The IoT poses a specific challenge to 5G. IoT is typically low bandwidth, uses small data packets, has low communications overheads and is very low power as most devices are battery powered or use energy harvesting. Further, the battery needs to last the specified life of the product. However, some elements of IoT require very low latency. It is combining all these needs in to 5G that is challenging. Incorporating multiple standards into 5G seems to be a logical progression.
IoT is independent of 5G but to capitalise on the economics of widespread networks, it will need 5G.
At NI Week, Stanford University Andrea Goldsmith remarked that the next-generation of networks need to support an exponential rate in data growth and a surge in diverse wireless devices. 5G research is not just about more data but these networks need to be more reliable, predictable and energy efficient, which is required by the emerging IoT.
This is key to enabling diverse applications such as remote surgery, autonomous vehicles, and health/wellness monitoring. The key aspect here is diversity of needs and an explosion of sensors communicating data.
Prototyping is key
James Kimery at NI says the company has a leading role to play in 5G with its ability to enable researchers and organisations to rapidly prototype wireless technology with its LabView-defined PXI platforms.
Nokia at NI Week demonstrated a 73 GHz system that delivered a peak rate of 10 Gbit/s. The use of mmWaves poses a whole set of challenges including penetration loss, diffraction loss, beam steering, and the efficiency and cost of RFICs. Started two years ago the Nokia project is resolving many of these issues such as beam forming and recently achieved a 200m range at 200m.
According to James Kimery thousands of research papers are written on wireless but there is a need to move beyond simulation and go to prototyping. NI is alleviating this problem and enabling researchers to implement prototyping and have their voices heard. Standardisation bodies require a prototype otherwise the idea lacks credibility — it is difficult to invest in an idea without a prototype. Prototyping provides a glimpse of the road to commercialisation.
All the companies involved, of which only a few have been covered in this article are looking at different aspects of 5G. While we can agree on what 5G will do in terms of throughput, latency, power efficiency, reliability and so on, what is more opaque is how such a network is realised. Researchers looking to define 5G and companies looking to leverage these standards will need to do cover a lot of testing and prototyping of complex and emerging technologies. While 5G might encompass many standards already in existence, the network will need the intelligence to select the best protocol for the use case and implement in the most efficient manner possible. New standards will come into play to take advantage of spectrum that is unlicensed or in the mmWave bands, but it suffices to say that at this level of complexity prototyping and network test beds will be essential in getting to the point where 5G can be implemented. As is the case with complexity, it is best dealt with reuse, whether on the test side or implementation side in the form of IP.
To conclude, there is significant progress being made on 5G the point where standards start to come into play is near. Most of the next decade will be dominated by 4G and improvements to 4G, but the seeds for 5G have been sewn.