ask, “how is 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) 5G deployed before it’s defined?
The simple answer is that this group and many others have secured funding for early 5G R&D in a quest to make meaningful contributions to the 3GPP Release 14 work that begins in 2016. Specifically the international community that creates mobile wireless technology has agreed on fundamental 5G requirements. Furthermore, as the hub for cellular technology development since 1999 the 3GPP will start specific 5G technology development this year that will result in commercial deployment—defined as serving existing cellular customers—of end-to-end 5G networks by 2020.
The following Qualcomm slide presented at the 3GPP RAN 5G Workshop – The Start of Something illustrates the carefully orchestrated 5G timeline and development process. It starts with 5G study items (SIs) spanning work on Release 14 and 15 with the expectation that it will take 24 to 30 months. “1st phase 5G work items WI(s)” align with Release 15 (R15) work that scheduled to start in 2017 and deliver a finished spec that adequately defines the use of 5G towards the end of 2018. Successful development of telecommunications’ equipment that fully meet spec requirements has a typical best-case schedule of 20 months appropriately setting initial 5G commercial deployment mid-year 2020.
Source: Qualcomm 5G Views on Technology & Standardization 3GPP RAN workshop on 5G Slide 8 RWS-150012 QCOM-5G.pdf Sept 2015)
The proven and time-tested 3GPP cellular and now wireless R&D process partitions 5G development work into manageable study items (SIs) and work items (WIs) assignments in parallel with “Continued LTE evolution” technology development. What is not emphasized in most all 5G content is that it does not exist in isolation rather 5G capability is minimally tightly coupled and for R15 phase 1, wholly dependent “5G and LTE technology’s” seamless integration and interworking whereas currently LTE always includes 4G, 3G, and 2G which is 3GPP technology.
3GPP Cellular Technology in a nutshell
What sets the 3GPP (5G+) wireless technology work apart from other pay-to-play specification and technology development work is twofold, first its proven international success and second that most all study/work groups (4 of 6) are accessible to anyone. The 3GPP 5G technology must coexist with LTE/4G and legacy 3G/2G as R15 based on the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) and its International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) framework of standards developed by its Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) work group. This group published ITU-R M.2083 titled IMT Vision – “Framework and overall objectives of the future development of IMT for 2020 and beyond” in September 2015 and by doing so set baseline 5G requirements. The ITU-R experts will review and issue a detailed report on R15.
5G and LTE-A Pro technology developers come from commercial, educational, and governmental entities. Of all participants Intel, Nokia-ALU, Ericsson, NEC, Samsung, Huawei, and Qualcomm, along with the many worldwide carriers they work, appear to have the biggest commitment to 5G-related success. The 5G+ technology plan has attracted more networking, automotive, and telematics experts who are committed to the broad-based success and rapid expansion of IoT and M2M services. The path to what will be 5G five years from now is foggy yet its expansive trajectory and impact on embedded markets beyond traditional telecommunications and network markets is most promising.
3GPP fueled revolution
If the transformational nature of 5G-related technology and the evolution of cellular ecosystem meet stated objectives, 3GPP-created technology will fuel the revolutionary disruption of high-tech markets as they are today. Intel and many others are not only counting on but have firmly position themselves to sell “Pre-5G” as the foundation on what will come. The incredibly disruptive nature 5G will have on other Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) networks, including carrier Wi-Fi is truly significant. 3GPP capability from a system architectural perspective to fully support the “u” in uMTC (machine type communication) as ultra-reliable, -available, and -responsive drives 5G to places competing technologies cannot go today.
While all the 5G-goodness is well on its way thanks to international cooperation concerns exist that Silicon Valley may not reap the benefits from higher LTE and 5G download rates. The US, and Silicon Valley in particular ranks #10 in LTE coverage worldwide but close to the bottom (#54) for LTE download speed. Japan, Korea, and even Europe download speed is double and triple that of the US. This suggests we are ready and waiting for 5G and 5G-related (LTE Advanced Pro) enhancements. Let the wireless revolution begin!