The evolution of cellular technology has also prompted fast increase in the use of data-heavy services and applications, which continue to demand faster and reliable connections as advances in technology continue to peak. It is this demand that has prompted many players in the cellular industry to go into the research and development of the next generation mobile network, 5G. 5G technology embodies a fundamental transformation in the development of device and network infrastructure technology. The very purpose of the new technology in development is to address the surge in mobile data consumption. Through an advanced ultra-broadband infrastructure, 5G technology will not only solve the data consumption problem, but also use the advanced capabilities of current wireless devices through the combination of new complementary technologies with the current technologies in existence. Players in different industries including SMEs, manufacturers, service providers and operators see 5G as having the potential to bring new business ventures and revenue avenues, and have therefore invested in the research, development and testing of the new technology. Different regions have also developed visions for the development of the technology. Standardization is however still a problem, given that all regions and communication equipment are using their own standards. The potential in critical services, internet of things and faster internet connection, however, present reason for the development and deployment of the new technology.
Mobile internet technology is a fast growing industry as visible through the fast advancement in the mobile internet technology. From the first instance of 1G that only offered mobility on mobile devices, the industry and technology has grown to its current 4G/LTE technology that offers all internet protocol services, in addition to faster broadband internet and lower latency [GSM Intelligence 2014, 5]. Thanks to the evolution in cellular technology through 1G to the latest in 4G networks, users have been able to experience faster date speeds and lower latency. The evolution of cellular technology has also prompted fast increase in the use of data-heavy services and applications, which continue to demand faster and reliable connections as advances in technology continue to peak [GSA 2015, 5]. It is this demand that has prompted many players in the cellular industry to go into the research and development of the next generation mobile network, 5G. Although 4G is a relatively new technology and there is a lot of potential that it still has, especially with many standard-compliant features developed by vendors and deployed by operators in the improvement of LTE performance, there is still need to develop a new technology. While the development of 5G comes at a time when most of the operators are deploying the 4G network world wide, there is consensus that this deployment requires complementation with a major change in the fundamentals of wireless networks and technology, as a way of ensuring that the industry meets the demands for wireless services [GSA 2015, 5]. The rationale here is that apart from meeting the demand, the new technology should be able to stimulate novel economic and social development.
This paper will therefore discuss the application and services for 5G, specifically the development, implementation and validation of the new technology. Additionally, it will discuss business developing for 5G for different markets, as well as the regional visions, requirements and development of the new technology across different regions such as Europe, Asia and America. 5G’s novel enabling technologies and concepts will also be part of the discussion, in addition to the different industry players’ view on 5G including SMEs, large manufacturers, operators and service providers.
The advent of internet enabled devices especially smart phones, tablets netbooks and notebooks, as well as the demand wireless internet connectivity by the users of these devices, have driven up the surge and demand for internet connectivity. With an increase in wireless internet usage, many operators have had challenges meeting the demand from these users. The answer to this has been the development of a new technology, 5G, to cater for this upsurge in wireless internet use. According to Jamsa [2015, 44], 5G technology embodies a fundamental transformation in the development of device and network infrastructure technology. The very purpose of the new technology in development is to address the surge in mobile data consumption. Through an advanced ultra-broadband infrastructure, 5G technology will not only solve the data consumption problem, but also use the advanced capabilities of current wireless devices through the combination of new complementary technologies with the current technologies in existence [Jamsa 2015, 44].
Most network equipment vendors (NEV) have shifted their focus on the development of 5G technology, even as mobile network operators continue to deploy 4G and LTE-A (Long Term Evolution Advanced) on their networks [Gruia 2016]. Mobile network operators such as Verizon Wireless have been doing field tests for the technology, although most of the industry players are at the research stage for the development of the technology. Most of the industry players see the deployment of the technology as some time in 2020 or beyond [Jamsa 2015, 45].
To accelerate the deployment of the technology, industry players have formed organizations and research bodies tasked with working and coming up with feasible versions of the technology. Among the organizations and research bodies involved in the development of the technology include Wireless World Research Forum (WWRF), METIS, EU Horizon 2020, Virtuoso and the 5G Public-Private Partnership (5G PPP) [Jamsa 2015, 45]. These organizations will research, design, standardize and commercialize the new technology, hopefully in the early 2020s [Jamsa 2015, 45]. As a worldwide consortium of wireless operators in the mobile industry, GSMA “will play a significant role in shaping the strategic, commercial and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem. This will include areas such as the definition of roaming and interconnect in 5G, and the identification and alignment of suitable spectrum bands. Once a stable definition of 5G is reached, the GSMA will work with its members to identify and develop commercially viable 5G applications” [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 3].
