𝟱𝗚 𝗡𝗲𝘁𝘄𝗼𝗿𝗸 𝗖𝘂𝗿𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗦𝘁𝗮𝘁𝘂𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗗𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗹𝗼𝗽𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝘀𝗽𝗲𝗰𝘁𝘀 𝗳𝗼𝗿 2022 | 𝗙𝘂𝘁𝘂𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝟲𝗚

Interview with Anton Steputin, author of the book “Mobile Communications on the Way to 6G ”

Many equipment suppliers and mobile operators have taken the vector to the next generation mobile network. This is facilitated by the active work of standardizing bodies that have moved into the second (final) phase of the specification of 5G networks . Operators have conducted numerous testing of innovative solutions around the world. Currently, the first commercial 5 G swallows are appearing . What will this give subscribers? Than 5G networks different from previous generations? Are there any obstacles to the evolution of mobile communications? We’ll talk about this and much more with Anton Steputin, a member of the League of Technical Trainers, two-time winner of the “Trainer of the Year” competition in the nomination “Technical Trainer”, chairman of the Organizing Committee of the annual TELECOMTREND International Congress, candidate of technical sciences, associate professor SPbGUT them. prof. M.A. Bonch-Bruevich, the author of the book "Mobile Communications on the Road to 6G."

5G network updates

Let's start with the most important thing: 

What benefits will 5G networks give people?

The main services that require the creation of a new generation of mobile communication networks are as follows:

  1. ultra-wideband mobile communication (enhanced Mobile Broadband, eMBB),
  2. ultra-reliable Low Latency Communication (URLLC),
  3. mass machine communication (Massive Machine-Type Communications, mMTC).

If you operate with specific numbers, then they are as follows:

- low latency to ensure the transfer of critical information from critical IoT sensors :  up to 0.5 ms (for services of ultra-reliable machine communications - URLLC) and up to 4 ms (for services of ultra-wideband mobile communication - eMBB) ;

- massive IoT (mass connection of devices of the Internet of things). The total number of connected or accessible subscriber terminals per unit area (≥1 million / km 2 );

- high speeds: up to 20 Gbit / s downlink (ie, to the subscriber) and up to 10 Gbit / s uplink (in the opposite direction);

- Support for the mobility of a subscriber moving at a speed of up to 500 km / h.

Is there a need now for such speeds?

Let's look at the services that enter our lives and become more and more popular:

  • 360 degree video;
  • virtual and augmented reality;
  • 4K and 8K video;
  • tactile internet;
  • smart and safe cities and enterprises;
  • 5G will be in demand on vehicles that are increasingly equipped with telemetry systems, and in the future should become unmanned;
  • 5G will also contribute to the emergence of new services, such as holographic calls.

In addition, the drivers of growth in mobile traffic consumption are:

  • popularization of cloud technologies - models of online storage of subscriber data on numerous servers distributed on the Internet;
  • online games and their updates;
  • increase in the number of devices;
  • an increase in the consumption of video services and an increase in the resolution of the video image, which was mentioned earlier.

The main thing is to provide the subscriber with a channel. As practice shows, no matter how wide the channel is, it will occupy it. But first of all, 5G will be in demand for the B2B segment.

How will such peak speeds in 5G be achieved: 10-20 Gbit / s?

1. Massive MIMO, as well as adaptive methods of beamforming and tracking (beamforming).
These solutions are necessary to ensure reliable and sustainable mobile broadband in the higher frequency ranges. The Massive MIMO class includes a system with the number of controllable antennas> 8. Moreover, each “controllable antenna” can be a group of radiating elements.

2. New Radio (NR).
Unlike the LTE radio interface, where the LTE subcarriers are almost always separated by an interval of 15 kHz, the distance between the subcarrier frequencies can vary in 5G NR. So 5G NR subcarriers can be spaced 15 kHz x 2n apart. The maximum distance between subcarriers in 5G NR is 240 kHz. This will allow you to easily configure the network behavior when providing various types of services that have different delay requirements. In addition, in Release 16 it is planned to consider alternative options for the radio interface for 5G networks, which will improve the efficiency of using the precious frequency spectrum.

