SAN FRANCISCO -- The discussion of 5G cellular at this year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) is expected to pivot from talk last year on standardization to the next big step -- commercialization.
5G cellular is getting closer to becoming a reality as carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, and South Korea's KT prepare 5G tests. Indeed, Korea hopes to show some form of 5G when it hosts the Winter Olympics in 2018 although the official target for roll out is 2020, a pace presenting real challenges.
“We really need to talk to those industries, need to showcase what 5G is able to do, then get requirements from those industries, and the include them in the standardization,” Nokia Networks’ Volker Held, head of innovation marketing, told EE Times. “The technical issues are pretty much under control, but now we need to put them into a live environment...The big challenge is the ecosystem.”
Analyst Peter Jarich (who will moderate two panels on this subject at MWC) expects the need for commercialization to drive focus on the core network. While the promises of virtualization, network slicing, and radio access network architecture are important, Jarich said the core is an “easier” story to tell operators who are looking to invest in near-term commercialization of 5G.
“The problem is the new business models are always tough. If I’m a financial guy looking at this, I can model what a 10% decrease in cost means to my business. If I’m a new business guy, it’s a lot less certain what that new [5G] business will generate,” Jarich added.
Which markets will first successfully commercialize 5G is also up for debate, particularly because 5G networks may span from sub-gigahertz bands for the Internet of Things to 100 GHz for ultra-dense links in urban areas. Held said mission critical areas such as transportation infrastructure and automotive will be excellent areas for commercialization because the use cases require a lot of capacity, millisecond latency and strong connections.
Nokia will demonstrate at MWC autonomous vehicles running on a live 5G network though Held noted the system will use small cars on a table top. The cars will be completely steered by the network and connected to several edge clouds, with the ability to transfer context from cloud to cloud as the vehicle moves.
The company also will demo additional 5G business opportunities including a low latency 5G network that synchronizes interconnected robots steered by remote intelligence, live multi-casting in a stadium with synchronous data transmission across many smartphones, and an interactive virtual reality experience where users will draw a picture together from remote locations.
“Today in the network you need custom management experiences for different situations. In a 5G scenario everything is done automatically and in preventative mode,” Held added. “You need to build in artificial intelligence," he said.
While there will be room for innovative startups like Kumu Networks, the most compelling demos will come from “the big guys who have the money and drive the agenda,” said Jarich.
“We’ll hear from the Koreans, the Japanese, from AT&T, Vodaphone, Telefonica,” Jarich noted. “The surprise there is the U.S. will probably be a bigger force than expected. We don’t want to position this as a war of regions, but the U.S. coming around was surprising,” he said.
Next Page: Technical challenges