The progression to 5G from 4G is different from the previous advance from 3G because that shift was all about speed and now it's all about connection on an unprecedented scale.
More specifically, this time around, the new factor is IoT, and as Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Communications and Devices Group, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), observes, this "new paradigm will require major changes to traditional cellular network topology."
Indeed, the 5G realm will encompass a lot more devices, technologies and participants than anything we've seen before. Consequently, collaboration within the industry is essential to keep the various components in communication with each other and on the same page about standards and plans. That's one of the key differences between the upcoming change and previous progressions, and it holds a great deal of promise for, as well as a number of challenges, for the industry.
To get some insider insight into the journey that lies ahead for arriving at 5G over the next five years, The New IP checked in with Evans via email.
The New IP: As one of the leaders in IoT and M2M, what challenges you are seeing in the market from the enterprise perspective?
Aicha Evans: The evolution to 5G is a progressive journey that will take years. During this time, operators need to continue investing in their networks to meet rapid growing capacity demands. Many 5G technologies will be applied during the evolution of existing generation networks and devices. However, there are some special factors operators need to consider in their 5G strategy and planning, such as:
5G networks need to be intelligent instead of simply faster, which means operators will need to implement efficient networking technologies like network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) in addition to new air interface technologies.
5G networks can create new business models for operator -- mobile edge computing is the starting point to bring innovations, such as new revenue-generating services.
5G networks must allow heterogeneous networks, meaning new and effective interference avoidance and cancellation techniques. Small cells and Wi-Fi play important roles now and also leading up to 5G.
5G networks need to scale up to support small form factor devices (e.g. wearables and IoT sensors) and immersive/local services (e.g. augmented reality). This will require new spectrum and more network efficiency.
Perceptual computing and proximity communication will merge, and local sensing, local communication, local content distribution and process will become essential.
These architecture changes present both significant challenges and huge opportunities. They will not happen overnight. Operators need to plan ahead and anticipate these new technologies to reduce cost while offering competitive services.
The New IP: Will the boom in devices force 5G to happen faster than 3G or 4G?
AE: Not necessarily. Each generation of wireless technology takes about ten years through a process of determining requirements, concepts, spectrum allocations, technology development, standards, product implementation and large-scale commercial deployment. It is a long journey, and takes time to develop technologies and quality standards. Many experts are anticipating early 5G trials in 2018 and some of the first commercial networks by 2020.
The New IP: With 3G and 4G, we didn't have the Internet of Things to worry about. How will IoT shape 5G?
AE: 5G represents a paradigm shift for the mobile industry, and IoT is a key driver. Today's mobile paradigm is about providing high-speed 3G, 4G and WiFi data connectivity to large numbers of people at the lowest cost, and using the least amount of spectrum. As consumers, we use a fairly limited range of connected computing devices: feature- and smartphones, PCs, tablets, 2-in-1s, e-readers and a few other types.
5G will also include enhancements to speed and spectrum utilization, but it will be about connecting billions of devices and things with a much larger and more varied range of form factors, computing capabilities and display capabilities. This new paradigm will require major changes to traditional cellular network topology. Networks and devices will also need to become more intelligent because they will need to increasingly share computing and connection management responsibilities.
IoT devices also bring mission critical elements, such as driverless cars, telemedicine. In addition to latency and capacity, the telecommunications industry needs to consider how they move decision making and content closer to the end users and end devices.
The New IP: Who will lead on getting the industry to 5G -- the service providers, standards bodies or vendors? Will it be any different from 3G or 4G in the process of getting there?
AE: The process will be much more cooperative -- and involve many more participants -- than previous generations of mobile standards. 5G will involve an unprecedented variety of devices, spectrum bands, computing and communication technologies, services and applications. Getting all of these technologies to work together seamlessly will require much broader and more involved industry participation than previous generations.
— Ariella Brown, Freelance Contributor, special to The New IP