Mobile industry association the GSMA has released a new report to outline its perspectives on the development of 5G mobile.

The Understanding 5G: Perspectives on Future Technological Advancements report outlines the technical requirements of future 5G networks, and explores potential use cases as well as the implications for operators and other mobile ecosystem players.

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“Already being widely discussed, the arrival of 5G will help deliver a fresh wave of mobile innovation that will further transform the lives of individuals, businesses and societies around the world,” said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA.

“Of course, 5G is still to be standardised by the industry and it has not been fully agreed what 5G will look like or what it will enable," she said. "However, the GSMA is already collaborating with operators, vendors, governments and other industry organisations in ensuring that the future 5G standard is both technically and economically viable.”

Evolution

The report aims to provides "clarity" on the industry’s "evolutionary path" towards 5G, and addresses "many of the misconceptions" around 5G. It examines the two main views on 5G that exist today, which are frequently mixed together to form the basis of a 5G definition.

One view is the "hyper-connected vision", where 5G is seen as a blend of existing technologies like 2G, 3G, 4G, wifi and others. Such a view sees the delivery of greater coverage and availability, higher network density in terms of cells and devices, and the ability to provide the connectivity to enable machine-to-machine (M2M) services and the Internet of Things.

The second view covers next-generation radio access technology. This perspective outlines 5G in ‘generational’ terms, setting specific targets that new radio interfaces must meet in terms of data rates (faster than 1Gbps for downloading) and latency (less than a 1ms delay).

These two views identify core technical requirements for 5G that set targets for network densification (both number of connections and number of cells), coverage, availability, operational expenditure reduction, data rates, latency, and the field life of devices. However, says the report, only two of these - data rates and latency - relate to a "true generational shift", with the remaining ones being either economic objectives or aspirations applicable to all network technologies.

Many of the 5G technical requirements already form part of the network innovations being undertaken by operators today, says the report.

For example, technologies such as network functions virtualisation (NFV), software-defined networks (SDN), heterogeneous networks (HetNets) and Low Power, Low Throughput networks are being bundled under the title of 5G, despite the fact that they are already being brought to market by vendors and deployed by operators.

Meanwhile, the report says, there remains "considerable opportunity" for growth in 4G, which still only accounts for 5 percent of the world’s mobile connections. While 4G penetration as a percentage of connections is already as high as 69 percent in South Korea, 46 percent in Japan and 40 percent in the US, 4G penetration in the developing world stands at just 2 percent.

According to the report, mobile operators will invest $1.7 trillion globally in network infrastructure over the period 2014-2020, much of which will be spent on 4G networks.

Applications that require at least one of the two key 5G technical requirements (greater than 1 Gbps downlink and sub-1ms latency) can be considered a true 5G use case, the report says.

These include virtual reality/augmented reality/immersive or tactile internet use, such as gaming, wearable tech or health services. They also include autonomous driving/connected cars, and wireless cloud-based office/multi-person videoconferencing.

“Our report aims to reset the discussion on 5G, drawing the distinction between a true generational shift versus the on-going evolution of existing technologies that are already delivering a next-generation mobile experience,” said Bouverot.

“The GSMA will support the industry to continue to innovate and grow, working in close collaboration with our members, the wider mobile ecosystem, governments and other industry organisations to deliver a digital future for all.”

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