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Reality Check: 5G performance – what can we expect?

Editor’s Note: Welcome to our weekly Reality Check column where C-level executives and advisory firms from across the mobile industry share unique insights and experiences.
This is the second in a three-part series of “Reality Check” articles outlining some of the key concepts behind 5G and NSN’s vision for this new generation of mobile technology.
Although the 5th generation mobile communications system came to the world’s attention in 2013, it was no surprise to the research community. The use cases and fundamental system design blocks have been worked on for some time.
The next generation mobile communications system will not be used for human interaction alone. Instead, we will see a huge growth in machine type communications as some of the use cases below detail. There will also be three main 5G requirement dimensions supporting use case demands: throughput/capacity, number of devices/low cost and latency/reliability. Some use cases may require multiple dimensions for optimization while others may focus only on one key performance indicator. Above all, 5G will need to support such diverse use cases in a flexible and reliable way.
Use case: mobile broadband
Mobile broadband is the key use case today and it is expected to continue driving the requirements for 5G. It goes far beyond basic mobile Internet access and covers rich interactive work, media and entertainment applications in the cloud and augmented reality (both centralized and distributed).
Data will be one of the key drivers for 5G and in new parts of this system we may for the first time see no dedicated voice service. In 5G, voice is expected to be handled as an application, simply using the data connectivity provided by the communication system. Data is growing at a rate between 25% and 50% annually and is expected to continue towards 2030.
The main drivers for the increased traffic volume are the increase in size of content and the number of applications requiring high data rates. Factors include increases in camera resolution, the rise in screen resolution with the recent introduction of 4K (8K is already expected beyond 2020) and the developments in 3D video. Streaming services (audio and video), interactive video and mobile Internet connectivity will continue to be used more broadly as more devices connect to the Internet.
Use case: automotive
The automotive sector is expected to be an important new driver for 5G, with many use cases for mobile communications for vehicles. For example, entertainment for passengers requires simultaneous high capacity and high mobility mobile broadband because future users will expect to continue their good quality connection independent of their location and speed.
Other use cases for the automotive sector are augmented reality dashboards. These display overlay information on top of what a driver is seeing through the front window, identifying objects in the dark and telling the driver about the distances and movements of the objects. Eventually, the vehicle itself will be a major producer and consumer of data.
Use case: smart society
Smart cities and smart homes, often referred to as smart society, will be embedded with dense wireless sensor networks. Distributed networks of intelligent sensors will identify conditions for cost and energy-efficient maintenance of the city or home. A similar setup can be done for each home, where temperature sensors, window and heating controllers, burglar alarms and home appliances are all connected wirelessly. Many of these sensors are typically low data rate, low power and low cost, but real time high-definition video may be required in some types of devices for surveillance. The task for 5G will be to integrate the management of these very diverse connected devices.
Use case: health
Communications systems enable tele-medicine, which provides clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations. Wireless sensor networks based on mobile communication can provide remote monitoring and sensors for parameters such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Requirements
The use cases, key design principles of flexibility and reliability and vision of the 5G system lead to requirements that the future mobile broadband system will need to meet.
Throughput/capacity: 10,000-times more traffic will need to be carried through all mobile broadband technologies at some point between 2020 and 2030. The need for more capacity goes hand-in-hand with access to more spectrum on higher carrier frequencies. The new 5G system needs to be designed in a way that enables deployment in new frequency bands.
Number of devices/low cost: We will see growth of between 10 and 100 devices for each mobile communications user – even now many people have a phone, tablet, laptop and a few Bluetooth-enabled devices. This trend will continue and 5G needs to be designed to accommodate such growth in device numbers.
Latency/reliability: Another factor is radio latency lower than one millisecond. This is important for achieving high data rates while keeping equipment cost low; ensuring fast response times in the system; and supporting use cases like remote control of machines and objects in the cloud or tactile Internet.
Summary
Use cases for 5G will continue to evolve and the scenarios will place more diverse requirements on the system. The future may seem far ahead but the phase for defining the requirements is now. And, any new technology or system that we design for 5G needs to be future proof and last at least until 2030. Even though we are still in an exploratory phase, we are already setting out what 5G will deliver and how it will deliver it.

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