5Qs on 5G: With NGMN

Philipp Deibert of NGMN

Image Credit: Chinamobile

‘Inside5G’s ‘5Qs on 5G’ series is back and it comes courtesy of Philipp Deibert of NGMN, just after the association has released its much-discussed White Paper at the Mobile World Congress. So there’s no better time to catch up with the NGMN Alliance to find out exactly what they’re all about.

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

The NGMN Alliance is an industry organisation of leading world-wide Telecom Operators, Vendors and Research Institutes and was founded by international network operators in 2006.

Its objective is to ensure that the functionality and performance of next generation mobile network infrastructure, service platforms and devices will meet the requirements of operators and, ultimately, will satisfy end user demand and expectations. The NGMN Alliance will drive and guide the development of all future mobile broadband technology enhancements with a focus on 5G.

“the NGMN Board … made the decision to focus the future NGMN activities on defining the end-to-end requirements for 5G”

The general approach of the NGMN is that the NGMN Partners in the work-programme identify, consolidate, prioritise and publish requirements. This work paves the way for a focused and milestone-oriented development and implementation of next generation technology. The respective standards are being developed by standards developing organisations (SDOs).

In 2014, the NGMN Board – CTOs from more than 20 leading international operators – made the decision to focus the future NGMN activities on defining the end-to-end requirements for 5G. A global team of more than 100 experts has contributed to the now finalised 5G White Paper by developing the consolidated operator requirements intended to support the standardisation and subsequent availability of 5G for 2020 and beyond.

What is the focus of your activities in 5G?

The  focus of the NGMN activities is to define end-to-end requirements for 5G. The now finalised 5G White Paper provides the consolidated operator requirements intended to support the standardisation and subsequent availability of 5G for 2020 and beyond. The White Paper covers the areas ‘5G Vision’, ‘Requirements’, ‘Architecture & Technology’, ‘Spectrum’, ‘IPR’, and the ‘Way Forward’ in terms of roadmap and industry activities.

The NGMN Board sees the publication and dissemination of the NGMN 5G White Paper only as the initial step on the roadmap towards 5G launch. NGMN will make sure through its upcoming work-programme and the close collaboration with all its Partners that 5G solutions will fulfil the outlined requirements.

Liaisons and co-operations with all relevant industry-organisations world-wide, SDOs and research groups have also been successfully established to work against this joint objective. NGMN will now – together with its global partners from industry and research – focus on setting up and implementing a 5G work-programme ensuring that future solutions will meet our ambitious targets.

“NGMN will continue to reach out and work together with all ecosystem stakeholders to promote an orchestrated effort”

NGMN has established liaisons with all leading industry organisations that have started or will launch any 5G activities. The objective is to ensure that those organisations are aware of the NGMN requirements and will consider this as input in the future work.

NGMN is in close contact with leading standards developing organisations (SDOs) like ETSI / 3GPP, IEEE and ITU, enabling it to align its work with the time-lines of those organisations and to provide guidance on the standardisation work. As an open forum, NGMN will continue to reach out and work together with all ecosystem stakeholders to promote an orchestrated effort for global and aligned development.

What are your targets in terms of output and results?

NGMN has defined a 5G roadmap in the White Paper that shows an ambitious time-line with a launch of first commercial systems in 2020.

“milestones might be shifted in the course of the 5G development due to external factors”

At the same time it defines a reasonable period for all the industry players to carry out the required activities (such as standardisation, testing, trials) ensuring availability of mature technology solutions for the operators and attractive services for the customers at launch date. The key milestones are as follows:

  • Commercial system ready in 2020
  • Standards ready end of 2018
  • Trials start in 2018
  • Initial system design in 2017
  • Detailed requirements ready end of 2015

The roadmap represents the baseline planning from an NGMN perspective and milestones might be shifted in the course of the 5G development due to external factors (e.g. standardisation process, etc.).

The launch of 5G will happen on an operator and country specific basis. Some operators might plan to launch in 2020 – others will plan for a later deployment.

“5G has to provide a high degree of flexibility and scalability by design”

NGMN's Roadmap

 

What are the main challenges faced in the development and standardisation of 5G?

5G should leverage an eco-system that is truly global, free of fragmentation and open for innovations. To this end, NGMN calls the industry to develop a single 5G standard based on the principles of open and global standards, utilising open interfaces and delivered based on globally available and non-proprietary solutions.

With regards to the system performance and capabilities, improvements are needed in three dimensions when the baseline 4G system (which in the White Paper is considered to be 3GPP Release-12) is compared against the 5G requirements:

  • network capabilities
  • enablers for operational sustainability
  • enablers for business agility

Substantial improvements are needed in all three dimensions to bring the current state of the art system on par with the requirements.

Have you identified any 5G technologies that look of particular interest?

In 5G, there is a need to push the envelope of performance to provide, where needed, for example, much greater throughput, much lower latency, ultra-high reliability, much higher connectivity density, and higher mobility range.

While extending the performance envelope of mobile networks, 5G should include by design embedded flexibility to optimize the network usage, while accommodating a wide range of use cases, business and partnership models. The 5G architecture should include modular network functions that could be deployed and scaled on demand, to accommodate various use cases in an agile and cost efficient manner.

In 5G, NGMN anticipates the need for new radio interface(s) driven by use of higher frequencies, specific use cases such as Internet of Things (IoT) or specific capabilities (e.g., lower latency), which goes beyond what 4G and its enhancements can support. However, 5G is not only about the development of a new radio interface. NGMN envisions 5G as an end-to-end system that includes all aspects of the network, with a design that achieves a high level of convergence and leverages today’s access mechanisms (and their evolution), including fixed, and also any new ones in the future.

(Update as of 09/03/2015)

NGMN has analysed and outlined the major technology trends providing insight on how the gap between the existing (4G / LTE) and the expected (5G) technology capabilities will be narrowed in coming years to a certain extent. Technology trends highlighted are:

NGMN's identified technology trends

Moreover, a perspective on potential technology building blocks that could further extend the capabilities and address the NGMN 5G requirements are outlined in the White Paper. A preliminary list of technology building blocks is included in the White Paper annex. Those are for example:

  • Spectrum access: Flexible use of licensed spectrum, use of higher frequency bands, duplex mode
  • Radio link: New waveforms, advanced multiple access technologies, massive MIMO and enhanced multi-antenna schemes
  • Radio access capacity: Densification (Small Cells / ultra-dense networks), dual connectivity – capacity/coverage split system design, enhanced multi-RAT coordination, device-to-device communications
  • Network flexibility: Software-defined networking, virtualised mobile core network, virtualised C-RAN
  • Efficient/adaptive network resource usage: Traffic optimisation, enhanced multi-operator network sharing, scalable service architecture
  • Other enablers: Technologies for massive connectivity, all optical transport network with optical router/switch, Information-centric networking

“evolution of 4G systems alone is not expected to be sufficient to address all the shortfalls”

Existing systems (e.g., 3GPP Release-12, IEEE 802.11) are continuously evolving in terms of standardisation, implementation and deployment. Incremental evolution of 4G systems alone is not expected to be sufficient to address all the shortfalls. Thus, a 5G system is required that introduces some fundamentally new technologies and paradigms to complement ongoing evolutionary trends.

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