3. A wider frequency spectrum to be allocated in the high frequency ranges.

You correctly noted that these are the maximum speeds that are targeted for the 5G standard. The final user speed that the subscriber will receive is influenced by many factors:

  • The number of subscribers in the base station sector;
  • Category of equipment used by the subscriber;
  • Remoteness from the serving base station;
  • Terrain and / or walls and even windows of buildings;

What innovative technologies besides those described above will appear in 5G?

1. Network slicing

This means that the 5G network infrastructure can be logically cut into “network layers” - “slices” for different business applications and for different radio access technologies. 

These networks can be separately optimized for various data rate requirements. So for watching a 4K video, speed will be important, but delays due to the inertia of the perception of the visual apparatus will not be critical. To transmit data critical to delays, a special slice called ultra-reliable low latency communication will be used. These types of data include tactile internet, online games, etc.

2. D2D (Device-to-Device)

This is a direct device-to-device interaction without a base station. 

D2D, in particular, is necessary for the interaction of an unmanned vehicle with road infrastructure and other vehicles. In addition, D2D technology will be used in the framework of the concept of public safety (public safety) in the direct interaction of two subscriber terminals for special purposes when deployed in an emergency.

The following solutions will complement the above technologies:

3. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)

It involves the use of virtualization technologies to separate the functions of logical network elements from the hardware infrastructure of a communication network. When using NFV in telecommunication networks, network functions are performed using specialized software models that run on servers or virtual machines in telecommunication networks.

4. "Fog computing" (foggy computing).

The deployment of micro-data centers is as close as possible to the place of traffic generation (Mobile Edge Computing), in particular, directly at the base stations.

How is the 5th generation network specification going?

In December 2017, 3GPP agreed on the first version of the 5G Release 15 standard for the non-standalone use case (i.e., together with the LTE network ). Several scenarios of such interaction are specified.

In June 2018, 3GPP released the second version of Release 15, already for stand-alone use (standalone mode). 

The standalone architecture of 5G networks is the architecture within which the base stations are directly connected to the core of a new generation network (NGC) via the control plane (NG-C) and user plane (NG-U) interfaces.

And in July 2019, 3GPP promises to release Release 16, which will include all aspects of 5G: not only advanced mobile broadband access services (eMBB), but also highly reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and mass inter-machine communications (mMTC).

What hinders the development of 5G networks? 

I will name three main factors that impede the more rapid development of fifth-generation networks:

  • Uncertainty with frequency ranges and, accordingly, the lack of network infrastructure and subscriber equipment;
  • Lack of a regulatory framework governing the operation of 5G networks;
  • 5G launch and the most effective commercialization should be based on the most relevant for subscribers and businesses options for using new networks (use cases). The sooner they are identified and identified as a technology strategy, the faster 5G networks will evolve.

 Should we expect the creation of telecommunications equipment for 5G networks by our country? 

First you need to decide what is the domestic industry and domestic telecommunications equipment, in particular? Regulatory acts are necessary in which the criteria for classifying manufactured products as domestic will be clearly spelled out. Otherwise, all world manufacturers with one or another level of localization in our country will fall there.

Nevertheless, there are originally telecommunication companies, and they cover part of the needs of operators in certain areas. In particular, equipment and software (software) of the transport network, data processing centers (servers, data storage systems), virtualization software (NFV / SDN), etc.

The launch and development of the 5 G network is an expensive , in particular, in connection with the use of higher frequency ranges ...

Yes, base stations will need a lot.

Various approaches are possible to reduce the cost of deploying 5G networks.

  • Build part of the infrastructure at the expense of the infrastructure operator. In particular, it makes no sense to lay cable in the subway to all operators. The flip side of launching the entire infrastructure on the basis of a single infrastructure operator is the lack of competition in the radio coverage of the network. All operators will provide the same 5G signal level throughout the presence of the infrastructure operator. As part of this solution, mobile operators will be able to compete with each other only with the services provided. There will also be problems in terms of aggregation of the frequency spectrum that the operators already have with the spectrum that they will receive for the development of 5G networks. Therefore, in my opinion, the infrastructure operator is appropriate for deploying about 40-50% of the network infrastructure and mainly in the low-frequency ranges, where it is not possible to allocate to all operators the necessary frequency bands for 5G. Moreover, this issue should be addressed immediately at several levels: specialized departments and organizations, shareholders of mobile operators together with specialized technical specialists based on the technological development strategy that the operator will determine for himself.
  • Provide special places for the placement of communication equipment in the construction of new buildings.
  • To build equal access for all operators to the intra-house infrastructure.

