DRESDEN, Germany.--Everybody thinks thinks 5G is the fifth generation past 4G, but they are all wrong--even the smartphone carriers propagating that lie--according to the "5G Man" at Dresden University of Technology (Germany) professor Frank Fitzek, the head of the chair of Communication Networks at TU Dresden. Fitzek is one of many speakers at the SEMICON Europa 2015 (Oct. 6-8, Dresden, Germany) this week.
"5G sounds like an incremental step beyond 4G, but its not," Fitzek told EE Times in an exclusive interview. "5G is solely made for the controlling and the steering of IoT [Internet of Things] devices."
The 5G man, professor Frank Fitzek at the Dresden University of Technology (Germany) shows a prototype wall-of-displays all with just one millisecond latency over 5G, a prototype of a system that will go live during this season's National Football League (NFL) play (but he's not allowed to reveal the stadium, yet).
(Source: TU Dresden, used with permission)
To prove his point Fitzek quotes both the highest--500 billion--and the lowest--50 billion--predictions of how many IoT devices will be networked together (connected) by 2020. He then notes that the majority of those will not be smartphones, because there are only 7 billion people on the planet.
"Even if everybody had two smartphones, they would still be dwarfed by the number of 5G connected cars, connected trains, connected robots, connected grids, connected cities, connected health care, connected education and on and on," Fitzek told EE Times. "For those 14 billion people carrying 2 smartphones 4G is good enough. Sure 5G will make smartphones serve web pages faster, but 5G is not being created to that, 5G is being created to solve the problems--especially latency--that 4G does not address."
To control self-driving trains, automobiles, robots and all the other IoT devices people are dreaming up, the need to be connected in a much closer fashion than they are today. They need to really use different routes to send the same signal over (Fitzek says if you trace the routers your signal goes over to reach the same endpoint it will be the same everyday, despite the ability of TCI/IP to use different routes).
"Autonomous cars will really be connected cars, because efficiency and safety will demand that they talk to one another with a fixed latency. Smart factories and smart robots will likewise need to the connected with a fixed latency. What I call the tactile Internet--where you can really feel objects in remote locations, everything will need a fixed latency and that latency time is always the same--one millisecond--no matter what route the signal takes," Fitzek told us.
To prove it to me he put a head mounted display on me, set it for one millisecond latency and then tossed me a football (what we call a soccer ball) and I easily caught it. After we tossed it back and forth a few times, he went over and turns the latency up to 10 milliseconds and I couldn't even come close to catching it--even at two millisecond and him standing right in front of me and dropping it between my hands, all I could catch was air.
He said he could give me more demonstrations with autonomous-robots,-cars, -factory machines and the result would be the same. The difference between 4G and 5G was that one-millisecond guaranteed latency that would enable connected IoT devices to be universally reliable, safe and secure.
Key technologies using cooperation strategies and network coding in order to improve reliability, throughput, delay, security, and complexity and energy consumption define 5G.
(Source: TU Dresden, used with permission.)
I objected that what about cars traveling at 55 miles-per-hour and he broke out in a big smile, as if I had fallen into a well-laid trap.
"Yes, but they are all traveling at about the same speed, so relative to each other they still need one millisecond latency to communicate effectively, the first car sending a one millisecond signal to the one behind that it its braking, the that one sending a signal to the one behind it and so one. All you need is a guaranteed one millisecond," Fitzek said.
Fitzek insists that all we have to do to meet 5G specifications, is achieve one millisecond latency no matter how far the signal travels, plus insure that even the smartest hacker on the planet can not crack its encryption. To achieve the latter, without violating the former, is a tall order, according to Fitzek, but he has had a legion of graduate students trying out his ideas for over a decade and he believes he has it licked.
During that decade, his students has spun-off five companies now perfecting different aspects of the coming 5G revolution. The concepts involved are mathematically complex, yet fast to execute. They are also energy efficient, yet reliable and ultra-secure, he said. But he isn't letting the whole cat out of the bag yet. He did give me a millisecond glimpse inside the bag, and this is what I saw.
Network slicing combined with cognitive computing in each basestation, local storage in each basestation, local networking in every basestation plus random-number based encryption coding and recoding during transmission that can only be decoded by the intended recipients. The tools to do this will be software defined networks, software defined storage and software defined radio to add flexibility, to reorder packets, to decode even multiple-encoding data jaunts, and most important--all in under one millisecond.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times