The Vault

Putting Together the Pieces of the 5G Puzzle
White Paper / Oct 2016 / 5G

The evolution from LTE to 5G will be the most profound transformation on the wireless industry since the transition from analog to digital. In order for the 5G networks of the future to become truly “living networks,” there are many different issues that must be addressed. Check out this eBook that reviews ten fundamental questions facing the industry over the next several years as we move toward completing the 5G puzzle.

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5G PUTTING TOGETHER the pieces of the Introduction The evolution from LTE to 5G will be the most profound transformation on the wireless industry since the transition from analog to digital. In order for the 5G networks of the future to become truly ?living networks,? there are many different issues that must be addressed. The networks are moving beyond mobile broadband requirements and into an era where billions of devices will function simultaneously in the Internet of Things (IoT). This simple fact that there are more use cases than ever before highlights the reality that there must be a radical rethinking of radio technology, opening of new radio spectrum and advances in networking technology and system architecture. Many in the industry are referring to this next generation of wireless technology as ?New Radio? - because it is truly a new way of approaching radio technology that?s being driven by a wide range of issues. This eBook ? the first of a three-part series ? will review ten fundamental questions facing the industry over the next several years as we move toward completing the 5G puzzle. Will LTE continue to evolve and is it expected to meet 5G requirements? Q: The LTE networks in use today evolved out of the 3G network technologies pioneered in Europe in the late 1990s. LTE will continue to evolve over the next several years, as the 5G standards are developed and commercially rolled out. The industry expects LTE to play a role in this transition, as there is likely to be a tight interworking between LTE and New Radio (also known as ?NR?, or 5G). In fact, the 3GPP?s submission to the IMT-2020 project of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) includes both NR and LTE technologies. While it is expected that LTE will only address a subset of the requirements of 5G, there are essentially two parallel development tracks. On the one track, LTE will continue to grow through the enhancements expected in Release 14 and 15 (such as lower latencies and shorter transmission time interval lengths), and early IoT deployments over 4G and various use cases such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) applications and certain wearable devices. On the other track, a parallel 5G development timeline will leverage 4G evolution and enhance the network capabilities considerably. What will motivate network operators to upgrade their networks from LTE-Advanced to 5G? Q: While LTE will continue to advance before 5G becomes commercially ubiquitous, tomorrow?s 5G networks will support many new use cases and vertical applications that simply aren?t feasible to run over even the most advanced LTE networks. From a variety of IoT deployments to massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) scenarios, 5G networks will be capable of much more than the mobile broadband applications we have today. These networks will scale to accommodate billions of devices at very high data rates (upwards of 20Gbps) and ultra-low latency (<1ms) and ultra high reliability ? none of which is possible in a large scale with existing technology. Growing demand for new types of network use, dramatically higher data rates and lower latency will prompt network operators to not only evolve, but to drive technological evolution and stay ahead of demand. What is the difference between LTE-A vs. LTE-A Pro? Q: LTE is a technology specification that began with Release 8 of the 3GPP. When we examine the LTE development timeline, LTE-A Pro will mark the LTE specification from Release 13 onwards. LTE-A Pro is the next evolution of LTE-A (which covered Release 10 through 12), and is designed to help significantly enhance LTE-A functionality, improve efficiency and address new markets. There are several enhancements planned for Release 13, including access to much higher bandwidth (up to 640 MHz), tight integration with Wi-Fi, operation in unlicensed frequency bands, direct communications and certain Machine Type Communications (MTC) enhancements, and support for more advanced beamforming such as 3D MIMO to increase system capacity. These enhancements are all dramatic improvements over existing LTE-A network capabilities, but are all bridge technologies to the 5G/NR networks expected to take shape beginning in about 2020. Q: Will 5G support new architecture types? In short, yes. The New Radio/5G models will be designed to allow for flexible placement and scaling of both centralized and distributed network functions, meaning that network functions and physical infrastructure can be decoupled to improve overall network efficiency. This is being driven by the fact that NR/5G networks, due to their increased complexity, will need to support both centralized and distributed network deployments simultaneously. Functional placements of Centralized Units (CU) will help with large scale data processing like network virtualization and cloud services, while Distributed Units (DU) can be optimally placed for more efficient transmission and receiving of radio signals. The CU placements will improve processing power and speed of the network, while the DU will improve network throughput, reduce network latency and facilitate significant increases in device connections. What deployment possibilities are available to an operator for 5G? Q: Because of the parallel development timelines we discussed earlier, and to make deployment more streamlined, 5G is being designed to