ISSCC sees 5G on the horizon as Alcatel-Lucent, Intel collaborate on air interface

March 09, 2015 //By Rick Merrit, EE Times
5G cellular research projects are racing to a conclusion so proposals for formal standards can begin next year, said experts at a panel at International Solid-State Circuits Conference here. They shared their views and work to date on next-generation cellular, including a prototype 5G base station running in a university lab.

5G is expected to include a suite of radios and other network technologies aiming to deliver by 2020 a variety of advances for a wide array of applications. Alcatel-Lucent is working with Intel on the Universal Filtered OFDM air interface, which had its origins in WiMax, as just one small piece of the puzzle.

“We have a prototype air interface we showed last year and another [version to be shown] at the Mobile World Congress handing streaming video…[that] we expect to bring to standards efforts which we expect to start early next year,” said Theodore Sizer, a domain leader at Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Laboratories.

UF-OFDM could be one of at least three air interfaces companies such as Intel propose for 5G, said Asha Keddy, a vice president of Intel’s platform engineering group. Separate air interfaces may be needed to support Internet of Things nodes in the 100 MHz to GHz bands and high-bandwidth applications in the 10-100 GHz range, she said.

NTT DoCoMo is still investigating which of at least two air interfaces it is likely to support in standards discussions, said Yoshihisa Kishiyama, a senior research engineer in the company’s 5G lab.

The World Radio Congress may not decide until as late as 2019 how to allocate spectrum above 6 GHz for 5G services, geared for short range, high data rate links. That creates a heady challenge for engineers “designing new air interfaces ahead of when spectrum is released,” said Intel’s Keddy.

To speed connections, new air interfaces and protocols need to reduce the amount of interactivity such as message acknowledgments used today, said Sizer of Alcatel-Lucent. He noted short bursts of less than 300 bytes represent half of today’s LTE traffic. “This will get worse with more IoT traffic,” he said.

Engineers will need to make multiple radios cooperate so that with 5G services “users don’t even have to spell WiFi and LTE, they just work in concert,” he said.

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