While the development of the technology follows a consortium base of companies coming together to design, develop and standardize the technology, its implementation will rely on the ability to design a robust wireless network. The network in this case, should be capable of satisfying both human-centric and machine-centric services within contiguous and wide spectrum bandwidths [5G PPP 2015, 11]. Additionally, the implementation of the new technology will rely on flexible resource allocation and sharing schemes; malleable air interfaces; innovative waveforms; robust techniques of access; radical multi-antenna beam-forming and beam-tracking techniques [5G PPP 2015, 11].
Additionally, in its implementation, the new technology will support a diverse range of cohesive air interfaces. This means that in its deployment, 5G will exist in both the low band (frequencies below 6GHz) on macro and small cells, both of which are at the same legacy with 2,3 and 4G technologies, as well as the high band. The high bands are ideally frequencies that are above and beyond 6GHz, and include WiFi and 3GPP technologies [5G PPP 2015, 11].
While the implementation of the current technologies largely relies on hardware, 5G’s implementation will be software-centric. Network function virtualization and software-defined networking will be among the software technologies central to the implementation of 5G. The two offer the best possible choice as they allow tighter integration and more flexibility with infrastructure layers [5G PPP 2015, 11]. Thus, while Network function virtualization will leverage the current development in server virtualization and enterprise IT virtualization, software-defined networking will be at the center of logical centralization of control functions relying on the recent advances in server scale out and cloud technologies [5G PPP 2015, 11].
Although 5G technology is still in its research and development stages, researchers have performed simulations for the validation of the technology. In a research of the coexistence of 4G and future 5G systems, the research validated the fact that 5G will not only have 1000 time more capacity and less latency than 4G, but that it will also support an infinite number of users and connected things while at the same time ensuring better energy efficiency [Kaltenberger et al. 2015, 1]. From the results of the simulations, 5G provides better speeds and supports a larger user base than the current 4G network. From the validation of 5G, it means that the new technology “translate into higher spectral efficiency, the ability to support large and fragmented spectrum, dynamic spectrum access (DSA), and short packet transmissions with loose synchronization requirements” [Kaltenberger et al. 2015, 1].
Among the most interesting features of ICT, and communication in particular, is its contribution to the economy. In Europe alone, the ICT sector is responsible for 5 percent of the continents GDP, having an annual value of €660 billion [5G PPP 2015, 5]. Estimates show that further investment in ICT, the 5G technology being one of them, has the potential of contributing to the rebirth of GDP growth in Europe by about 1.21 percent for high-income countries and 1.38 percent for low to middle-income economies [5G PPP 2015, 5]. Although Europe sees the feasibility of a working 5G network as possible only after 2020, given the need to come to consensus on the architecture, spectrum utilization and standardization with other bodies in Asia and the Americas, Japan has committed to having a commercial system ready for the 2020 Olympics that the country will be hosting [5G PPP 2015, 14].
Many businesses across different markets see 5G as a new frontier of new network and service capabilities. Perhaps the most important feature of 5G for businesses is the surety of continuity in user experience even in the most challenging of situations such as high mobility instances (travelling by train) as well as in both densely and sparsely populated locations [5G PPP 2015, 14]. The gaming, streaming, e-commerce, social media and internet-centric applications in mobile phones, tablets and PCs see great potential for 5G in their respective markets. Through the fast and reliable connection, these industry players can easily innovate to take advantage of the new connection technology. Mobile network operators can also introduce better services for their customers, embedding these services with the current packages offered to the customers.
While current network capabilities do not allow effective connection in the challenging situations, among things in addition to only allowing a dedicated network for mission critical services, the advent of 5G will bring more effectiveness in connection and mission critical services. Current development, therefore, cuts through a wide range of markets including transportation, health, security and internet of things [5G PPP 2015, 6]. The developments in 5G will thus cover both old and new service markets in need of real time reactivity such as vehicle-to-vehicle services, which will in essence, pave the way to self-driving vehicles, automation in factories in addition to remote health services.
Across the board, businesses and consumers are looking forward to the research and final deployment of the new technology. Each region, however, regardless of the number of consortiums formed to look into the research and development of 5G, share the same vision for the deployment and use of the new 5G technology. Europe’s 5G private-public partnership has a vision of the integration of telecom and IT in the development of a common high capacity ubiquitous infrastructure [5G PPP 2015, 7].
Attached to Europe’s vision for 5G is the requirement that the new infrastructure should provide scalability and flexibility through a virtualized network function. Additionally, the requirement for the deployment of 5G in Europe is programmable and specific high performance hardware capable of offering resources for storage, routing, transportation and execution [5G PPP 2015, 7]. Europe hopes to achieve this through the current consortiums tasked with research and developing the new technology under the umbrella of Horizon 2020.
For the Americas, the International Telecommunications Union’s Radiocommunication group founded the Working Party for the development of 5G technology in addition to finalizing an actionable timeline for the deployment of 5G. The vision for the Working Group is to see a mobile broadband connected society. Known as “beyond 2020,” the Working Group hopes to establish 5G communication in International Mobile Telecommunication.