Where in the first place will 5G networks be launched : in cities, suburbs, rural areas or at critical facilities (gas pipelines, oil pipelines, etc.)?

Definitely, in the first place, 5G networks will be launched in large cities. This will give value (profit) and image for mobile operators. However, it is highly undesirable to widen the already significant digital divide between rural and urban areas. Access to information enables people to grow.

With regard to specific numbers and terms, according to the state program Digital Economy of the Russian Federation approved by the government, in 2020 5G networks should work in 8 cities of Russia, and by 2025 in all cities with a population of more than 1 million people.

Thus, with the advent of fifth-generation networks, traffic consumption, according to some analytical companies, will increase 20 times by 2025.

By 2023, according to Ericsson's forecast, 1 billion connections will be registered in 5G networks. And services based on 5G by this time will be available to 20% of the global population.

One of the most valuable that an operator has is a frequency resource. What should it be to run 5G networks? Is there a magic source of new frequencies for 5G networks?

In 2019, the next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-19), which takes place every four years, will be held.The most likely for harmonization are the radio frequency bands: 24.25-27.5 GHz, 37-43.5 GHz.  

The 70/80 GHz bands can also be harmonized at WRC-19.

Harmonization of the 31.8-33.4 GHz band for 5G at WRC-19 has practically no chance, since ensuring compatibility with existing services is problematic.

As for the lower frequencies, for 5G there is also no final solution for the frequency ranges and bandwidth. So, in Russia, most of the 3.4-3.8 GHz band is occupied by the military.

The LTE Union has proposed the use of a frequency range of 4.4-4.99 GHz for the 5G, which is not standard for the European Region. This will increase the frequency spectrum for the deployment of new generation mobile networks. However, there is no commercial equipment for this frequency range.

It is expected that based on the results of WRC-19, the State Commission on Radio Frequencies (SCRC) will make a decision on frequencies taking into account the 5G development concept, which is being prepared by the Ministry of Digital Development, Telecommunications and Mass Communications within the framework of the national program “Digital Economy of the Russian Federation”. It is expected that in the upper frequency ranges the distribution of frequencies between all interested operators will be implemented on the basis of tenders.

Operators with the introduction of 5G networks will also be forced to cope with the management of a whole "zoo" of technologies: 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G. Maybe it makes sense to abandon outdated and unpromising technologies? And which of the technologies is the first to drop out: 2G or 3G.

The first candidate to drop out I see 3G . 2G technology in the 900 MHz band will live long due to the fact that it has a fragmented spectrum and subscribers work there and will continue to work for some time: old terminals and M2M sensors.

Currently, the question of the prospects of Wi-Fi technology in anticipation of the launch of 5G mobile networks is increasingly being addressed. Is Wi-Fi technology coming to an end when 5G networks provide people with high-speed Internet with low latency? 

Already now, in most cases, LTE networks provide high speed performance. Some people already stop using Wi-Fi at home. But these are far from all people. 

In order for Wi-Fi to “die”, giving way exclusively to mobile networks, it is necessary for several events to happen:

mobile networks everywhere must provide the same quality of customer service;
mobile operators must provide tariffs that will allow subscribers to pump out the necessary amount of traffic, similar to the volumes pumped through Wi-Fi networks.
Thus, each technology has its own niche. One (Wi-Fi) - provides local coverage, guaranteeing certain speed indicators to the subscriber. Another - provides global coverage at almost anywhere in the world map, wherever we are.

Moreover, technology can complement each other. In particular, 3GPP specified such solutions as Wi-Fi Offloading, LWA (LTE-WLAN aggregation), LAA (Licensed Assisted Access) and eLAA (Enhanced Licensed Assisted Access). These technological solutions allow you to use either Wi-Fi access points to offload the radio interface of mobile operators, or use the unlicensed Wi-Fi frequency range for LTE networks.

A number of equipment suppliers have also announced a solution such as MuLTEfire , which allows LTE networks to be deployed exclusively in the unlicensed frequency range.

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