Activity around 5G in Europe is picking up steam.
The UK government last week published an update to its 5G strategy, which outlines the next phase of work aimed at preparing the UK for 5G infrastructure investment as well as 5G testbeds and trials. Meanwhile, operators in the UK and Switzerland have in the last week conducted their first 5G tests with Ericsson and Huawei, respectively.
In October, the UK government’s 5G testbeds and trials program launched a £25 million (about $33.5 million) competition to fund an initial series of testbeds and trials. This Phase 1 competition, expected to be deployed between April 2018 and March 2019, is focused on new and innovative use cases for 5G in order to help identify new revenue streams and business models for all parts of the supply chain.
In the November budget, it then announced specific funding for 5G projects, and it has now outlined the Phase 2 program activity which will include funding for the first large-scale projects. In particular, the UK is considering launching:
- An urban deployment pilot which could provide a platform to test at scale a range of 5G smart city and IoT applications, such as those involving autonomous vehicles, traffic monitoring, health and care, public safety and security;
- A rural deployment pilot which could provide the connectivity required for IoT services in sectors such as agriculture or health and care.
As part of this, the government has launched a call for views on the appropriate scale and scope of deployment pilots that will help to establish the conditions under which 5G can be deployed in a timely way and help foster the development of the UK’s 5G ecosystem. The call for views is aimed at mobile network operators, wireless infrastructure providers, equipment providers and other stakeholders with innovative products and solutions.
The call for views covers a range of topics, from addressing coverage challenges through infrastructure sharing, to planning and street works and collaboration with local full fiber network programs.
One of the areas it also addresses is the network architecture. In this, it says achieving peak rates and capacity in 5G networks will require new approaches to cell infrastructure, network planning and backhaul. According to the European Commission’s 5G Public Private Partnership (5GPPP), in order to achieve the expected capacity, coverage, reliability, latency and improvements in energy consumption, 5G network architecture is expected to run over a converged optical-wireless-satellite infrastructure for network access, backhauling and front-hauling.
5G networks will build on LTE network architecture with the introduction of cloud RANs (C-RANs) and virtualized RANs. Network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) tools and architectures could enable operators to reduce network costs and simplify deployment. Sufficient computing power will need to be put in place to process much greater volumes of data. The need to maintain low latency will mean applications running at the edge of the network, through the utilisation of edge computing.
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