5G challenges ahead — costs and regulation still to be determined

March 16, 2015 //By Jessica Lipsky, Associate Editor, EE Times
A bevy of legal and economic requirements may temper a bit of the excitement around 5G cellular, according to speakers at the Mobile World Congress.

5G is hoped to deliver as much as a 100x increase in throughput to 10 Gbits/second per connection, some links at new low latencies and many new services, some over yet-to-be-defined spectrum. Industry experts hope 5G cellular bands will range from below 6 GHz to 100 GHz.

Standardization of the band below 6 GHz may occur in November at the ITU-R- sponsored World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC), but earlier comments from the ITU chair encouraged waiting until there was absolute consensus. At the same time, panelists at MWC agreed that the roll out and practical application of 5G technologies is more of a commercial proposition, begging the question of where the intersection of economics and long-term infrastructure lies for a 2020 deployment.

Countries such as Japan and Korea are already working toward early adoption of 5G, 3GPP Chair Balazs Betenyi said. The requirements of those countries will need to be met, and influence of these early adopters is part of a unique feedback loop unheard of in older communications standards, he said.

As host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, Korea has a tangible reason to invest in the new radio access networks and other infrastructure for 5G. Countries and operators with less pressing international issues may have less of a reason to invest early. Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said there will need to be an 80% reduction in system costs for 5G to become ubiquitous.

Details of link quality, price and the availability of the network are often determined by the market, Etisalat Group CTO Hatem Bamatraf said, adding that this is usually a three-to-five-year process and often not technically driven. License requirements can become more important than the technology itself in cases where service providers can be penalized for violation of regulatory obligations, he said.

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