At a recent trade show, discussions about 5G typically went something like this” “What is 5G?” Answer: “Whatever you want it to be!” It turns out this may not be too far from the truth.
5G as envisioned by proponents would offer peak wireless data rates of 10 Gbps, support hundreds of times more connected devices, and 1000 times the capacity of today’s networks. 5G would also reduce latency by at least an order of magnitude, and allow sensors to operate for 10 years on batteries. And, it will do much more.
The 3GPP, WRC and other industry groups have started to define 5G, and it looks as though it will have a unifying, flexible, end-to-end dynamic control architecture overlying radios below 6 GHz including legacy 4G, Wi-Fi, and also unifying control of radios above 6 GHz in new mm-wave bands. If it works as envisioned, 5G will provide an almost unlimited ability for anyone and anything to share data anywhere and anytime.
- Phase 1 is due in H2 2018. Phase 1 will fall under 3GPP Release 15. This is expected to define the new air interface for cellular below 6 GHz, which will eventually supersede 4G.
- Phase 2 will be completed by Dec 2019 for submission to the IMT 2020, and will fall under 3GPP Release 16. This is expected to encompass bands above 6 GHz potentially all the way up to 100 GHz.
- Commercialization would start in 2020 or early 2021. No doubt wireless operators will jump the gun and offer “5G” ahead of actual deployments, but true 5G should arrive in time for the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.
5G would allow:
- Seamless wireless connectivity for the consumer using the best available spectrum at all times.
- Simultaneous connections in different bands and access channels with aggregation (LWA, LTE-U etc. when permitted) for robust reliability and higher data rates.
- Support for wide area to local area networks in outdoor and enterprises settings, in sports venues and malls, in residential and hotspot settings, using shared, licensed, and unlicensed spectrum.
5G will support Internet of Things from high-rate, low latency, to low-rate, high-latency applications, expanding ways to connect devices and the Internet:
- 5G will include automatic device-to-device discovery, simplifying IoT connectivity.
- Multi-hop mesh networking from device to device will extend coverage where base stations or access points are not available.
- 5G will integrate access points, relays and backhaul together in one system, simplifying the planning and rolling out of large and small wireless networks.
- It will support vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2X) communications.
- It will support multiple links for redundancy and reliability, or higher data rates using aggregation when allowed.
Applications for 5G would range from those needing low to high latency communications, low to high data rates, using devices with low to higher power consumption. These would include:
- Smart city and smart grid.
- Wearables, and sensors.
- Autonomous vehicles.
- Cloud gaming.
- Remote industrial control and process automation.
- Immersive video, mobile holographic (true 3D) displays and augmented reality.
- Very high traffic venues such as sports venues.
- Disaster relief and emergency management.
5G will use a new, OFDM-based modulation and access scheme in cellular bands below 6 GHz for spectral efficiency. 5G will also use various mm-wave bands in small cells; the WRC will meet in early 2019 to try to harmonize bands from 6 GHz to 100 GHz available for 5G internationally.
At a recent analyst event in San Diego, Qualcomm demonstrated a 28 GHz radio system that used beam steering with a 128-element antenna and low-order modulation to transmit 400 Mbps down a hallway. According to the company, the system has a line-of-sight range of 350 meters, and simulations suggest a 150 meter range in a typical urban deployment, for example in Manhattan. Qualcomm says a fully operational system could attain multi-gigabit per second rates using higher order modulation. The 28 GHz band is just one mm-wave band under consideration for 5G, but a good test case.
5G will use dynamic TDD with short frame duration (transmission time interval or TTI) for ultra-low latency, and this means that 5G will not have backward compatibility with 4G. Radios will need to switch between 5G and 4G modes to support both.
5G will use massive MIMO, with possibly as many as 128 Tx and 128 Rx antennas. At lower frequencies, radios will use multiple Rx and Tx signal paths, each with channel state information, which implies more PAs, LNAs and switch poles and throws. At frequencies above 30 GHz, radios will probably use phased array beam steering at the antenna with a single transmit and receive path. This is already commonly done in CMOS at 60 GHz, with beam steering antenna arrays compensating for the low efficiency of CMOS at such high frequencies. GaAs and GaN will benefit from 5G, but so will SiGe-BiCMOS and CMOS.
5G will also use mesh networking to extend service where conventional base stations are not available. It is not clear whether consumers would want to give up bandwidth to relay cellphone calls from other users to distant base stations, but mesh networking could at least provide basic or emergency cellular service under exigent circumstances.
5G will mean more bands and more radios in mobile devices, which will expand the market for component suppliers, but we suspect that 5G will mainly benefit the higher-share cellular chip suppliers able to offer broad wireless semiconductor portfolios such as Qualcomm and MediaTek. Smaller suppliers will benefit, but offering comprehensive suites of components across all radio frequencies will tax the capabilities of the smaller suppliers unless they can specialize in unique technologies, components, and frequency bands for 5G.
If you are a Strategy Analytics subscriber with access to the Advance Semiconductor or RF & Wireless Component services, you can read more about 5G here and here.