5G: Where Are We Now?

It seems like we just had LTE and LTE Advanced beginning deployment in base stations everywhere. In spite of that effort, there has been heavy discussion of early development ideas of the 5G next-gen architecture to meet the ever-growing demands of the cellular airwave capacity, speed and customer future needs.

Social networking is growing at a blazing pace around the world as people share texts, e-mails, images and videos globally with everyone—even people they do not know! Analysts now predict that there will be 20 to 50 billion devices by the year 2020 (I think more—even some Buddhist monks in Tibet have smart phones!) Unlimited capacity will become the norm going forward, especially in densely populated regions.

The wireless spectrum is very limited nowadays so priorities need to be set as to which data needs to be sent via that route. The vision for 5G is said to be “everything everywhere and always connected”—a tall order for sure. This includes the Internet of Things and even such things as remote energy harvesting devices that send out wireless signals sporadically. Communication devices out there are operating at a few hundred MHz to almost 100 GHz!

Image courtesy of PCWorld

Image courtesy of PCWorld

Indoor cells consisting of femto- and pico-cells help in frequency re-usage. There is consideration for possible use of millimeter wave frequencies being used in small cells at multi-GHz modulation bandwidths. Multiple special streams such as forms of MIMO and beam-forming techniques are being looked at.

Possibilities include a network that integrates wireless and wireline with a dense network of small cells using Massive MIMO to enhance capacity and cell data rates in the order of 10 GB/s with a round trip latency of 1 ms. This technique is also known as Large-Scale Antenna Systems, Very Large MIMO, Hyper MIMO, Full-Dimension MIMO and ARGOS. The technique uses an extremely large number of antennas (in the order of hundreds of thousands!) that can operate in a coherent and adaptive manner. These extra antennas can focus the transmission and reception of RF signal energies and finely direct them at specific small areas.

The standards process will begin late this year and into next, officially launched at ITU-R WRC-15. The World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15) which will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, from the 2nd to 27th of November 2015. They will sort out RF issues and work on standards for mobile networks. (They meet every three to four years).

Nearer term will be The Brooklyn 5G Summit which will take place April 8-10, 2015 to discuss many of these 5G issues

Stay tuned to Planet Analog for more related blogs on this topic and also EDN where I will soon launch a feature article discussing where we are and ideas about where we need to go with 5G from the aspects of analog and RF IC solutions and architectures being worked on towards this goal.

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