Things you should know about the future 5G networks

The GSA published some updates on October 17th 2013 announcing 222 commercial LTE networks have been deployed in the world on 83 different countries (here), demonstrating the wide acceptance of the 4G, but also showing the highly heterogeneous spectrum combinations for its deployment (here). The TD-LTE and the LTE Advanced technologies are also being deployed as methods for ensuring higher connection speeds and improved spectrum usage. The most advanced operators, vendors, and standardization organizations are working in parallel on the future networks, looking to set the rules for the technologies that represents the next step in the communications evolution, and looking to ensure the business opportunities for these. That evolution of the networks is the so-called 5G.


The following summarizes some information you might want to know about the 5G today:

  • Some of the main vendors like Ericsson and Huawei are pushing for making 5G a reality

A report from Fierce Wireless (here) suggests, “5G is not yet real in any sense of the word because it’s not a standard yet. It is, however a marketing term being tossed around by various vendors and operators”. Ericsson, Huawei, and other main vendors are pushing for the standardization of the 5G via the Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty (METSIS), organism that has been granted with a big investment from the European Commission as part of the huge bet Europe is doing for catching up in the next generation communication technologies (here).

  •  The 5G definition has already been started by at least 6 different organizations, so far

According to a presentation shown this month from Mike Wright, Executive Director Networks & Access Technologies at Telstra (here), a 5G standardization or definition effort has been started by the following different organizations: European Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty Information Society (METIS), Intel led American initiative, China led IMT2020, Spectrum initiatives in ITU, UK Ofcom regulator, aiming for 2018, and Japanese 2020 vision and ad-hoc initiative.

This shows the potential opportunity seen in the next generation, but also the typical big hype created on a competition for leading the way towards the next evolution of the networks.

  • The 5G arrival could be around 2020

A report from ABI research, via the Laptop Magazine (here), suggests the standardization organizations (e.g. 3GPP, among others) are still to define the technologies required for certifying the phones for 5G in the future. As these processes take considerable time, the estimated date for seeing the 5G deployments is expected to be around the year 2020.

  • The 5G formula could be: Spectrum + Spectral efficiency + Spatial Efficiency = Increased capacity

Marcus Weldon, CTO for the Wireline Networks Product Division at Alcatel-Lucent, presented last week his vision of the “ultra-broadband” networks during the Broadband World Forum 2013 held in Amsterdam (here). According to his view, the formula for getting the highly demanding capacity required by the next generation networks is a combination of three factors.


The classical investment in macro technologies and spectrum allocation, which could double the capacity. The physical spectrum efficiency increase by improving the signal to noise ratio, interference reduction, superposing signals, etc. which could also double the capacity. And the spatial efficiency with small cells deployments, with interference reduction between cells, which could increase the capacity in a factor of ten, or more.

  • The future networks are a combination of macro and small cells technologies

As commented in my previous post “The top 10 fast facts you should know about LTE today“. A whitepaper published by Ericsson and supported by the GSA commented, “…the 5G system will not be a single technology but rather a combination of integrated RATs, including evolved versions of LTE and HSPA, as well as specialized RATs for specific use cases, which will jointly fulfil the requirements of the future…”

  • The toolkit for the next generation networks include several innovations

Mike Wright, Executive Director Networks & Access Technologies at Telstra, commented on the possible techniques and innovations that might come with the 5G for solving challenges foreseen like the 10 billion connected devices to attend, 1000x traffic growth, the limited spectrum resources, and the diversity of services required. This toolkit might include spectral efficiency with massive MIMO, spectral aggregation, or interference cancellation. Optimization of radio with small cells, self-optimising networks, mesh networking, dynamic spectrum and flexible duplexing, or cognitive radio. Traffic optimisation with QoS and policy tools, end-to-end optimisation, or improved codecs. Architecture optimisation with Network Functions Virtualisation and elasticity, Software Defined Networks, smart caching, or embedded network intelligence. And others like extended battery, identity enablers, location enhancements, etc.

  • Flexibility is key for the 5G networks

Vish Nandlall, Ericsson’s CTO and Senior Vice President of Strategy, recently spoke at the GigaOm Mobilize conference, via PCWorld (here). “5G should be flexible enough that carriers can reprogram and reconfigure their networks to accommodate different applications. Those will actually get different slices of the network with different technologies, including modulation schemes and levels of capacity”. Increasing the network efficiencies should also keep reducing the cost of the service, he commented.

  • The next generation will represent a balance between efficient investment and highly performing networks

During the Futurecom 2013 convention held last week in Rio de Janeiro, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes commented, via European Communications (here). “Throughout the world operators and service providers are pro-actively seeking technologies to help them balance the need for capacity and delivering high quality services with protecting their own balance sheets”. He also highlighted the investment ALU will be doing for IP networks and ultra-broadband technologies in the future. “This is a strategic decision to become a technology vendor for the marketplace of tomorrow, a market populated by customers who themselves are moving to more efficient and more profitable business models, adopting new technologies like cloud, SDN and NFV in the process”.

  • 5G is also about the best QoE on a transparent manner

According to Tod Sizer, Head of Wireless Research at Bell Labs, during the Mobile World Congress, via Pipeline (here). “Of course there will be substantial speed increases. However, weaving different access technologies together in a fluid fashion and creating smart gateways that choose the -best- connectivity for a given situation, not to mention in a transparent manner, will be the DNA that gives life to 5G”.

A. Rodriguez

The top 10 fast facts you should know about LTE today


1. LTE is the fastest deployment technology ever:

According to a report released by the Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) a few days ago, “LTE is the fastest developing mobile system technology ever” (here). It took LTE less than 4 years to reach the same number of deployments 3G took more than 6 years.

