The 5G mobile system, like previous generations, is based on a globally agreed set of technical standards that all the equipment manufacturers respect. A global standard is important for a fast return on investment through economy of scale and also for inter-operability of devices across different operator networks within a country and internationally. There can be no market for equipment that doesn’t conform to the global technical standards.
Unlike previous generations of mobile systems, there are two different aspects to 5G. The first aspect is enhanced mobile broadband with the capacity to serve many users in the same place concurrently. The second is automation, which will connect sensors, controls, robots and other non-human things.
Since 5G will support many different applications besides conventional mobile communications, it has to be extremely flexible. To be suitable for connecting things and robots it must support low delay (latency) communications and have ultra-high reliability. These attributes, especially low latency, require computing and processing to be carried out as close to the edge of the network as possible, otherwise known as Mobile Edge Computing. To support these new applications, the standards community had to strengthen the network security compared to that of 4G.
5G service and network roll out will take place in phases. Phase one, starting in 2019, will be deployed in city centres where there is capacity shortage for mobile broadband. The standard for this phase has already been finalized. Deployment into rural areas will need special attention by the Government and regulator, but 5G’s use of several different radio spectrum bands will facilitate this. For automation applications, it will take another four to five years for standards to be set and deployed.
In phase one, enhanced mobile broadband, the new radio solution for 5G, will primarily use the 4G core network and will complement 4G radio, thereby reducing the capital cost. This is called non-standalone operation (architecture) in the mobile community. So, the first phase will have many similarities to 4G networks. To summarize, for the next four to five years 5G will be mainly providing enhanced mobile broadband, similar to 4G, but with more capacity and higher security mechanisms.
Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Director of the Institute of Communications Systems and 5G Innovation Center at the British University of Surrey