By Paul Struhsaker

It’s been a very busy summer in the mobile wireless community.  The 5G wireless standards group “3GPP,” spearheaded by Verizon Wireless, NTT Docomo and SK Telekom, approved an “Accelerated Plan” for a fixed wireless standard in their meeting in late June in Nanjing, China. The London-based 5G World show, anchored by Huawei, provided a forum for a range of 5G ecosystem companies to highlight their plans and offerings. Finally, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), voted unanimously to formally approve the “Spectrum Frontiers” plan. Spectrum Frontiers creates 11 GHz of new licensed and unlicensed spectrum for 5G and advanced Wi-Fi deployments.

3GPP Standards Meeting, Nanjin China

3GPP’s Accelerated Plan calls for their standard to be complete by 4Q 2017 with trials and early deployments by 1Q 2018.

SK Telecom pushed for the Accelerated Plan, so the new 5G technology could be highlighted at the 2018 Winter Olympics games in PyeongChang, South Korea.  Verizon, motivated by business case fundamentals of 5G wireless, will use fixed wireless deployment to combat Comcast, Charter/Spectrum (formerly Time Warner) and other cable competitors. Verizon will do so by expanding its FiOS service beyond the current service footprint. Verizon has aggressive plans to trial the technology in parallel with 3GPP standards efforts during 2017. NTT Docomo, historically a technology leader in cellular wireless, plans extended early trials of the Accelerated Plan standard to improve the mobile 5G standards that follow. 

Verizon has filed with the FCC for special temporary authority to test 5G fixed wireless technology in the 28GHz band.  A number of vendors including Nokia, Eriksson, Intel, Qualcomm, and Samsung have teamed up to form the Verizon 5G Technology Forum.  The forum members’ equipment is being integrated into Verizon’s 5G network environments, or “sandboxes,” in Verizon’s Waltham, Mass. and San Francisco Innovation Centers. 

The big push of the 5G standards is the adoption of Multi-User, Multiple-Input Multiple-Output radio technology (MU-MIMO). MU-MIMO increases subscriber connection data rates by transmitting and receiving though multiple channels simultaneously and within the same channel spectrum. MU-MIMO will dramatically improve both data throughput and the use of limited radio spectrum. The technology made its debut in the Wi-Fi 802.11AC wave 2 standards and subsequent products commercially released in late 2015. The 5G standard is adapting the technology to keep pace with high-speed vehicles (cars, trains, and planes) and to user higher numbers of transmit and receive channels.

TIRIAS Research and a number of standards participants believe that the push for standards acceleration of fixed wireless mode will delay standardization of mobility, Internet of Things (IoT) and machine-to-machine (M2M) modes that will be part of a wider 3GPP specification.  The mobility standard is expected in late 2018. Field trials will follow in 2019, and finally, commercial launch is expected in 2020. The IoT/M2M modes are anticipated to follow the mobility standards efforts. This leaves the recently completed LTE Release 14 standard as the only improvement of cellular IoT support until 2020 at the earliest. On the positive side, the 5G mobile standard will rely on femtocell deployments (very small cells less than 100M in diameter) that require a more extensive number of backhaul connections to the core network.   5G fixed wireless standards will also pave the way for more cost effective wireless backhaul for these femtocell deployments.

 

5G World Show – London UK

On the heels of the latest 3GPP standards meeting in Nanjing, China, the 5G World show in London, U.K. provided the greater wireless industry a venue to share their plans and technologies in the context of a wider set of end user solutions that will take advantage of the new 5G cellular technology. The primary focus of the show was centered on 5G equipment and test technology. 5G World also highlighted two additional “shows within the show”:  IoT plus connected car platforms (focusing on telemetry/analytics for future self-driving cars).

The show was mostly regional in nature, with European vendors dominating the venue. The exception was Huawei, the show’s sole Diamond-level sponsor.  The highlights of the event were live 5G prototype demos by Ericsson and Interdigital, as well as carrier trial results from advanced radio technology startup Cohere Technologies.

Interdigital had one of the best live demos of the show.  Using the new unlicensed 70 GHz band and a 2x2 MU-MIMO (2 transmitters and 2 receivers) modem, data rates of up to 2Gbps were demonstrated.  The MU-MIMO system had tracking update rate in 100msec range which can support low mobility but not rapid enough to track vehicles or aircraft.  As a simple test of the demo, one of the 2x2 antenna elements was periodically blocked. The radio adapted its throughput by roughly half, as would be expected from the loss of one of two MIMO channels.

Ericsson provided a video remote monitoring of their test lab performing calibration of their MU-MIMO prototype radio to track moving subscribers. Their efforts were to both validate 3GPP proposals as well as work out optimization of high mobility use cases such as cars, trains, and aircraft.

Cohere Technologies provided highlights from their recently finished field trials in the Bronx borough of New York City. They tested their Orthogonal Time Frequency and Space MU-MIMO (OTFS) technology. The trials showed impressive non-line of sight performance in a dense urban environment.  Cohere Technologies’ OTFS technology is being considered for inclusion as part of 3GPP standards process.

IoT and Connected Car vendors at the show greatly overlapped with the 5G theme and centered on telemetry and cloud-client based connected car platforms. Future self-driving car systems will be enabled by 5G data throughput.

Nuance, a market leader in voice recognition software, had the most interesting and unique connected car solution. Nuance combines voice recognition technology with cloud based adaptive learning technology tied to the connected car media and navigation system. Their technology is similar to Amazon’s Alexa in living rooms, but in a car it enables control of dashboard and entertainment tasks to be hands-free and voice controlled.

Although this year’s 5G World show was interesting, next year many pre-release products are expected to debut from 5G trial activities.

 

FCC Announces the formal approval of the “Spectrum Frontiers” rules

The FCC’s approval of the Spectrum Frontiers plan is the single largest allocation of licensed and unlicensed spectrum in FCC history.  It paves the way for 5G trials and services that have been critical requests from Verizon, AT&T and other potential mobile carriers.

Nearly 11 GHz of spectrum has been released in the millimeter wave bands above 24GHz. It consists of 3.85Ghz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The new licensed bands are: 28 GHz (27.5 – 28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37 – 38.6 GHz) and the 39 GHz (38.6 – 40 GHz) as well as a new 70 GHz unlicensed band consisting of 7GHz from 64GHz to 71 GHz. 

This incredible breadth of bandwidth enables an entire series of applications and solutions to enter the market.  We predict that within in 10 years a majority of homes and small business will not be connected to the internet by cable, twisted pair or fiber -- the last 100 meters will either be wireless or moving to wireless.  The move from wired to wireless will be driven by the economics and flexibility that having a wireless final connection can provide, along with a significant reduction in both service deployment and service operations costs. Look for regulatory bodies across the world to follow the FCC lead for new spectrum allocation.

 

Conclusion

It’s been a busy summer so far with standards acceleration, a 5G World and a record allocation of new spectrum to support the growing bandwidth needs of U.S.-based operators. The second half of the summer promises even more innovation with the next 5G standard meeting in Gothenburg Sweden and the Cablelabs Summer Conference in Colorado (remember one or more cable operators is likely to enter the mobile market, given that nearly 4Ghz of spectrum will be up for auction).