Featuring most of the 5G heavyweights in the industry, IEEE GLOBECOM took place the week of Dec 5 in Washington DC featuring next generation communications topics. The event is one of the flagship conferences of the IEEE Communications Society and meets once a year in North America attracting more than 2000 leading scientists, researchers and industry experts. The 5-day event has tutorials and workshops plus an industry forum and exhibition that include industry-focused workshops, tutorials, keynote talks and panel discussions.
The industry forum was the focus of my visit and on Monday morning it covered 5G Network Challenges with panelists from NI, Huawei, Samsung, Qualcomm and Nokia. Here are 8 interesting trends in 5G:
- Network slicing seems to be the best approach to accommodating various use cases that have different requirements and is being pushed heavily by Huawei
- Massive MIMO and mmWave technology are progressing quickly into practice with trials going on now
- mmWave technology will be available in fixed wireless and backhaul by 2020 but on available in handsets until a couple of years later (WLAN mmWave technology would be in handsets much earlier)
- For mmWave implementations, 28 GHz is leading band being used followed by 39 GHz (some work at 60 and 73 GHz)
- 3.5 GHz seems likely for 5G implementations in Asian for under 6 GHz but US does not have much spectrum in this area unless sharing is implemented with the citizens broadband radio which is being reviewed
- Coexistance issues will need to be addressed in many frequency bands
- Remote surgery could be performed in poorer countries at 100 times lower cost than traveling there in person
- Operators could evolve from connectivity providers to AI/cloud computing platforms that sell networks slices to industries
4 regional trends:
- US is quickly adopting 5G for fixed wireless use
- Korea is focused on 5G mobile broadband for the Olympics and promises to be the first to implement on a wide scale
- Europe is leading the 5G charge for automotive applications
- China is going green and pushing software defined network for 5G using massive MIMO at <6 GHz (China Mobile)
The Massive MIMO (<6 GHz) versus mmWave panel was fun as they debated the benefits of each technology. While mmWaves offer wide band widths/high throughput and available spectrum, massive MIMO using today’s frequencies works at highway speeds for moving objects and avoids absorption problems with rain and low E glass (indoors). But Massive MIMO at today’s frequencies is large in area and could require quite a bit of power. It does propagate around objects and is not as complicated as implemeting beam steering that is needed for mmWaves. The audience thought that the mmWave contingent won the debate, but I pretty sure the first 5G systems will not use mmWave frequencies.
China Mobile stated they have about one third of the world’s mobile users (about 500 million subscribers using 150 million basestations). They are emphasizing massive MIMO for the first 5G systems and have demonstrated 128 antenna basestatiosn using their tile approach that blends into the design of buildings, etc.
In the exhibition, I saw Keysight, R&S, NI, Anritsu, Nokia, Qualcomm, Huawei and MathWorks. A few things that caught my interest were:
Keysight’s new NB-IoT test setup preview of the E7515A UXM Wireless Test Set that is a single box system specifically designed for this space. An example measurement is the NB-IoT In-Band 10 MHz shown here.
Keysight was also demonstrating wideband mmWave DPD measurements in conjunction with Waterloo University so you can watch that video demonstration below along with up to 5 GHz of bandwidth measurements made in the mmWave range. The compact VDI frequency extensions helped enable these mmWave range measurements providing a clean upconverted signal which is demonstrated in the second video.
A couple of other Keysight demos on 5G simulation and 802.11ad measurements:
Here are a couple of video demos from R&S and NI focusing on their expertise in the area of 5G:
We are bound to see many companies claiming to be the first in 5G milestones over the next year – Huawei stated they had the first 5G basestation in Japan operating at 4.65 GHz and achieving 11 Gbps (18.28 Gbps peak) throughput with less than 1 ms latency. Qualcomm earlier released the first 5G commercial radio (NR) with its chipset, modem and software platform. We will see what is next.