Ahead of the 5G World Summit 2015, taking place on 24-25th June in Amsterdam, Mikio Iwamura, Director NTT DoCoMo & NGMN Work Stream lead, gives us his current views on the requirements of 5G networks and the services enabled by it!

Here is what Mikio says  ““5G” seems to encompass different aspects and you will probably get ten different answers if you talk to ten different people. “5G” is a convenient term and everyone wants to talk about it, but after all, it will just be a marketing term. Companies will use the term “5G” to encompass whatever they want to call “5G” when the time comes.

I think it is about time the industry needs to define concrete terms that represent different components of “5G”. For example, 3GPP will need to define a term that represents a new radio access technology, that will potentially have access to the IMT-2020 spectrum, once approved by ITU-R. This will be a 5G equivalent of “LTE” or “E-UTRA/ E-UTRAN”. 3GPP may also need to think what they will call LTE enhancements, beyond Rel-13. Another aspect is the future core network. Including NGMN, various consortia and companies are promoting the “network slicing” concept, that brings along more cost efficient and agile ways of provisioning services with disparate requirements by use of NFV and SDN technologies. The industry will need a new name to address the system that has this capability. This will be like “EPC” or “EPS”, but I think “packet” will not be the keyword here. Something along the lines of “poly-morphic system” seems to better describe the concept.

With regards to requirements, various consortia have published whitepapers more or less along the same lines, that can be categorized into three directions: extreme mobile broadband (xMBB), massive and low-cost machine type communications (mMTC), and ultra-low latency/ reliable machine type communications (uMTC). There is a lot of buzz about IoT and some people think 5G will be a network for IoT. However, we should not just dance on a propaganda and embrace the case paying more attention to the facts.

mMTC will have many solutions before 2020, e.g., LTE Category 1 (Rel-8), Category 0 (Rel-12), Category X (Rel-13, sometimes referred to as LTE-M), GERAN enhancements, Sigfox, Weightless and LoRa, to name a few. Some companies think that a clean slate design will not achieve significant benefits, in terms of spectral efficiency and battery life. For mMTC companies make long lasting contracts, typically lasting 10-15 years. So businesses may be pre-empted before 5G and migration toward 5G may be a hard effort. The key question here is “can the industry wait until 5G?”.

The attributes imposed by uMTC seems interesting, and means to provide ultra-low latency and reliability can be a good driver to create new businesses. GSMA Intelligence expressed some interesting opinion on this in their whitepaper last December, highlighting a number of challenges, e.g., physical limitations on the achievable distance between end-points, inter-connect scenarios, and finding applications that really need 1 ms latency. So while this domain is worth exploring, this direction is still a bit grey.

Meanwhile, we should not forget the fact that traffic is still growing, at a CAGR of roughly 1.5 to 2 depending on the region, and the industry will need a solution to serve this. This is a true problem and given the commitment by regions like Japan and Korea, I think the initial 5G deployment will try to address the xMBB direction first. This does not mean mMTC and uMTC are neglected. The design itself should cater for smooth enhancements for mMTC and uMTC. But for mMTC and uMTC, the industry needs to develop more dialogue.

The mMTC and uMTC requirements so far seem to have been derived by telco researchers. I think it is time now that the telco industry seriously engage different industry verticals to clarify the real use cases and the real requirements. The industry needs to do this fast, if solutions are to be provisioned for 2020. If technology needs to be standardized, specifications need to be ready by end of 2018, should deployments commence in 2020. Given LTE standardization started in 2005 for major deployments in 2010, we have very limited time. The telco side is open to collaborating with different verticals. 5G will be a once in a decade opportunity to integrate new requirements in the fundamental system design. If verticals see benefits in aggregating their ICT systems into a single infrastructure, thereby saving potential costs, voices need to be raised within the next half year.”


You can see Mikio Iwamura, speaking at 5G World Summit 2015, taking place on 24-25th June! 

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