CUPERTINO, Calif. – Talks from last week’s Hot Chips event shed light on the outlook for semiconductors in promising areas as diverse as 5G cellular, neural networking, molecular diagnostics and FPGAs. In addition an AMD executive talked about the company’s work on chip stacks for graphics, and a handful of Intel engineers spoke about the latest x86 mobile and server processors.
A consensus is forming around a unified air interface for 5G cellular based on OFDM modulation, said Matt Grob, chief technologist for Qualcomm, speaking in a keynote. The air interface will support a wide range of implementations from fast, short reach millimeter wave links in cities to 900 MHz for wide-area connections for the Internet of Things, Grob said.
The 5G air interface will support both time- and frequency-division duplexing, potentially unifying a long global split in global standards. In addition it will include new capabilities for low latency and high reliability links, opening doors to use cases such as wireless factories or remotely controlled dialysis, Grob said.
5G also will sport improved channel and connection management features, increasing users’ choices of a mix of licensed and unlicensed services. The multi-connectivity we have with LTE and Wi-Fi is crude right now, but will get much more sophisticated in 5G,” Grob said, noting plans to support multiple non-interfering signals at once.
Spectrum sharing, a contentious issue today, will become increasingly popular with 5G, redefining what it means to be a service provider, he predicted. “The venue owner in some cases will become a spectrum authority choosing which channels use for which apps,” he said.
The overall intent is to make 5G a once-in-a-decade leap forward that expands the pie for everyone. If successful, 5G will expand cellular beyond smartphones to drones and a world of IoT applications.
“There’s a whole category of machines and medical devices coming...one operator told us they are working with nearly a thousand companies on 5G, so there will be a lot of opportunities up ad down the stack,” Grob said. “We’re getting 5G requirements from car makers and head-mounted display vendors -- which is a whole other interesting area – 5G is much more inclusive” than previous cellular generations, he added.
Standards efforts are just getting started. Standards won’t be complete until about 2020, but Korean officials want to showcase 5G-like services at the 2018 Olympics. Japan has similar plans for 2020 Olympics. “Regulator may clear bands for 5G so they can show some precursors, rolling out services in a market or two,” Grob said.
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Qualcomm's Grob showed his ideas for a unified 5G air interface.