Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) and Nokia staged their first trial of 5G mobile technology in Australia at the University of Technology, Sydney, where Vodafone is supporting researchers working on 5G technologies.
Using spectrum at 4.5GHz they demonstrated two applications to highlight the bandwidth and low latency of 5G networks: a virtual reality demonstration with throughput at almost 5Gbps and a trio of robotic arms controlling a ping-pong ball on a tilting table.
Jeff Owen, head of radio access network strategy at VHA, said the company saw 5G not as an evolution from 4G but as “a revolution, the beginning of a new era.”
He said VHA was looking at undertaking 5G research with UTS. “VHA is scoping out a partnership with UTS so we can accelerate and property prepare our 5G vision,” Owen said.
“UTS is the leading university in Australia for 5G research, it is a hub for 5G technology. We have taken a keen interest in their research into advanced antenna systems. We well take in interest in their research into software defined networks.” He added: “It is not exclusive, we will be looking at other partnerships.”
In addition, he added: “VHA has paid research in numerous global research centres: in Stockholm, in Helsinki, in Warsaw, near Shanghai and at Arlington Heights in the US. We do some with Nokia and some as a collaborative effort.”
Ray Owen (no relation), CEO of Nokia Australia, said Nokia was also working with UTS. “This is one of the leading schools we work with and we are actively targeting UTS to help us meet our needs and expand our workforce in Australia,” he said.
“We have a long standing relationship with UTS in the provision of postgraduate course work and accreditation but through a range or research and innovation partnerships we have had over the years.
This association is largely through the former Alcatel-Lucent. In a 2012 research report Alcatel-Lucent Australia said that for over a decade, “Alcatel-Lucent has worked closely with UTS on research and training and has opened a state-of-the-art technical facility at the UTS Blackfriars campus supporting postgraduate students completing a Masters of Engineering Studies in Telecommunication Networks.”
VHA will wait for 5G standards
Around the world a number of telcos have boasted of planning large-scale early public trials of 5G networks. For example Korean telco, KT has said it will have 5G services available at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Korea.
However Jeff Owen said VHA would be waiting until standards were well established rather than pioneering pre-standard 5G versions.
“We have a vision to stick to the standard a it will be defined in Release 15 of the 3GPP standard. We realise there may be opportunities to exploit pre-5G, but we are focussed on official 5G. In the interim we will focus on improving our 4G network to the maximum extent possible.”
He said Release 15 was due to be finalised in June 2018. “Then we will have to wait for the readiness of the network technology, unfortunately the devices intend to be last.”
VHA’s view of 5G seems rather broader than the generally held view that it is the collective name for the next generation of cellular technologies – unlike 2G, 3G and 4G, 5G will not be one technology but a portfolio of different technologies using different frequencies and tailored to different use cases.
Jeff Owen described 5G as an enabling technology that compliments several emerging technologies. “We will see a rise of those technologies just a few years away when the 4G network starts to need additional capabilities that cannot be sustained,” he said.
“We will see the commoditisation of high tech consumer products like robotics. We will see the proliferation of electric vehicles, autonomous cars become commonplace, and a rise in machine-to-machine communications to the point where they will exceed human communications many times over.
5G will drive IT and telco convergence
He predicted 5G would usher in a renewed convergence between IT and telecommunications. “This has been talked about for some years, but it never really got there,” Jeff Owen said.
“We will see this come to the point where it is almost complete. We will see the new 5G radio technology accompanied by another four converging technologies: mobile edge computing, cloud computing, network functions virtualisation and network slicing.
“These are not part of the 5G standard but they will become associated with 5G to the point where we will be unable to distinguish between them.
“With mobile edge computing we will see powerful computing resources moved from the core of the network to the edge of the network, to the cell towers and that will open up a whole host of new applications and give us as an operator the ability to launch and customise new applications that we cannot do with 4G.”
Low latency greatest advantage of 5G
Jeff Owen reinforced the claims repeatedly made for 5G: That it will deliver bandwidths of several gigabits per second and offer much lower latency than 4G networks, but said latency was “if anything the greatest advantage that 5G will bring. We will see the time taken for data to get from A to B cut down form many tens of milliseconds down to as low as one millisecond.”
However, latency in a mobile network — the time taken for end-to-end communication — is a function of both processing delays and distance and no technology will reduce distance related latency which is a determined by the velocity of electromagnetic energy through the transmission medium.
A Nokia spokesman told Computerworld that the latency in this case referred to the time taken for a base station to receive and return a signal to a device. He said 5G was being developed to prioritise applications requiring low latency — such as real-time control of robotic devices— over other less latency sensitive application.
Owen said the third defining characteristic of 5G would be connection density. “The density of connectivity will size from tens of thousands of devices per square kilometre to millions of devices per square kilometre.”
Vodafone rival Optus has signed a memorandum of understanding with Nokia for collaboration on the development of 5G. Telstra in September staged the first public demonstration in Australia of 5G in collaboration with Ericsson.