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March 31, 2016

DragonWave and Mitel Join Efforts to Accelerate 5G Development

DragonWave and Mitel recently announced that they had started a joint initiative to advance 5G networking. The two Canadian companies join a larger list of companies working on the technology, which is expected to not only provide greater capacity and speed, but also enable widespread growth of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Based in Ottawa, Ontario, DragonWave, Inc. develops high-capacity packet microwave and small-cell backhaul solutions. Mitel Networks Corporation is based in nearby Kanata, and develops cloud-based communications and NFV solutions. As far as their roles in the joint initiative are concerned, Mitel will provide its expertise in software and mobile networking, while DragonWave will deal with outdoor networking, small cell and backhaul wireless technology.

That list of companies heavily concentrated on researching 5G technology includes such industry heavyweights as AT&T, Verizon, Alcatel-Lucent, China Telecom, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Nokia, Samsung and ZTE just to name a few.  The efforts by these companies to research and develop 5G technology comes before a formal standard has been defined. Although it seems counterintuitive to develop 5G solutions when what constitutes 5G has not been formally defined, there is a general consensus on some of its capabilities.

According to TechRepublic writer Jo Best, 5G should be capable initially of providing 1 Gbps downlinks at the outset and improve upon that speed later on. Latency should be no more than one millisecond, and the technology should be more energy efficient than previous generations. 

One possible consequence of the emergence of 5G is the use of higher frequency spectrum, in the 30 GHz range and higher. As Best points out, older technologies using the lower frequencies will still be in use, so it would be simpler to allocate higher frequencies to the telecoms rather than carve out slices for 5G in current spectrum ranges, which are already crowded. 

As a result, millimeter wave technology (MMW) would grow. If you are familiar with broadcast radio concepts, MMW is analogous to the shorter-wave FM band, which does not have great range, but delivers a higher quality signal. Current mobile spectrum is more like longer-wavelength AM, which has better range, but lower quality.

With MMW, you’ll be able to have faster mobile bandwidth, but it won’t have very good range, so companies like DragonWave will need to provide smaller cells in more places for MMW to work. From a regulatory standpoint, installing these small cells won’t require as many hoops to jump through, and it will fill in the coverage gaps previously left by macro cell towers.

The work that DragonWave Mitel, and other companies are doing to develop 5G technology, even though 5G does not formally exist yet, is critical. It is expected to be anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than 4G. This will support more connected devices, and thus allow the IoT to grow even faster. There’s a lot more to this technology than shorter wait times between tweets. 

Edited by Peter Bernstein

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