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Engineers lay groundwork for 5G standardisation

Posted: 14 Apr 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:5G? 3GPP? LTE? ODFM technologies?

One of the top jobs this year is to decide which new technologies will be in the first phase of 5G standards set for competition in 2018 and which will follow in the second phase in 2019.

The various 5G goals can broadly be dumped in two big buckets. One bucket focuses on enhanced mobile broadband which will delivered with a new air interface, especially using massive antenna arrays in millimeter wave bands. Another looks at new techniques for supporting large numbers of machine-to-machine links for the Internet of Things, some at ultra-low latencies.

"A large number of people think enhanced mobile broadband should be the Phase 1 focus but others say it should be the other way around because mobile broadband is being well satisfied by LTE and the coming LTE Advanced Pro," Sanjeev Athalye, a senior director of product management for 5G at Qualcomm, told EE Times.

TMobile's Kuoppamaki makes the argument for focusing on mobile broadband first. Early 5G deployments will likely be in Korea, Japan and the U.S. where proposed Gbit/second speeds will be attractive to top customers and the capacity is needed in big cities, he said.

"LTE can cope with IoT in short term," he added, noting the 3GPP recently cleaned up its road map for LTE-based IoT standards.

3GPP LTE roadmap

Figure 2: The 3GPP recently laid out a comprehensive LTE road map for the Internet of Things. (Image: Ericsson)

Unfortunately, no one knows which mmwave spectrum bands 5G should target. Kuoppamaki and others praise the U.S. Federal Communications Commission for taking a lead in identifying four bands in a recent proposal: the 28, 37, 39 and 64-71 GHz bands.

Whether other regulators will follow suit is still unclear. Some suspect 5G will ultimately have more global bands to support than the 40 used worldwide for LTE. For its part, China lacks the resources and expertise to be an early mover, so it is expected to focus 5G on sub-6 GHz bands and leverage other's work on mmwave bands.

Proposed 5G spectrum bands

Figure 3: Proposed 5G spectrum bands don't match up among (from left) the U.S. FCC, the UK's Ofcom and the ITU. (Image: Boston Consulting Group)

"There's plenty of space available but the consensus on which bands is not so clear, there's a lot of uncertainty which is not surprising since we are still standardising 5G," said Heinz Bernold, an associate director at the Boston Consulting Group.

Thus engineers face a complex and interrelated set of questions this week as they review new technologies that aim to serve emerging business cases in evolving regulatory environments.

-Rick Merrit
EE Times

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