support multiple radio layers. This means that operators can deploy multiple radio technologies in parallel and phase new technologies in and old ones out as the timeline moves forward. These base stations will enable multiple air interfaces and different spectrum to be used as needs dictate. For example, in early phases, there will be tight interworking between LTE and NR/5G, and an operator can use LTE as a broad coverage layer while deploying 5G hotspots at higher 5G frequencies in areas where demand for high data rates is greatest. While the broad commercial viability of the 5G standard isn?t expected until at least 2020, intermediate steps will likely be phased in as early as mid-2017 with limited features and network operator requirements. This phased approach will allow operators to respond dynamically to market needs and technology evolution. How will 5G improve energy efficiency?Q: Energy efficiency has long been a major design challenge for network operators. Many networks, especially those in dense urban areas, struggle with data and traffic load inconsistencies that lead to energy inefficiency. This means that certain network areas have massive energy requirements during certain times of day, followed by periods of relative inactivity. These periods may vary considerably from day to day, and from week to week, making it difficult to accurately predict when energy loads are likely to increase. One of the most significant developments of the New Radio approach is that there will no longer be a requirement for continuous signal transmission across all carrier resources. Networks will include on-demand transmission of system information and a frame structure design, which will confine signals associated with a given user within a contiguous time and frequency resource space. This will enable more optimal and dynamic use of energy during times of reduced demand, and allow for data that isn?t time sensitive to be transmitted in batches during periods of lower network load. Is Massive MIMO being considered in 5G, and what is its importance to the technology? Q: Not only is Massive Multiple Input/Multiple Output (MIMO) antenna technology being considered, it is a critical component of the overall approach to 5G/NR as a whole. Since NR/5G targets operation at frequencies much higher than previous generations (up to 100GHz), certain challenges need to be addressed. At these higher frequencies, the path loss is higher over long distances, so antennas will need to be placed in closer proximity to each other in order to ensure ubiquitous and consistent coverage. Massive MIMO will enable complex and dynamic beamforming, which requires not only closer antenna proximity, but a much higher number of antenna components. For example, 5G networks will consider antenna configurations with up to 1024 antenna elements at the network antenna end, and up to 32 antenna elements in the user?s equipment. These antenna configurations will address the anticipated challenges of 5G connectivity and enable significant increases in network capability. What will enable a substantial increase of data rates in 5G systems compared to 4G? Q: First and foremost, additional radio spectrum is being allocated in the millimeter wave (mmW) frequency bands, which will increase data rate capabilities considerably on its own, but the increases don?t end there. The 5G networks will support highly efficient beamforming through advances in antenna technology like MIMO mentioned above. These new antennas, at both the network and terminal ends, will include a vastly higher number of antenna elements, enabling both higher data rates and a greater number of simultaneous connections across a broader range of frequency bands. Because of the challenges of maintaining network coverage at higher frequencies and spectral efficiency at lower frequencies, beamforming is an essential component of the overall approach to increasing data rates in 5G networks. As mentioned earlier, because these networks will not require continuous transmission of signals, data rates will increase along with energy efficiency. Q: How will 5G reduce latency at the radio access network? Traditionally, latency suffers because of a combination of slow network transmission speeds and insufficient processing power. 5G networks will reduce latency primarily by reducing the round trip time (RTT) between transmission of a data packet and reception of the corresponding acknowledgement. This RTT reduction is achieved first by reducing the minimum transmission time interval (TTI), and second by more efficient processing that enables faster transmission of the acknowledgment by the receiver. In addition, 5G will support more efficient and faster access to system resources for inconsistent or occasional ?bursty? traffic and will support lower layer mobility mechanisms that will minimize interruption time when moving between coverage areas served by different transmission/reception points. Q: How can the new ?verticals? be supported efficiently together? As we?ve discussed, the 5G networks of tomorrow are expected to enable and accommodate the most radical changes in wireless technology in recent memory. Unlike previous generations, 5G will be a single framework capable of handling the diverse challenges of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and massive machine-to-machine communications (mMTC) in addition to support for the mission-critical, ultra-low-latency type communications (URLLC), such as autonomous driving. The answer is to develop a highly scalable framework that can accommodate transmissions of many different characteristics in terms of bandwidth, duration, frame structure and numerology. This type of design will increase efficiency of the network as a whole, and allow for different types of traffic to be multiplexed over the network in a time- and/or frequency-division context. 200 Bellevue Parkway, Suite 300 Wilmington, DE 19809 +1 (302) 281-3600 |