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Considering the Prospect of a 5G Network

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 10:36am
Andrew Berg

ORLANDO, Fla. - The idea of 5G might seem like pie in the sky, but there are people and companies in the industry that are actively pursuing the next iteration of the networks. 

A panel at PCIA's annual conference in Orlando Wednesday gave attendees an abstract of what things might look like in the year 2020, offering a rough sketch of a future that is anything but certain. 

"We think 5G is going to be much more use-case driven," said Glenn Laxdal, vice president and head of advanced technology for Ericsson North America. "It's going to be about adding the capabilities we need to address new use cases." 

Without a clear definition of what 5G is—there's no actual 5G technology—the panel conceded that the road forward is still a little fuzzy. 

Ken Sandfeld, executive vice president of SOLiD, said the move to 5G has to be viewed from the perspective of both the end user, as well as the industry. 

"The end user is looking for peak data rates...fiber-like speeds," Sandfeld said. "But it's also about the overall responsiveness of the network."

The panel seemed to agree that much of the promise of a 5G network is decreased latency for M2M connections. Laxdal said that by 2020 and beyond, there are predicted to be 10s of billions of connections. 

"Smart buildings, smart cities, it's all about this dramatic increase in the number of connected devices," Laxdal said.

While 5G will be part of meeting that demand, don't start writing a eulogy for LTE and 4G just yet.

"LTE has a long way to go," Sandfeld said, noting that LTE-Advanced is just the beginning of increasing the spectral efficiency of LTE. 

Laxdal stressed that the industry will have to think very differently about 5G than it did about previous technology generations.

"The transition from 4G to 5G will be less a transition and more of a combination," Laxdal said.

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