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5G’s far-reaching ambitions set complex and long-term challenges

01 August 2019

Commercial 5G trials are beginning this year and, with discussions about the companies bidding for infrastructure contracts now hitting the news, many people will surely ask “What is 5G?” Of course, 5G is so much more than simply the successor to 4G.

In fact, it seems that 5G is expected to be everything to everybody – the go-to consumer broadband technology, the connectivity for autonomous motoring, the channel for masses of IoT data, the medium for smart manufacturing and Industry 4.0. And that’s just for starters.

To fulfil all these ambitions demands almost infinite flexibility, so 5G is incredibly complex; much more so even than 3G and 4G. It has taken a long time for the standards bodies to define the specifications adequately for trials to begin, and work on some of the more complex features has not yet begun. Only when these are ready can companies properly tackle the challenges associated with designing, building, and testing infrastructure equipment and networks.

Specifications still open

To get 5G up and running, and into the public consciousness, the pilot services rolling out this year are Non-Standalone (NSA) implementations. While 5G frequencies will be used for high-speed data exchanges, the networks will rely on 4G (LTE) technologies to manage connections to infrastructure and servers. The 3GPP TS38.521-3 transmitter and receiver tests for interworking with LTE in the 5G Frequency Range 1 (FR1) below 6GHz and in the FR2 mm-wave bands (24GHz-52GHz) are quite well developed. On the other hand, performance tests (38.521-4) and radio resource management (RRM) test requirements have been standardised but various points remain open and need to be clarified.

Corresponding specifications for standalone (SA) operation, namely TS38.521-1 for FR1 and TS38.521-2 for FR2 are more advanced, although other parts of the SA standards will not be approved until later this year.

Read the full article in the August issue of DPA

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