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Home > News > Company News > Network infrastructure must gr.....

Network infrastructure must grow to handle 5G

  • Author:Ella Cai
  • Release on:2017-06-14
5G will need standards for many use cases. says Luis Jorge Romero

A large percentage of the world’s 7.4 billion population is now, to some degree at least, connected to the mobile network, with only incremental increases being possible in that respect. This, however, will certainly not limit the scope of 5G technology – deployment of which begins in two years’ time. On the contrary, it will call for an expansion in the network’s proportions unlike anything previously undertaken.

Ten years ago worldwide mobile data traffic came to around 1PB/month. Since then levels have been rising at an almost exponential rate (pushing beyond 5.5EB/month during 2016). Figures from Ericsson suggest a 45% compound annual growth rate (CAGR)  in mobile data traffic between now and 2021.

The dynamics driving mobile communications all point in one direction – upwards.

First, there is the heightening data traffic as subscribers increasingly make use, via their handsets, of apps and services such as video streaming and online gaming that are data-heavy. New apps, based on augmented or virtual reality, will only serve to exacerbate this.

The situation will be amplified still further by each subscriber having an increasing array of devices that they wish to connect to the network: handsets, tablets, smart watches, wearables and so on.

Second, there is the huge explosion in other connected devices to take into account. This will, of course, be driven mainly by the emergence of the internet of things (IoT) and, with time, will be elevated even more by V2X communication.

Most estimates agree that there will be in excess of 50 billion connected devices for the global mobile network to accommodate in the foreseeable future. If our network infrastructure is to cope with the demands destined to be placed upon it, a x10,000 increase in data capacity will be needed.

This huge weight of numbers seems a daunting prospect for 5G. It is clear that mobile network infrastructure that is flexible, scalable, reliable and extremely energy efficient will be needed. Securing all of these attributes calls for a migration towards cloud-based technology and virtualisation of the network. Use of millimetre wavelength (mmWave) technology will open up more available spectrum and allow support for higher data rates. Elevated traffic densities will rely on more widespread deployment of small cells.

Every one of these elements represents a considerable engineering challenge in its own right but, on top of all this, each of them must also be integrated to the others. In addition, as 5G technology will overlay (rather than replace) existing network infrastructure (such as LTE and LTE-Advanced) coexistence between new and legacy technologies will need to be addressed.

The implications of 5G technology will stretch well beyond the telecom business to a multitude of other sectors; including automotive, medical, industrial, agriculture and banking. With so many disparate stakeholders involved, ensuring that each of them has the opportunity to contribute to 5G development and define its particular long-term requirements is also likely to be difficult.

Having driven the evolution of mobile technology for nearly three decades, and played an integral part in the introduction of each new mobile generation, ETSI can draw heavily on previous experience. This will help it to ensure that 5G is correctly defined and implementation begins on schedule.

As well as close collaboration with 3GPP on the complex, multifaceted standardisation process, ETSI is also proactively engaging with all key stakeholders in order to decide on the appropriate technologies needed to satisfy the wide range of potential use cases. These include mobile operators, telecom equipment manufacturers, service providers, semiconductor vendors, automotive brands, utility companies, broadcasters and financial institutions.