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April 22, 2016

'5G: This Article Contains Content That is Written Like an Advertisement'

The headline above is the statement on the Wikipedia page in front of a current 5G article.

When we started writing about 4G, I was very clear that we were following the trends of LTE standards work. 4G was an appropriate term for where the standards were taking us.

I tried to get my standards friend from ETSI to come out and speak, but they were finishing up the 3GPP standards and wanted to finish their victory lap.

Somehow 4G lost its chance to have a victory lap. Perhaps the Ozzy Osbourne and Justin Bieber Super Bowl ad was a foreshadowing of the problem.

Perhaps it was the need for speed that made everyone look beyond the 4G rollouts and delivery that was happening at the time.

Perhaps the standards bodies that worked on 3G were exhausted and allowed for a next generation of standards work to be created under the umbrella of the Next Generation Mobile Network Alliance http://ngmn.org/.

For whatever the reason, the 5G term dominates my conversations these days. And yet it feels more like an umbrella and wish list than a standardization.

Having said that, I have to admit that LTE deployments have to go through several phases to reach the IMT-Advanced specification. And saying you are deploying phase 2 of 4G sounds like you are fixing the deployment, not improving it.

So perhaps I should embrace the term.

Let’s look at the NGMN’s expectations for 5G.

  • Data rates of tens of megabits per second should be supported for tens of thousands of users;
  • 1 gigabit per second to be offered simultaneously to many workers on the same office floor;
  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments;
  • Spectral efficiency should be significantly enhanced compared to 4G;
  • Coverage should be improved;
  • Signaling efficiency should be enhanced;
  • Latency should be reduced significantly compared to LTE.

And here I am back at the problem. This is a wish list and not a specification.

I can make the case that it has a more comprehensive view from the network perspective, so the standardization is not as important as the directive for networks to gain this efficiency by any means available.

This lends itself to discussions that talk about 5G as if beam-forming and SDNs were comparable.

If I accept that the term 4G is passé and 5G is where we are at, I -- like Wikipedia -- have a request.

“Please help improve [5G] by removing promotional content and inappropriate external links, and by adding encyclopedic content written from a neutral point of view.”

Looking at the NGMN technical specifications, I see signs of hope, but it is going to take some elaboration and harmonization of terms before 5G will be associated with results.

Edited by Rory J. Thompson

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