5Qs on 5G: With Orange

Nicolas Demassieux, Senior Vice President at Orange Labs Research

Orange has a keen focus on the next-generation as it looks to sustain the company’s position. Nicolas Demassieux, Senior Vice President at Orange Labs Research, spoke to Inside5G about how he expects 5G to be a totally different network.

How are you approaching the subject of 5G?

Orange is playing an active and leading role in the on-going work around 5G, both internally and at an industry level. With 5G deployment estimated to start from 2020 at the earliest, it is important that we collaborate across the industry to define requirements and set common standards at this early stage.

Orange is an active member of the 5G Infrastructure (5GInfra) Association, which represents the industry in the 5G PPP (Public Private Partnership) for its discussions with the European Commission. In particular, Orange leads the ‘Vision’ working group of 5G Infra which is tasked with defining the European 5G vision.

“Orange made a substantial contribution to … NGMN’s vision, requirements and architecture guidelines for 5G

Orange presented its contributions to the industry vision at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in 2015 during the round table organised by the European Commission. As a result, this document is very in line with Orange’s own positions regarding 5G – regarding vision and what we see as the requirements for 5G.

Orange also plays a key part in the NGMN (Next Generation Mobile Network) 5G Initiative, in particular as co-lead of the ‘Requirements’ workstream, lead of the spectrum workstream and member of the 5G Initiative steering committee. NGMN is an international mobile networks operators association which also includes vendors and partners.

NGMN played a key role in the definition of 4G and recently published its white paper on 5G at Mobile World Congress in March this year. Orange made a substantial contribution to the content of this white paper, to the European Commission Vision white paper, as well as to NGMN’s vision, requirements and architecture guidelines for 5G.

What are your likely timescales in terms of investment in R&D and potential deployment?

4G, which we are deploying very rapidly across Europe is an excellent technology: it is the first IP-centric mobile network, and has built-in capabilities to improve over time, in order to address the need for higher speed and higher capacity.

“we do not want 5G to be just “more of 4G””

However, 4G was architected nearly 10 years ago when the new requirements, such as efficient support of the Internet of Things and strong focus on energy consumption were not really there. 5G starts with new requirements, and we do not want 5G to be just “more of 4G” . We are at the R&D stage right now. Having defined the requirements our next focus will be to work on the standards.

From the point of view of Orange and its fellow members in the 5G PPP, 5G deployment will start from 2020 at the earliest, possibly 2022. This reflects the amount of work still to be done at the R&D stage before we even get to building the technology itself.

Are you thinking about 5G as an evolution or a revolution in terms of your own network?

5G should be seen, not only as a new radio interface, but as a global end-to-end system integrating existing 4G, Wi-Fi, and wired accesses with future connectivity means. 5G will be the first generation that will be natively designed with a full software approach (through NFV Network Function Virtualisation and SDN Software Defined Networks). It will integrate networking, computing and storage resources into one programmable and unified infrastructure in order to deliver more than connectivity.

5G will be different from LTE-Advanced, but LTE-Advanced will be a component of the 5G system. In particular, it will be crucial for a good user experience that tight interworking is possible between new 5G air interface(s) and LTE-Advanced, for instance, in order to aggregate LTE carriers with new 5G carriers.

“we expect it to be a much more flexible software-based platform, an enabler to a massive digital transformation”

4G has indeed brought a massive breakthrough in terms of throughput, dramatically improving the web surfing and downloading customer experience. In that respect, 4G has been a real revolution, making mobile internet a reality. 4G is very well suited for Mobile Broadband, which is the purpose it was designed for.

5G will have to do better than the previous radio releases, as 4G was better than 3G. We expect 5G to keep on improving performance and throughput, but 5G will be more than that and should deliver a revolution of a different kind – we expect it to be a much more flexible software-based platform, an enabler to a massive digital transformation and a catalyst to the ‘internet of everything.’

What will the main uses cases of 5G be and can one network meet the needs of these?

The impact of 5G will go far beyond speeding up consumer mobile services . Self-optimising networks will be widespread in 5G, taking a software-defined networking (SDN) approach. It will be able to use ‘big data’ – not to assess customer usage – but to measure and improve in real-time its own performance.

Firstly, it should enable us to do more in terms of customer experience, offering seamless and consistent connectivity at any time, any location and on the move, including public transport (high-speed train or aeroplane) or for connected cars as well as in crowded areas – allowing for example 30,000 mobile devices to upload video to social networks simultaneously.

“assisted driving, remote surgery, monitoring of a nuclear plant, or the real-time control of robots in a factory will be possible”

Secondly, the technology will facilitate new services that are uniquely enabled by 5G such as ‘enhanced Internet of Things‘. This will bring new options for e-health with real-time remote patient monitoring in healthcare, as well as smart agriculture with the tracking of animals and crops.

In addition, business critical applications requiring ultra-reliable networks and low latency connectivity for mission critical processes like assisted driving, remote surgery, monitoring of a nuclear plant, or the real-time control of robots in a factory will be possible.

In addition, as a low-energy consumption network it will drive down costs for low energy connectivity allowing, for example, sensors with 15 years battery lifetime, but also the ability to optimise the energy spent in the network.

“there will also be use cases that cannot yet be defined as the problems are not yet in existence”

In this domain, we would like 5G to be such that if there is no traffic in a cell, there is zero power consumption. Having energy consumed more or less proportional to the traffic transported is unfortunately not at all the case in the cellular networks deployed so far.

Importantly though, there will also be use cases that cannot yet be defined as the problems are not yet in existence. However, the 5G infrastructure should also be flexible to embed all future yet unknown usages and services.

Is there any 5G technology which you think is of particular interest?

Considering there will be up to 50 billion connected devices by 2020, building low energy consumption networks is a vital requirement of 5G. 5G network infrastructure will have to be conceived to maximise energy savings in all its components, from hardware to air interface design.

We also need to look at energy consumption optimisation with an end-to-end perspective from access networks to data centres through transport networks. Enhanced sleep modes could for instance enable operators to switch off a part of their equipment, thus saving significant energy.

“Green will be part of its DNA”

A greener world is already a subject of concern for us of course, but 5G will specifically be conceived to achieve this purpose. Green will be part of its DNA.

At the end of the day, we want 5G to enable an ambient mobile internet. Beyond 2020, the internet should be like air – always there …..

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