5G is set to be a revolution for the telecommunications space, with 2017 viewed as an important year in the development process.

Editor’s Note: With 2017 virtually upon us, RCR Wireless News has gathered predictions from across the mobile telecommunications space on what they expect to see in the new year.

As readers of RCR Wireless News know, overnight sensations in technology simply do not happen. Every major commercial advancement in telecom, for instance, has always reached the market after long gestation in labs, standards work and real-world trials. So it will be for the next wave of innovation in the mobile telecom world, which we refer to as “5G.”

The “G” in 5G, of course, stands for “generation,” but in this case the difference between 4G and 5G is not adequately conveyed by the term “next-generation,” and 5G most certainly cannot be conceived of as a mere iteration of what has gone before. Though technologies supporting 4G will be present in 5G, the leap in capabilities will be truly revolutionary, not evolutionary. The gradual commercialization of 5G forecasted to begin around 2020 – that is, a mere three to four years away – will provide advancements that will make 4G’s capabilities look positively ancient.

So you can imagine that predictions for 2017 must include the practical steps largely taking place out of the public eye that will make 5G a reality in a few short years. Let’s look behind the curtain at 5G’s expected capabilities and what has to take place, both generally over the next few years as well as specifically what we know will be addressed in 2017.

5G’s expected capabilities

To keep it simple, 5G advancements and its implications for mobile data networks can be understood in the familiar terms of data rates and bandwidth; flexible network capabilities; and low latency. Massive improvements in all three categories will support innovation for decades to come.

Historically, cellular network data rates increase 10-times every five years. When 5G capabilities are realized, data speeds are expected to initially increase by 10-times, but later jump about 1,000-times compared to today. Let your own imagination play with that notion. We all experience current limitations every day and that will change.

More flexible network capabilities in 5G will enable the ubiquitous sensors and networks of networks that will comprise the “internet of things,” a term that describes the useful interconnectedness of everyday objects as well as advanced automation that will offer efficiencies and even predictive insights for everyday life.

Significant advancements in reducing latency will enable us to build infrastructure for remote controls, which I refer to as the “tactile internet” and will allow tactile interaction with virtual environments with a reaction time in one to 10 milliseconds. That level of latency will provide a person in one place with the ability to control things in another place – or a virtual world – as if they were there. The virtual, tactile internet will mimic reality. It will also enable machines to control mobile machines reliably over the network.

Mobile data networks in the 5G world will handle 10,000-times the traffic they handle today. They will enable data-hungry applications and services that depend on ultra-high-definition streaming and 3D- and hologram-related apps will be possible. Wireless spectrum above 5 GHz will generate solutions for a massive increase in bandwidth and also for a latency of less than 1 ms, with implications for strongly expanding multiple-input/multiple-output antenna technology that currently supports Wi-Fi, WiMAX and LTE. Network virtualization will become a standard approach, and cloud and big data analytics will be greatly enhanced.

Many readers of RCR Wireless News toil in the commercial domain of products and services that appeal to connected residents of developed nations. But nearly half of the world’s approximately 7 billion people do not have access to the internet. So one challenge of making 5G technology manifest in years to come must be addressed: extending its capabilities to the three-plus billion unconnected people for education, health care and participation in the global community that can spread economic prosperity.

To me that’s one of the most important challenges – and responsibilities – for those of us developing 5G. But, of course, there are numerous technical hurdles to overcome and we’ll be addressing those hurdles in 2017 and beyond.

Hurdles to commercialization

As noted, advancements take time. Yes, we’re likely to see 5G begin to roll out by 2020, but its full potential is expected to develop over decades. And only if we meet its challenges head on.

Those challenges include the need to define standards to insure interoperability; to meet the wide range of requirements for myriad, disparate applications, to ensure reliability and security requirements; to support expectations for energy efficiency in sensors, networks and other areas; and to achieve all of this with an eye to costs and use and business cases.

Specifics in 2017

Because the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Future Directions 5G Initiative has specific 5G work underway with schedules and real-world expectations for outcomes in 2017, there’s no need to resort to wild predictions.

As a global technology, 5G will require global coordination and consensus in many technical, social and political arenas, thus our series of 5G summits that began in 2015. The first in 2017 will be held Jan. 19 in Lisbon, Portugal, followed by one in Kuwait City, Kuwait, on a date to be determined. Eight more summits are planned for 2017, including ones in Finland, Japan, Canada, Colombia, South Africa, Taiwan, Germany and the U.K.

We will hold three 5G tutorials on three different continents during the first quarter of 2017, and an IEEE 5G Learning Series event on Jan. 9 in Bangalore, India.

The IEEE Future Directions 5G Initiative has established nine working groups, including ones addressing standards and a technology roadmap. In keeping with this pragmatic approach, a 5G Technology Roadmap Project is working to identify short- (approximately 3 years), mid- (around 5 years) and long-term (approximately 10 years) research, innovation and technology trends affecting the 5G ecosystem.

Of course, private and public research and development on 5G’s challenges progresses apace.

The best thing about predictions relative to 5G for 2017? If you are interested in the amazing potential of this technology to benefit humanity – or “just” its commercial potential to introduce a decades-long wave of innovation – opportunities abound to shape 5G’s myriad outcomes by joining our efforts.

Source: RCR Wireless

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