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Is The Vision For 5G Too Utopian?
January 24, 2017 | By Barkan Ersoy @ Vodafone UK
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We are pleased to share with you all an interesting article contributed by Barkan Ersoy. 


Barkan Ersoy

Senior Traffic & Performance Modelling Engineer

at Vodafone UK


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We have been recently coming across a number of articles where 5G is considered as a “revolutionary new technology” without fully identifying why and there are rather optimistic predictions about the 5G networks future which will require operators to go “all-in” and subscribers to significantly increase their spending.
Achieving the massive machine connectivity, super low latency and incredible increase in capacity and capability as we Telecom people know very well require a complete transformation in radio technology and the standards. In this article I will be wrapping up different visions around the industry and try to find answers to whether what 5G will deliver has become too utopian or not.
Looking at the current global landscape, we see a lot of ambition in the countries like the US, South Korea (for the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics) and Japan (for the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics) about the 5G opportunities from the ultra broadband and wider bandwidth stand point. While Europe so far seems to be more interested in the IoT applications, cloud RAN and the narrow-band radio technology.
In the UK, the MP Philip Hammond declared his country-wide ambition during his Autumn statement “to make Britain to become a world leader in 5G”. As much as such statement may sound more sophisticated than “making x, y or z great again” some of the industry observers have not hesitated to argue that the Telecoms is going dangerously fast and hard with 5G as it would require a lot of "taxpayers money".
And in the US, we are already expecting “some commercial 5G” to be available in the next 12 months. That is much earlier than the current belief that 2020 would set the start. So it is fair to say that the commercial priorities and the demand are and will be quite different in different parts of the world for 5G.
There are even some industry critics who are convinced that the 5G technology is a “propaganda” spread out mainly by the equipment makers and governments. Professor William Webb (ex-director of Ofcom) has said that telecoms industry’s “obsession with speed” is similar to the Aerospace during the 60’s when the supersonic travel was first under discussion.
His argument was that despite the cultural influence of the Concorde aircraft that was able to cruise twice the speed of a commercial aeroplane today, it did not do much to improve the progress in the industries as a whole as it was not feasible enough from the economical standpoint.
In parallel, some see download speeds of 10+Gbps that will be possible with 5G networks, way ahead of the demand curves predictions drawn looking at the traffic assumptions and historical actuals.
Some executives in the research field have also stated that the telecoms industry is trying to engage the consumer and make them believe that the “5G is almost here” without having finalised the standardisation and a clear strategy on the timing of the roll-out.
At the equipment makers side however, executives remain very confident that the 5G will pay off predicting that there will be more than 500 million 5G subscribers globally by 2020. Ulf Ewaldsson –the Group CTO of Ericsson- in one of his remarks called the attention to the scepticism that existed in 2009 when some people said “Why do I need this much data? I already have 3G!”
The industry so far has claimed to solve many big problems with one new umbrella 5G technology with quite aggressive time frames from standardisation to actual commercial deployments. However the clear consensus is that it will also unlock massive range of possibilities and 5G will not be a network that does only one thing.
As 3GPP set out in their standards factory, there will be elements which will give different investment choices to the mobile network operators. There will also be regional differences as Europe, USA and Korea has their own different spectrum frameworks.
At this stage it is important to understand as the Release-14 is coming to an end the new radio specifications in Release – 15 and the inherent areas from the 3GPP perspective. As I mentioned in my “Is 5G on track?” article the RAN meeting in March 2017 will be the key date which we expect to see the decision on what will be in the subset functionalities in the first release of the New Radio specification.
According to Dino Flore who is the chairman of the 3GPP, one of the bigger challenges is the scope of work in the Rel-15 being huge and the amount of hard decisions to be made in the prioritisation phase.
As an example, we currently have not heard from the 3GPP about the definition of the new radio bands which is crucial and interesting for all players in the industry. We only know that the 5G will be deployed on a wide set of frequency, ranging from very high to low. As we follow from the current discussions, there will for instance be frequencies in the millimetre wave spectrum.
28 GHz and 39 GHz are constantly being talked about. My impression is that the 3.4 – 3.8 GHz spectrum will be also important together with the low bands like 700 MHz in Europe and 600 MHz in the US. So, there is no clear definition as of now but we expect a good variety.
In parallel, there are also developments and collaboration with the verticals (other sectors). As we know see in the progress of the Rel-14, the V2X –vehicle to everything- framework serving automotive industry for the road safety applications has been introduced and the number of delegates and companies contributing to this area is growing considerably.
It is basically the enabler technology for passing of information from a vehicle to any machine that may be interesting for the vehicle, and vice versa. So around this, we might see some more interesting collaboration between the 3GPP and the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA – the group that defines the requirement for the V2X).
Regarding the fully functional and capable system meeting all the requirements, we see an emerging consensus of having 3GPP to release an early version of the 5G specification, not addressing all the capabilities but addressing more urgent market needs. For that, an earlier release in mid-2018 addressing a subset of the use cases and requirements may be considered.

So, how realistic is it that the 5G will be able to achieve fully the predicted use cases in a timely manner?


It is predicted that some players will be more ambitious and be pushing for early deployment as we have seen cases in the LTE case couple years ago. The risk there is that the availability of the technology might then be fragmented.


This is why, organisations like ETSI and 3GPP are expected to prefer sticking to a common standard and involving different sectors to ensure a more stable and sustainable 5G future.


There are indeed many exciting 5G business models and most of them require a certain engagement and collaboration with different sectors and regulatory bodies in the pilot projects and trials. The success of this collaboration in my opinions is going to be key in the deployment of the phenomenon like massive IoT deployments, super low latency communications and ultra broadband cases.


Only this way, 5G will be the “revolutionary new technology” bringing disruptive change in societies by creating a better technology experience and improved safety in our lives. Otherwise, in the case where there is the lack of a common standard and cooperation with the verticals, current predictions on “what 5G will deliver” will remain nothing but utopian.





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