What is being tested at the 5GIC

Defining the future at the 5GIC

The noise surrounding 5G has been deafening so far in 2016, with companies from across the world staking their claim to pioneering the technology and racing to be first to market with related infrastructure.

Announcements heralding the launch and demonstration of tangible 5G applications are premature, however, as the technology is still very much in the early development phase. Work is currently being undertaken that will define the scope, success and time to market for the technology, led by industry working groups such as the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) based at the University of Surrey.

During the last year, experts at the Guildford facility have deployed the world’s largest 5G testbed

During the last year, experts at the Guildford facility have deployed the world’s largest 5G testbed to assist them in defining the parameters of the technology, both from a protocol and a use case perspective. This important research will provide key groundwork towards the deployment of the new technology, and will see the UK among the leaders in 5G development.

5G will effectively be a dynamic, coherent and flexible technological framework, providing a system that uses a variety of technologies to support a range of applications.

Unlike 3G and 4G, 5G will not be defined as a single wireless technology with the primary aim of supplying mobile data services, but will instead comprise a number of different services being delivered to the end user across multiple access technologies and multi-layer networks. 5G will effectively be a dynamic, coherent and flexible technological framework, providing a system that uses a variety of technologies to support a range of applications.

Something in the air

5G is being designed chiefly to support high-speed data services and enable the rapid expansion in M2M (Machine-to-Machine) and IoT (Internet of Things), but many of the concepts suggested for the technology depend on proving new radio interface technologies can deliver the throughput, latency and capacity required to support them.

Key areas being addressed include new waveforms, larger bandwidths made possible by using new frequency bands in the millimetre-wave spectrum, and the development of Massive MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) techniques.

One of the key activities of the 5GIC is to create and characterise the underlying algorithms for the potential new 5G air interfaces. As part of this project, Cobham Wireless is using its test instrumentation as a platform to generate the air interface waveforms and to evaluate performance against key design parameters. This software-defined air interface design principle will allow the fundamental air interface parameters – or even the air interface architecture – to be dynamically changed according to the service scenarios.

In order to address the diverse range of use cases, it would not be surprising if 3G and 4G air interfaces will remain included among the many radio access technologies that will be used in the 5G system.

There are important considerations to be made for the architecture and the different frequency bands that will be integrated into the broader 5G technology framework, but significant emphasis should also be placed on validating the user experience for the new applications.

The diverse nature of these applications means 5G will need to cover a range of use cases. These include some for high-capacity, occasional usage and others that require small amounts of bandwidth, but with a large number of regular transmissions – all placing very different demands on network infrastructure.

Enabling these new applications is dependent on the development of new and sophisticated testing and validation techniques for both the network infrastructure and the interoperability with the devices themselves.

These validation techniques are already being developed during the technology design phase at the 5GIC facility. Everything from the chipsets and radio antennas right up to end-to-end network performance are being fully investigated to give the technology the greatest chance of success. By adopting this ‘testing by design’ methodology, it is possible to start at the ground level and work up from there, refining processes along the way to understand, validate and improve system design and performance.

The test bed at the 5GIC is one of the world’s leading facilities for trialling 5G applications, validating standards and interoperability factors. Using this testbed, the UK can lead the way in development of next generation technology and help define the wireless future by providing a robust blueprint of the technology itself and the applications it will support.

By Li-Ke Huang, Research & Technology Director, Cobham Wireless.

 

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