5G... It Is Out There

We are starting to hear a lot of references to “5G”.

I suppose it is inevitable. Marketing is a tactical battleground where there are first mover advantages and no particular vendor wants to be seen to be trailing the field. So far I have seen blogs, video sound bites, and trade journal write-ups from Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei, NSN, Samsung and even NTT DoCoMo. However, they are all remarkably “succinct” in their commentaries about “5G”, and that is largely because “5G” is still very much “under construction”… so there is not much to be said. Even the European Commission has launched a research study, titled Metis, to figure out what is 5G and what it is meant to do for us.


Shaking the tree, infrastructure vendors will make reference to:

  • Utilize higher spectrum bands;
  • Utilize small cells;
  • Increase data through-put;
  • Use Multiple Antennas.

... But a lot of these technologies and strategies will find their way into 4G’s LTE’s future 3GPP Release roadmap.

There is one fundamental aspect that could set 5G apart from 4G, and that is cognitive radio technologies. Mobile telcos and vendors are by and large leery of unlicensed spectrum allocation but there is a consensus that “Authorized Shared Access” (ASA) of under-utilized spectrum could yield substantial spectrum dividends for operators. ASA would allow mobile operators to share frequency bands from other types of incumbent systems, such as government agencies or TV broadcast networks, while guaranteeing quality of service for both.


When will 5G materialize? The general consensus is that it will be in the “2020” timeframe, although I suspect it will happen sooner, as the wireless technological arms race to be the “first” vendor, the “first” country, the “first” operator, spurs on 5G R&D.


Where is it most likely to materialize? Probably Korea or Japan… Korea is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018 and Japan is hosting the Summer Olympics in 2020, and both will want to demonstrate the latest, most cutting edge, wireless network.


(Excerpted from an ABI Insight)