5Qs on 5G: With Telekom Austria

Sascha Zabransky, Director of Service Network & IT, Telekom Austria Group

With eight European subsidiaries, the Telekom Austria group is one of the major telecommunications players in south of the continent and the largest in its home market.

Moving forward, the company is closely following the path of NGMN as it looks to evolve its network for 5G. Sascha Zabransky, Director of Service Network & IT, spoke to Inside5G to talk about how the operator is proceeding in order to meet the challenges of a new generation.

How are you approaching the subject of 5G?

5G is the acronym of the 5th generation of mobile technology to address the demands and business contexts of the next decade. The 5G initiative has been launched by NGMN as a global mobile industry activity to define the end-to-end requirements for a fully mobile and connected society that is characterised by a tremendous growth in connectivity, traffic density and volume as well as a broad range of different use cases and business models.

“we see 5G as an evolution of the existing framework which will enable new business models”

Telekom Austria Group is proud to be part of this global initiative and in close dialogue with the experts from all the leading international operators to define a clear 5G roadmap based on use-case requirements.

As we are already running a 2G/3G and 4G networks, we see 5G as an evolution of the existing framework which will enable new business models, e.g. deployment of massive Internet of things (IoT), broadcast like services or extreme real-time communication services and services with low latency requirements.

“we are supporting the relevant industry bodies to leverage our experience”

To cover the demand for mobile broadband, as well as the rollout of fibre and broadband connectivity, we are currently focusing on the deployment of LTE 800 to provide improved coverage for rural areas as well as indoor coverage.

Regarding 5G we are supporting the relevant industry bodies to leverage our experience and to ensure a maximum degree of standardisation and harmonisation in the upcoming standardisation process.

Could you expand on the idea of 5G as an ‘evolution’, as opposed to a revolution, of your own network?

Our industry relies on a sustainable standardisation framework based on the evolution of GSM/UMTS/LTE developed in ETSI and the global 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) initiative.

“not as a replacement for 4G … but rather as an enhancement of capabilities”

We see 5G not as a replacement for 4G (LTE/LTE-A) but rather as an enhancement of capabilities, bringing together new and additional components with existing infrastructure to deliver a new set of requirements, e.g. enhanced network capacity, a less complex infrastructure and leveraging virtualisation of components and features.

“paving the way for virtualisation and cloud services”

With our engagement in NFV and our successful trials of fully virtualised network stacks, the Telekom Austria Group is paving the way for virtualisation and cloud services ready to integrate this technology in further developments.

Additionally, existing mobile technologies will also improve over time. Therefore we expect improvements in our network as well as new developments for new applications. It is still too early to identify the one candidate on the horizon.

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

The NGMN industry initiative has defined a clear 5G roadmap that shows an ambitious time-line. With work on 5G currently in the research and development phase, we see a growing momentum in all relevant industry forums as well as in standardisation.

Regarding timeframe, NGMN has identified that the first commercial networks will be up and running by 2020 following industry trials. Although it will of course take some time for the technology to become widespread.

“cooperation allows Telekom Austria Group to broaden its horizons, share best practices and exchange visions”

Research activities from Telekom Austria Group focus on the market-oriented development of products and services and further technological improvements to its network infrastructure. We are partnering with a research facility on telecommunication and academia analysing specific use-cases relevant for 5G, like customer experience, influence to network performance and mobile security. Within the industry community we play an active role in various forums and standardisation bodies.

We are in close cooperation with the most of the relevant standard developing organisations and industry forums, like ETSI/3GPP, NGMN, GSMA and the Telemanagement Forum. The cooperation allows Telekom Austria Group to broaden its horizons, share best practices and exchange visions and views.

What do you think the main use cases will be and can one network meet the needs of these?

“There is no single use-case defined for 5G”

There is no single use-case defined for 5G. The recently published NGMN White Paper gives an overview about possible use-cases from an operator perspective with a high variety of applications and performance attributes, like delay sensitive video applications, ultra-low latency systems, applications in high speed mobility, connected objects or reliable and critical use-cases in health, security, or safety. It is well known that the existing radio technologies have some physical limits.

Therefore NGMN anticipates the need for new radio interfaces driven by the use of higher frequencies and use-cases such as massive sensor networks, or specific applications which goes far beyond the 4G capabilities. This is also in line with the ITU initiative “IMT for 2020 and beyond” addressing further demand in the global coordinated spectrum for such services.

The requirements for a potential migration path to 5G are also part of the NGMN White Paper. The 5G systems must allow operators to reuse or upgrade the existing infrastructure  while reducing complexity and more efficient network management with plug and play features, self-configuration, optimisation and healing. We believe that most of the use-cases even with specific requirement will co-exist in the same air interface but might be separated as a virtual one.

What are the main challenges moving towards 5G?

Standardisation is one of the big challenges facing 5G. Operators need standards which allow interoperability and backward compatibility with the existing technology framework (4G and 3G/2G).

Only deployments based on harmonised operator requirements will make sure that 5G technology is future-proof. Furthermore, we need global economies of scale to roll out efficient networks to benefit operators and customers.

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