5Qs on 5G: with 5GIC

Professor Rahim Tafazolli: Head Of The Institute For Communication Systems (ICS)

Image Credit: University of Surrey

For the first instalment of Inside5G’s new series of profiles on key industry bodies in the development of 5G, Professor Rahim Tafazolli, the Head of the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) at the University of Surrey, was on hand to offer a clear idea of exactly what the UK research centre is up to.

What is the main purpose of your involvement in 5G?

To drive the delivery of a mobile communications network capable of meeting the needs of tomorrow – that’s what research in the 5GIC will do. The emphasis will be on developing intelligent systems that work together to give the impression of unlimited data capacity, providing a network that is far faster than today’s 4G system, with greater energy-efficiency, flexibility in support of IoT and much reduced delays as well as orders of magnitude reduction in end user costs.

What is the focus of your activities in 5G?  

The main focus is user requirements and quality of experience from a user perspective. The system will be intelligent enough to consider a user’s dynamic requirements and provide that without explicit user request. 5G will need to offer far greater capacity and be faster, more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than anything that has gone before. The focus of our research is on developing technologies that are flexible, reliable and evolvable and provide extremely low delays. It is important to note that we are not designing 5G for a specific application or service.

Have you identified any key requirements for 5G?

The proliferation of smartphones is driving ever-increasing demand for mobile data – in fact some predict it will grow by a hundred times over the next decade – with much demand for video and other high-speed services. At the same time, we are just beginning to see the emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), whereby billions of devices will become connected to help us achieve everyday tasks such as finding a parking space, or making sure our fridge is stocked with milk. In the future, many applications – from advanced gaming to driverless cars – will require much shorter network response times to enable very rapid reactions.

“Reducing energy consumption will be another key focus, both in order to lessen emissions and to improve end-user benefits such as enabling longer battery life and providing innovative energy solutions for wearable devices”

In order to meet all of these requirements, 5G will be fully focused on users and their needs, unlike previous mobile communication networks. The aim will be to give the user the impression of unlimited data rates while juggling available resources. Two ways of achieving this will be to predict user demand better so that applications perform bandwidth-heavy tasks when the network is least loaded – optimising network response times where needed using a measure known as ‘latency’ – and to make better use of all available wireless networks.

In developing the 5G network there will be a pressing need to reduce end user costs: given that data requirements may grow up to a hundred-fold, monthly bills cannot increase by the same amount if emerging technologies are to be accessible for mainstream use. Reducing energy consumption will be another key focus, both in order to lessen emissions and to improve end-user benefits such as enabling longer battery life and providing innovative energy solutions for wearable devices.

5G will enable true mobile and fix convergence and will operate seamlessly in licensed and license-exempt frequency bands. This will have great impacts on business chain and models which will be very different from today’s. Essentially, 5G will be a holistic framework for all our communications needs, and it will need to be flexible enough to evolve, adapt and grow – just as the internet has.

What are your targets in terms of output and results?

We will address key challenges in the development of a 5G infrastructure capable of providing connectivity for future technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), Machine Type Communications (MTC) and system will be intelligent by utilising telecom Big Data. In June 2015 we plan to have a base line testbed, based on 4G Advance, in operation on campus. In 2016 we will start providing inputs to standardisation bodies such as 3GPPP, ETSI, IEEE and NGMN. Then, in 2018, we should be able to demonstrate 5G technologies on our campus broadband and IoT testbeds.

What companies are you collaborating with in the development of 5G?

In 2013 a consortium of industry partners, including Aeroflex, AIRCOM International, BBC, BT, EE, Fujitsu Laboratories of Europe, Huawei, Ofcom, Rohde & Schwarz, Samsung, Telefonica and Vodafone joined us in the ambition to deliver a specialised 5G research and innovation centre, 5GIC. Since then further partners have joined including Ascom, Catapult, Chemring, ITRI, and Ofcom.

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