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The 5G Ecosystem: How the Horizon is Expanding

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VoicenData Bureau
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Going ahead and building a quality world class ICT infrastructure would be the right way to address the challenge, as well as reap the benefits of 5G.

By: Sarah Yost, Senior Product Manager, National Instruments

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Telecom technology is constantly evolving in today’s world, with 5G being the definition of cutting edge technology. India has recognized the potential that 5G possesses to change the telecom landscape in the country and has taken appropriate measures to establish itself as a key global player. As part of this goal, the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-Delhi) has set up a lab this year for standardization, research and manufacturing of 5G equipment.

The future of 5G globally, has already been set in motion, with the first half of the phase 1 5G New Radio (5G NR) standard being ratified by the 3GPP and the second half of phase 1 to be ratified in June this year. These events have heralded the potential commercial roll out of 5G in the near future. One of the most impressive aspects of 5G is that it encompasses an entire ecosystem being built up around the standard with a broad range of industries and applications. At Mobile World Congress in February this year, there were numerous 5G demonstrations touting the high speeds promised and showing off flashy applications like VR.

Changes in new standards

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Unlike previous standards, 5G standards include performance metrics for the number of simultaneously connected devices and a specification for latency in addition to specifications for the traditional mobile broadband use cases. This increased device connectivity will help to enable the Internet of Things (IoT) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) on a scale that cannot be realized by today’s LTE capabilities alone. While each of these three areas of specification enables new and expanded use cases, it’s the combination of all three together that is creating a rich ecosystem of applications around 5G. A chart showing how different applications will take advantage of different performance aspects of 5G is shown below.

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Following the LTE design cycle, the new 3GPP release 15 in June 2018 will include the 5G NR specifications with a specific use case called the Non-Stand Alone (NSA) use case. The NSA use case of 5G NR is important because it will operate by using the core network from LTE rather than rolling out new infrastructure. Over the course of the next several months, researchers will be working diligently to finalize the standard for the 5G NR SA use case and equipment vendors will be designing hardware that will be able to support the stand alone use case once it is released.

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2018 will be an exciting year for the 5G. At Mobile World Congress, Huawei demonstrated a 5G base station, Samsung demonstrated Inter Operability Device Testing (IODT) with their 28 GHz 5G NR base station, and  Qualcomm, working to make 5G a commercial reality in 2019, had an IODT demonstration for their 28 GHz capable UE with base stations from Ericsson and Nokia. These demonstrations show that equipment vendors have hardware that is almost ready to be deployed. In India, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sought to meet global frequency standards by coming out in support of frequencies in the 26 GHz band

Applications in Virtual reality (VR)

Virtual reality has been around in some form for years, but the ability to have VR over a cellular network will make new applications for VR possible. One hot application for VR is sporting events. The ideal VR experience would require a full 360 degree, high definition view of a virtual world to explore, meaning that cameras must be constantly capturing 360 degrees worth of high definition video. These videos must then be streamed from the camera location back to the cellular base station and later to the end user. 5G promises to easily accomplish this task and provide enough throughput to stream to multiple users simultaneously. Latency is another issue with VR as any lag of more than 1ms is detectable by the human brain and causes a disruption in viewing, even nausea. Because of the combined improved mobile broadband speeds and the sub 1 ms latency specification in 5G, VR over a cellular network will be possible.

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Imagine being able to experience a cricket match from the perspective of one of the players on the field. Or being able to virtually stand next to the umpire and watch the action happening live all around you. A small-scale demo of this type of technology was demoed at the Pyeongchang Olympics earlier this year. One hundred cameras were placed in the skating rink and the data was live streamed back to a 5G technology pavilion. With VR headsets, spectators could experience skating events as if they were on the ice. This technology can be similarly adapted for other sports like cricket and football in an Indian context.

IIoT and Augmented Reality (AR)

5G’s ability to connect 100 times more devices to the network will allow for IoT and IIoT to take off. When every machine and device in a manufacturing plant can be constantly reporting its health statistics and efficiency, aging equipment can be repaired before it breaks down and problems can potentially be avoided altogether. Combining the IIoT with augmented reality (AR), machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), technicians will have the ability to view machinery status and information through AR goggles or on a tablet in the field and AI can help to quickly diagnose problems. 5G has the potential to make future manufacturing faster, cheaper, and safer.

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Autonomous vehicles

Autonomous vehicles are one of the hottest and most anticipated applications that 5G will enable. In India, this technology has already gained prominence, with Infosys India, a major IT services firm, developing an autonomous golf cart in conjunction with the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT), Delhi. Autonomous vehicles currently make decisions based on data obtained from photo and video sensors. Future self-driving cars will do the same but with greater vehicular communications. Data such as road and environment conditions and route information can be shared between vehicles as well as other smart devices like light posts and street signs. The body of research around, called Vehicle to Everything, or V2X communications, must focus on eliminating latency issues, making these communications more reliable and enabling large data dumps to be processed in a cloud environment. As processing technology improves, updates can be pushed to cellular infrastructure and older cars would still be able to take advantage of these updates without needing changes to their hardware.

What the future holds

While the current revision of the 3GPP specification does not include any specifications for V2X, 5G is an evolving standard and the December 2017 release is just the first of many. The timeline in Figure 1 shows plans for release 16 at the end of 2019. This release represents phase 2 of 5G NR, which will explore items like Integrated Access Backhaul (IAB) for centralized backhaul processing, address the challenges of sharing unlicensed spectrum for mobile communications, and V2X. The 3GPP aims to address these topics and a host of others during phase 2. Although 5G will be rolling out into commercial products in late 2018 and 2019, the research phase of 5G is still ongoing.

As 5G standards are solidified and 5G capable devices start coming to market, the global impact of 5G will be more widely felt and will become an integral part of daily life, from entertainment to smart cities. The emerging era of wireless technology seems bright and exciting

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