The Americas have support for many connected devices and supple air interfaces, as well as energy efficiency and “always online” capabilities as some of the requirements for the 5G network. In setting these requirements, the Working Group realizes that it may not be possible to acquire these features through simple upgrades of the current 4G systems. It is for this reason that part of the requirement for the 5G includes new protocols and access technologies. Additionally, robustness and resiliency mobility, seamless user experience and context awareness of the network form part of the user-driven requirements list. For the network driven requirements, security, coverage, network flexibility, cost efficiency and a unified system framework form part of the list. Cost is specifically a requirement as the system must not only function properly, but its development, deployment and maintenance must be cost effective on not only the operators and vendors, but the end user as well.
The potential benefits that 5G brings to telecommunication are perhaps the reason for interest in its development across different regions and industries. Although 4G networks have increased the speed of internet connection especially in mobile devices, there are enabling technologies that have increased the interest in 5G technology. Among these are beam-forming and MIMO antennas that have been in development. “Beam-forming antennas, where the radio signal is focused to a narrow beam, help offset the effect of reduced propagation of very high frequency carriers” [GSA 2015, 21]. MIMO antennas on the other hand, can potentially increase the peak throughput per connection in addition to increasing coverage. The effectiveness of the MIMO antennas have been demonstrated, while LTE-A features such as Coordinated Multipoint have proven effective in addressing issues with the antenna’s signal interference [GSA 2015, 21].
Research is additionally underway in the use of frequency above 6GHz given the availability of more spectrum than in lower frequencies [GSA 2015, 21]. By using the available spectrum within the stated frequencies, it will be possible to deliver enhanced mobile broadband connection to more people.
With enabling technology such as beam-forming and MIMO antennas, 5G presents potential for novel concepts and application. One of these concepts is augmented and virtual reality. Although virtual reality is potentially useful in entertainment ventures such as gaming, it is also potentially useful in practical scenarios including manufacturing and medicine, with an extension to wearable technology [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 9].automation in factories as well as performance of remote surgery are among the potential novelties that can come with 5G broadband connection. Such applications are speed and reliability dependent, consuming high bandwidth and requiring low latency, both of which are currently not achievable through LTE [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 9].
Yet another concept that could become a reality is autonomous driving/connected cars. Current research into driverless cars undertaken by Google involves the US of GP, cameras and other gadgets to measure proximity. Such vehicles are however a potential hazard on the road in their current state given the lack of reliable connectivity to a central system as well as the ability to communicate with other vehicles using the road infrastructure. However, with 5G, there is a potential of enabling the vehicles to communicate with one another as well as the outside world resulting inn safety and efficiency on the road [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 9]. Thus, with connection to a network with a traffic management system, it will be possible for high-speed travel at closer proximity with lower risk of accident, given the elimination of human error [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 9]. The high bandwidth and fast command response time required for safe operation of the automated system will only be possible with the 1 millisecond delay that 5G provides [GSMA Intelligence 2014, 9].
In looking at the views of different industry players, many see 5G technology as an enabler of business with the potential of creating not only new business ventures, but also new income generating avenues. SMEs in particular see 5G networks as a combination of fixed and wireless solutions run from the latest computing logic across the world. For this reason, SMEs see themselves as best positioned as part of the ecosystem. By becoming part of the ecosystem, SMEs see the potential for growth and expansion into new business models and opportunities.
Big manufacturers on the other hand, see the advent of 5G as a potential for business. Automation and split second response through the internet of thing will enable better automation and control in the factories, in addition to increasing safety. Further, telecommunication equipment manufacturers see 5G as an opportunity for securing contacts for upgrading mobile telecommunication systems [Scott 2016].
Operators and service providers on the other hand see 5G as an opportunity to bring more services to the end users. Thus, they both see the new ultrafast connection as a way of getting more business and earning revenue from consumers given the value added services that will come with faster connections [Scott 2016]. In their rush to test and deploy the new technology, operators and service providers see 5G as the new frontier for business, and are therefore not taking any chances with the technology. Many are sponsoring universities in millions of dollars, as well as lobbying international standards organizations to promote their technology [Scott 2016].
In the race to create 5G technology, many operators, service providers and regions have initiated research and development as well as tests for the next generation communication technology. 5G offers a lot of potential in faster connection speeds, connecting things (internet of things) and reliability in connections. The different development projects by each region, operator and service providers, however, may present a problem especially in choosing a standard for the new technology. Although they are all building from the 4G technology, the lack of a common standard may eventually present standardization problems, delaying the eventual rolling out of the technology. In its implementation, 5G will use beam-forming technology to track the end user device. Although this will deliver faster connections, it is an expensive technology to deploy on a large scale. MIMO, which offers an option for increased bandwidth on the other hand, can create radio interference. This will then require a different technology to solve, which is additionally expensive. The potential for 5G use is infinite. However, there is need to address the teething problems of standardization, radio interference and beam-forming, before full deployment of the technology.
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