Consider NTT Docomo launched the first 3G commercial network on May 2001, and for December 2007 a total of 190 3G networks in 40 countries were operating. Now consider Telia Sonera launched the first LTE commercial network on December 2009, and for July 2013 a total of 194 LTE networks were operating around the world, according to the GSA.


2. LTE-Advanced is real and keep coming:

Ericsson announced this week the first carrier aggregation technology deployment of a commercial network for LTE-Advanced using the 1800MHz and 900MHz spectrum bands (here). In this way Telstra, the Australia’s operator, joins South Korea and Russia as the first deployments of LTE-Advanced in the world.

According to the Executive Director of Networks of Telstra, Mike Wright, “Telstra’s LTE subscriber numbers are growing dramatically, with nearly 3 million subscribers currently using the LTE network, up from 2.1 million six months ago. The capacity, higher data speeds and efficiencies provided by LTE-Advanced will help manage growth in data traffic as more customers choose our network…”

3. Total LTE subscriptions worldwide is expected to be 1.36 billion by the end of 2018:

According to a recent report from the GSA, the total number of LTE subscriptions around the world is expected to reach around 1.36 billion by the end of 2018. The rate of growth, particularly increasing this year, is the result of the number of deployments done by operators during 2013 including Verizon Wireless, SK Telecom, NTT Docomo, Everything Everywhere, and Vodafone Germany. All these operators speeded up the LTE deployments, devices penetration, and services this year.

4. The LTE 1800 is the key band for roaming:

Over 43% of the commercially launched LTE networks are using the 1800MHz wireless spectrum band, according to the GSA. A recent report from Informa Telecoms & Media comments “The adoption of the 1800MHz band for LTE has exploded over the last year, as mobile operators are attracted by the band’s unique set of advantages, such as widespread availability, excellent coverage and the possibility of reusing existing network assets. Coupled with strong support from LTE-device manufacturers, these benefits make 1800MHz an ideal band for LTE services, and a strong candidate to provide a globally harmonized roaming solution for LTE.” (here).

If you have a LTE device which can operate in both the band 3 (1800MHz) and band 7 (2.6GHz), you could potentially use it in at least 61 countries today (81% of the LTE commercially available countries). At least 363 LTE devices have announced its capability for operating in bands 3 and 7.


5. Today almost 1K LTE devices are 3GPP Category 3, and 40 are Category 4… and increasing:

Information from the GSA indicates that 948 LTE user devices today are confirmed to comply with the Category 3 definition of the 3GPP. As LTE Category 4 implies higher peak downlink rates up to 150Mbps, and peak uplink rates up to 50Mbps, there are already 40 LTE user devices confirmed to support the Category 4 definition. These devices include dongles, routers, hotspots, smartphones, and other modules, and the numbers in Category 4 will continue increasing in the future.

6. Almost 60 LTE TDD networks are commercially deployed or being planed:

The Long-Term Evolution Time-Division Duplex (LTE TDD) offers an asymmetric spectrum flexibility advantageous for the operators, especially when considering the wireless spectrum capacities limitations and its increasing growth for the future. According to the GSA today 18 commercial LTE TDD networks exists around the world (details can be seen in the LTE table in my previous post “The European race for Wireless Spectrum”), and 9 networks are combining LTE FDD and TDD for cost reductions and increased capacity. Additionally 41 LTE TDD networks and currently in deployment or planned. Many operators are also running trials and studies for it, as this technology becomes more popular.

7. Small cells will become a critical technology in the future:

As it was already commented in my previous post “The European race for Wireless Spectrum”, the small cells (e.g. Wi-Fi) will become a critical allied for the macro networks when serving the increasing usage demand. The networks of the future (short and mid-term future) will most likely be a combination of LTE networks and small cells, offloading traffic when required for ensuring an optimal quality of the experience (QoE).

8. Huawei and Ericsson are dominating the LTE infrastructure market:

A report released by Informa Telecoms & Media this week, based on data provided and validated by different vendors, estimates Huawei has been awarded 40% of the LTE infrastructure contracts in the world and Ericsson another 34%. The runner-ups have been NSN with 17%, and others like ALU, ZTE, Samsung and NEC for a total of 9% of the allocated contracts. The reports states the reasons for the contracts being awarded to Huawei and Ericsson are mainly due to their technology, pricing, support, and managed-service capabilities.

9. More smartphones, more video, and a lot more mobile traffic usage:

Different reports from the GSA and the Ericsson Mobility Report for this year comment on the growing trend of the mobile data usage. Around 50% of the phones sold in the first quarter of 2013 were smartphones, considering during the full 2012 this percentage was 40%. The mobile data traffic usage doubled from the first quarter of 2012 to the first quarter of 2013, and being mainly driven by video it is expected to grow 12 more times for 2018, having LTE as the main technology for accessing these services. The online video is the main contributor to the mobile traffic usage, and the GSA estimates around 100 hours of video are uploaded per minute today, being YouTube the most used service.

10. Transition to 5G will take place from around 2020:

A whitepaper published by Ericsson and supported by the GSA analyses the status of the 5G research, its standardization process, and the technical challenges it will have to face before being ready for the market (here). From this report we can highlight “…a much wider variety of devices, services and challenges than those accommodated by today’s mobile-broadband systems will have to be addressed (for 5G). Due to this diversity, the 5G system will not be a single technology but rather a combination of integrated RATs, including evolved versions of LTE and HSPA, as well as specialized RATs for specific use cases, which will jointly fulfil the requirements of the future. The research required for the development of 5G is now well underway. The recently founded European METiS (Mobile and wireless communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty information Society) project is aimed at developing the fundamental concepts of the 5G system and aligning industry views.”

A. Rodriguez