GSA attended the Huawei Global Mobile Broadband (MBB) Forum in Hong Kong between the 2-4th of November 2015. Hosted by Huawei and the GSMA it was a spectacular event with the largest presentation screen we have ever seen. Around 1,000 people were in attendance and we listened to presentations from senior executives in the mobile industry including Ken Hu, Deputy Chairman and rotating CEO at Huawei, Alex Arena from Hong Kong Telecom, Peter Wong from Hutchinson 3, Alex Sinclair from the GSMA and Hroshi Nakamura from NTT DOCOMO. There were also very enlightening presentations from the 5G Forum-Korea, CNN, Time Inc., Google, Visa, Vodafone, China Telecom and Facebook to name just a few.
There was a very strong 5G theme over the two days with most presentations mentioning the Internet of Things (IoT) as being a main driver for 5G deployments.
Ken Hu pointed out from the very beginning of his presentation that there is still 1 billion unconnected in the world and 4 billion have no Internet access – this is creating a new digital divide. The industry focus should be to bridge this digital divide and one requirement is for regulators to make more spectrum available.
It is generally agreed that 5G will be about a better user experience – high definition audio and video – with video (4k now and 8k later) anticipated to be up to 70% of all network data traffic by 2020.
Both Google and Facebook referred to video as a main driver for 5G with CNN and Time Inc. echoing this message.
Bill Gajda, who is ex-GSMA and now VP of Innovation & Strategic Partnerships at Visa told the audience they have 2.2 billion payment points – cards and PoS terminals – and that they expect 50 billion by 2020 as multiple devices become payment enabled. There will be Access Points in the edge network to manage this huge growth in payment points using secure tokens to protect user data.
But lets get back to the discussion around IoT and some of the requirements that are driving the revolution or evolution to 5G.
Standards – Costs – Ecosystem – these are three key IoT areas.
Luke Ibbertson from Vodafone talked standards for Narrow Band Cellular IoT and the strides being taken to standardize NB-IoT. There should be commercial products based on the standard in the summer of 2016 with the 800 MHz & 900 MHz bands proposed as the ideal frequencies. Applications included pet trackers and parking bay sensors to inform drivers where the spaces are were suggested.
IoT access costs are currently running at around $5 but need to move to the next growth step of $1 per connection to drive rapid IoT deployments. We also think that clear and simple Service Level Agreements (SLA) need to be in place that encourage developers and product companies to enter the IoT market. Simple to understand SLAs will help drive a healthy ecosystem supporting fast market entry of new kinds of mobile devices and applications.
Our question at the event was to ask, “What will constitute a commercial 5G network or device? What performance criteria needs to be met for a network operator or vendor to be able to claim it is 5G?”
There was some agreement with the results of a recent GSA survey on the topic of 5G commercialisation criteria suggesting that massive MIMO, 1Gbps, sub 1 ms latency, a reduction in deployment costs, 1,000 X capacity increase and network splicing were all important 5G criteria. We don’t yet have a definitive definition of what performance criteria will constitute a 5G network in the eyes of the cautious GSA. Some hints will come in the new 5G GSA Executive Member white paper due out before the 16th November.
As always, GSA will strive to agree clear criteria for agreeing 5G commercial readiness as we look to monitor and report on 5G network and device availability.
But lets not forget that we are still evolving to LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro (The new 3GPP brand name for Release 13 and beyond). Stephen How from Bell Canada and Hans Cronberg from Poland’s “new” P4 (Play) operator explained how they continue to roll out LTE with some very interesting 4G LTE marketing from P4 in particular. You had to be there but basically P4 did actually promote a mobile service based on the promise that 4G LTE is coming!
Finally – there is clearly some overlap between what LTE will deliver and what 5G is predicted to deliver from 2020. While we don’t agree that one 5G-performance criteria being met means a commercial 5G network, there will be cases where operators could claim an early 5G network deployment based on a subset of full 5G network performance criteria. It could get messy out there and that is why GSA is striving to help the industry define what 5G will be.