Over the last few years, the 5G ecosystem has moved from strength to strength, with the technology emerging as the fastest-growing communications technology ever.
“5G is developing three times faster than 4G and reached the milestone of crossing one billion subscribers by the end of 2022. There are now around 243 5G networks and more than 3.85 million 5G sites globally,” said Yang Chaobin, Senior Vice President and President of ICT Products and solutions at Huawei. He was speaking at the 5.5G is Coming Summit at Mobile World Congress 2023.
The growing 5G ecosystem means the new service requirements are becoming more diverse and complex. The 5G networks will not be able to meeting the growing requirements. For instance, 1 Gbps uplink is required to support high-precision industrial vision for AI-based inspection, remote control in mining industries and self-driving vehicles, among others.
At the same time, the next evolution in communications standards, 6G, is still being developed and is likely to become a reality only by 2030, seven years away. In this scenario, the telcos must adopt 5.5G to improve the 5G customer experience and to ensure that they continue to bring new and innovative use cases to their subscribers.
“5.5G is necessary to improve 5G, which has become an industry trend and an established consensus. Now, the industry has defined clear roadmaps for 5G-Advanced (5.5G), F5G-Advanced (F5.5G), and Net5.5G standards and introduced clear spectrum strategies. Key technologies and applications have been verified, and the industry consensus has steadily progressed to best practices. With all these developments, 5.5G is arriving at an accelerating rate to improve network capabilities by 10 times for various industries looking to unleash stronger digital productivity,” elaborated Yang Chaobin.
Developing 5.5G Ecosystem
The industry is realizing the growing importance of 5.5G as a natural evolution of 5G. Now the industry must come together to promote and jointly develop 5.5G technology. He elaborated on four areas of standardization, spectrum strategy, steady implementation and smooth evolution for maximized ROI, in which the industry must work to develop the technology.
A clear roadmap for industry standardization is a must for the growth of the technology. The technical specifications of 5.5G need to be defined in 3GPP Release 18, 19 and 20. While 3GPP Release 18 will be frozen in the first half of 2024, F5.5G has progressed from proposals to specification design. So, the industry stakeholders are coming together to accelerate the development of the 5.5G ecosystem.
Industry standardization needs to be followed with a clear and well-defined spectrum strategy. Yang mentioned in his speech that the 5.5G industry is now promoting the use of sub-100 GHz frequency band to support New Radio via a two-fold strategy. First, the legacy spectrum will be refarmed to ensure smooth evolution to 5.5G, and secondly, joint efforts will be made to ensure that large-bandwidth spectrum mmWave and the upper part of 6 GHz (U6GHz) will be allocated to 5.5G.
Further, all the industry stakeholders need to work in tandem to ensure that 5.5G technology develops so they are able to address the growing demands from 5G networks. Several developments point to the fact that there is an increasing consensus in the industry to support the development of 5.5G. For instance, industry partners led by GSMA have established a 5.5G community at Mobile World Congress 2023. Further, World Broadband Association (WBBA) recently released its “Next Generation Broadband Roadmap” white paper for F5.5G. Besides, leading analyst and consultancy firm Omdia released Net5.5G white paper recently to align industry roadmaps to accelerate progress in technical evolution, application scenarios, and industry ecosystem.
Yang mentioned that 5.5G supports critical technologies such as spectrum refarming and equipment multimode multiplexing, thus enabling service providers to maximize the use of the existing 5G network resources and ensuring smooth evolution to 5.5G. This is crucial to help service providers protect their investments.
5.5G: Setting New Milestones
Thanks to the industry’s efforts, 5.5G has already achieved several milestones. Yang shared that several operators in different geographies have successfully verified innovative technologies such as Extremely Large Antenna Array (ELAA) and Multi-band Serving Cell (MBSC), making 10 Gbps a reality for 5.5G. Further, the standardization of 50G PON for F5.5G as next-generation PON by the ITU-T and the maturing key technologies such as uplink and downlink symmetry and multi-band in one is paving the way for a seamless evolution to F5.5G.
The growing popularity of 5G use cases like immersive services such as XR and holographic communications and customers are demanding further improvement in experiences. Further, the growth of Internet of Things connections and growing digitalization is pushing the industry to upgrade the networks for 5.5G era.
He mentioned that Huawei will continue to develop products and solutions that will help the industry to seamlessly transition to 5.5G so they are able to leverage the emerging market opportunities.