With the first 5G standard released, and commercial deployments having started, we are entering a new era of mobile communications. This transition to this newer ‘G’ has the potential to profoundly change the way that many businesses and industries operate. While 5G has the power to transform many industries, it is the telecom industry that will be at the forefront of this next generation of technology. By equipping the entire industry, consumers and enterprises, with the most advanced technology in the 5G platform, we enable other industries to transform and stay competitive for years to come. That is why standards and open innovation are so important.
What is also essential to understand is that mobile technology has been the fastest scaling technology ever. But, 5G will be more complex than previous generations, since there are more use cases, more complex technology and alternative business models. Just to give you an idea, Ericsson started working on 5G technology as early as 2010, with a vision of what 5G could become and enable. In 2012, Ericsson prepared the first draft of an initial 5G standard, detailing its rationale, goals, requirements and scope.
These basic 5G principles were aligned with the major cellular players, and are now taken for granted when mentioning a 5G system. Over the years, we have collaborated with telecom operators, industry partners, academia and governments to take this technology out of the labs and tested it out in feasibility trials, use case development and so on.
Billions of connected devices
Looking to the future, we foresee an even more connected world, with 30 billion connected devices expected by 2023. To meet the need for better networks and greater capability, Ericsson has invested approximately EUR 11 billion in R&D over the past 3 years. It currently devotes more than 23,600 employees to R&D, much of which is focused on contributing to the open standards for telecom.
Like the generations that have come before, 5G standardization is spearheaded by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (or 3GPP, as it’s more commonly known). The 3GPP standardization is an open and contribution-driven process, bringing together telecom companies from all over the world, to establish an international standard for 5G. Anyone can join the 3GPP to contribute to the 5G standard. The specifications are publicly available, even to non-members.
5G and Ericsson
We have been deeply involved in all areas of the process, ensuring aggressive performance targets of the end-to-end system in the 5G standardization work. One significant proof point of our involvement is the foundation application that Ericsson filed in 2017. This patent application, which combines the work of 130 Ericsson inventors, is the largest in cellular communication, in terms of the number of inventors, anywhere in the world. The application includes everything that an operator needs to build a complete 5G network.
Remember, for things like connected and autonomous cars to be real, for connected cities to function efficiently, for remote surgeries to happen, for industries to embrace 5G, it will have to be easy-to-understand, use, adopt, and scale for everyone. That requires an intense level of co-operation – one which we have been deeply involved in for years.
Need for global standards
As a concept, we see the ICT-related standards as ‘development standards’, and not merely for interoperability reasons. Standardization involves not only the setting of certain product requirements, but also, the actual development of cutting-edge technologies. Global cellular standards create global ecosystems by enabling economies of scale, which lead to lower implementation costs. They have become an engine for economic growth in virtually all sectors that benefit from connectivity.
Open standards enable companies to use the technology included in the standards, and innovate on top of an already existing ecosystem (even though they were not involved in developing the standard). The open standardization process ensures contributions from many different stakeholders, and creates well-engineered specifications based on future-proof cutting-edge technology.
Cellular standards enable multi-vendor interoperability. The operator networks are often comprised of products supplied by different parties. They support mobile phones and other connected devices from many different vendors. Standards allow companies to bring their products to markets faster, thereby, capturing the market window. This fast-market access is important in the telecom and ICT industries, where technologies are constantly evolving and changing.
Nitin Bansal, Head of Ericsson India and Head of Networks Solutions , Market Area Southeast Asia, Oceania and India.