5G is probably the most-hyped new wireless technology generation yet, and even before any standards are defined there is much speculation about the level of performance it will offer and the applications it will be able to support. Unlike 4G and earlier generations, 5G will not be a single generation-defining technology or standard: instead it will be defined by a number of different services that will be delivered across multiple access technologies and multi-layer networks.
To support all the applications being proposed – and some that may not even have been thought of yet – 5G will need to offer higher throughput, lower latency, ultra-high reliability, much higher connectivity density, and higher mobility range than 4G.
Broadly the applications for 5G divide into three categories: extended data rate mobile broadband; massive machine-type communications (MTC); and mission-critical MTC. Although both types of MTC will form part of the Internet of Things (IoT) their parameters are very different, since low cost and long battery life drive the former, while for mission-critical systems the emphasis is on reliability and low latency.
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Achieving all these targets will require innovative breakthroughs in both system design methodology and validation techniques. The development of new flexible and programmable air interfaces is key to the evolution of the 5G ecosystem. The first systems are likely to be deployed around 2020 and will be in the traditional cellular bands below 6 GHz. The new air interfaces will be crucial to achieving higher data rates in these sub-6 GHz bands. Here at Cobham Wireless we’re working on developing two new 5G air interface algorithms in collaboration with the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey.
Each of them gives a purer signal quality than the current 4G air interface to allow better spectrum efficiency. However it’s likely that 3G and 4G air interfaces will still be used as well, particularly at the higher mmWave frequencies where more bandwidth is available. The software-defined design principle that is being proposed will allow both the air interface parameters and the architecture to be dynamically changed according to the service scenarios.
These new systems will present a big challenge in terms of the development and validation tools required to enable R&D, and later production of 5G terminal devices and infrastructure a more complex, larger scale, and more intelligent network infrastructure testing solution will be required as early as the concept proving stage, and applying the ‘design for testing’ principle from the very start will be crucial to validate, understand and improve the 5G system design and performance.
|Dr Li-Ke Huang
Research & Technology Director, Cobham Wireless
Li-Ke leads the Technology Group and the Algorithms Group at Cobham Wireless, and is responsible for product concept and core technology innovations contributing to the company’s technological and business visions, directions and strategies, including 5G.