The machines are coming, so solutions providers should start preparing now for the era of 5G.
The number of mobile devices is increasing by the minute. Worldwide mobile device shipments, including notebook PCs, tablet PCs, smart phones and phones will reach an astounding 2.6 billion units in 2016, according to the latest forecasts from global technology analysts at Canalys.
While the current mobile environment is composed predominantly of smartphones with voice and data capabilities, tomorrow’s network landscape full of IoT devices looks very different. Wireless networks will need to sustain traffic flowing from not only the billions of mobile devices, but also connected cars, digital signs, smart factories, home devices such as thermostats and smart mirrors, and even connected drones circling in the skies.
For billions of people and IoT machines to be connected to each other and to the cloud, the networks will need to be smarter, faster and more efficient. Current and next wave connectivity technologies, including LTE, millimeter wave, 5G modems, Wi-Fi, WiGig, Bluetooth and Ethernet are essential for end-to-end pervasive connectivity across extremely diverse device and application needs, from multi-gigabit per second speeds to ultra-low latency.
Fast and Future-Ready: 5G
Intel and other device makers are looking to 5G as the network technology of the future for connecting mobile as well as IoT devices and machines. 5G networks have the potential to support data connection speeds exceeding 10 Gbps, a thousand times faster than current 4G data rates.
“5G is more than an evolutionary step forward for our industry. It encompasses many technologies and a much wider ecosystem than has ever been seen in the wireless and telecommunications industries,” says Aicha Evans, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of Intel’s Communication and Devices Group. “It’s an inflection point, a place in time where we will see and experience everything being smart and connected.”
Photo credit: Twitter @Aicha2Evans
Evans notes that manufacturers must architect modems, devices and networks to ensure that everything and anything that can compute and connect to the network actually will. “Think about it this way—every device that connects to the network redefines connectivity and establishes a new point of convergence. With this in mind, we must redefine the meaning of the network. Every device becomes a node by default.”
Picking the Right Partnerships
Intel is focusing on three key areas of 5G: industry partnerships, end-to-end 5G hardware and software development, and standards initiatives for 5G.
“To deliver 5G connectivity and intelligence, industry partnerships are more critical than ever,” says Evans, as “no one company can move this technology forward alone.” Intel intends to collaborate with industry leaders from device and equipment manufacturers to network operators and service providers and lay a foundation in 5G in areas such as Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and NarrowBand IOT (NB-IOT).
Waiting in the Wings: The 5G Standard
Keep in mind that as of 2016, 5G is still something of a misnomer, as the standard doesn't exist yet. Experts in the industry estimate that the 5G standard will be fully developed and defined in five to six years. Standards bodies including 3GPP, ITU and IEEE, as well as universities, public governance bodies and special interest groups will all have input.
Even though standards development is a work in progress, the governing bodies involved in the process have already reached a consensus on specific uses of 5G, and one of those is machine-to-machine communications. Facilitating the use of mobile networks by connected or autonomous cars, remotely controlled industrial robots, telehealth systems, and smart city infrastructure are also all expected to figure large in 5G thinking.
In the meantime, organizations, governments, and academics are working on the technologies that will form the 5G standard and also rolling out working test beds. NYU Wireless, which is the academic research center of New York University, is building a sophisticated 5G test bed. Researchers there are gathering data using prototype base stations and mobile units that will help others design, prototype and validate key 5G technologies and channel models.
To learn more about development of the 5G standard and get reports on IoT use cases in smart cities, visit 3GPP.