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Proposed 5G standards focus on landline networks

Posted: 22 May 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:International Telecommunications Union? 5G? ITU? landline network?

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is in the process of creating a working group on preparing existing landline networks to be backbone of 5G. While it can be noted that various efforts to come up with a 5G standard have been circulating incessantly, this move coming from ITU may actually put forth something tangible for the industry.

I have lost count of the number of standards efforts, industry alliances, research consortia and targeted research centres, and even likely air interfaces that have been created over the past 12-18 months as the mobile sector moves towards the nirvana of 5G. Most of the announcements don't register but one last week caught my eye. And I even thought, about time too.

It sounded anodyne enough, as much correspondence from ITU can do, but this one is really important. It notes that the organisation, which is affiliated to the UN and rules on global spectrum allocation, is assembling a 'working group' focusing on how existing landline networks will need to be adapted to provide the glue that will hold this "tactile Internet" together.

International Telecommunications Union

There is no doubt this aspect has had significantly less focus and research, but the perhaps boring backhauling and internetworking will be equally important if 5G is to achieve all that is expected of it.

The ITU, of course, has had 5G on its radar since as far back as 2012, but the establishment of this Focus Group represents an important shift towards being at the centre of standardisation efforts.

Specifically, the ITU is looking at the International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) standards for 2020 and beyond, with hosting being offered by the organisation's Standardisation Sector (ITU-T). The standards in question, called the "IMT-2020" systems, are said to be targeting fibre optic infrastructure levels of speed and reliability.

As well as voice and video, IMT-2020 systems are expected to include numerous vertical industry applications such as industrial automation and healthcare, with focus on new devices and ways of working, including self-driving vehicles, real-time robotics and virtual reality. One of the most impressive and ambitious standards referenced by the ITU is latency measured in milliseconds, from end to end.

One of the experts commenting on the ITU's initiative, Chaesub Lee, director of the organisation's standardisation bureau, perhaps put it most succinctly. "Today's network architectures cannot support the envisaged capabilities of IMT-2020 systems. Innovation in standardisation is essential across core networks, access networks, virtualised data clusters and masses of smart networked units. Moving beyond convergence, the concepts underlying networking must evolve to support the development of integrated fixed-mobile hybrid networks."

Meanwhile, the ITU's secretary general, Houlin Zhao, noted that there was clear progress for air interfaces, but stressed the organisation's radio communications and standardisation arms must work in tandem so that the wireline and wireless elements of 5G develop in unison.

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