Firechat: 5G and what’s it all about

Interviews 27. March 2018.

Peter Wukowits, Managing Director of Nokia, provides his view on 5G.

5G was the dominant topic at the MWC – can you explain in short what 5G is all about?

5G should not be thought of as just a new mobile technology, in the manner that we’ve seen GSM, 3G and LTE evolve, with achievement measured in terms of how long it takes to download a movie to a smartphone, or upload holiday photos. 5G will enable an entirely new array of ‘use cases’, in addition to dramatically enhancing existing wireless applications. 5G will enable new possibilities in a wide variety of commercial and industrial sectors – from manufacturing to healthcare and from transportation to utilities. And because of the range of use cases 5G can support for numerous industries, it has the potential to be a societal game changer – and an integral part of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

This isn’t hype, but the realization of a technology that has the potential to support a completely connected world. The requirements for 5G technology are laid out:

  • 5G is estimated to potentially facilitate up to one million devices per square kilometer
  • It should have 10,000 times greater capacity than the cellular networks of 2010
  • Peak 5G speeds will be available from 20Gbps (with speeds everywhere of 100Mbps in the downlink and 50Mbps in the uplink)
  • It will support everything from 0km/h all the way up to 500km/h high speed vehicular access (i.e. in the case of trains)
  • 5G’s one-millisecond latency and ‘five nines’ (99.999%) reliability means that critical systems will be available for autonomous driving for mass transit, connected healthcare for developed and emerging markets, and will bring unique immersive experiences never before thought possible
  • Leading telecom vendors (like Nokia) as well as various standardization bodies, research institutes, network operators have been working together very hard to be able to introduce the next step of the evolution in that domain. 5G is going to be one of the main building blocks for 4th Industrial Revolution and dense digitalization of society. At the end of the day, it will be beneficial for everyone.

What will I be able to do with 5G what I can’t do today?

As a consumer, you`ll be able to download very large chunks of content (like ultra-HD 360-degree videos) in a matter of minutes regardless of the device being used and where you are. Then, you`ll be able to enjoy real-time gaming on your mobile device with a significantly better experience than today, due to the vastly improved latency (up to 1ms) compared over what is now delivered by 4G networks. 5G will play an important role in connected/autonomous driving, again due to unique low latency capabilities – Nokia is currently testing a number of applications of this with partners. 5G enables the seamless interaction between robots and humans which is – again – highly sensitive to latency. Last, but not least, it will enable so-called ‘network slicing’, which means that a number of different applications with completely different requirements can run on the same physical network infrastructure at the same time. This will allow network operators to distribute ‘slices’ of their network, each one tailored to the unique needs of their customers, for example a slice with extremely low latency for hospital and medical type of applications, a slice with high security parameters for banking, a slice with ultra-high capacity for a stadium during popular concert or football game and so on. This will allow many different use cases and business models and improve end user experience.

What are the specific challenges attached to 5G?

The technology is still under standardization, but this will be resolved in nearest future. Now, we need to work on the use cases for various industry segments. We must think beyond traditional silos and take an ecosystem approach. This is key for later adoption and we have a lot of trials and other activities going on with companies across sectors. But to ensure timely deployments of 5G infrastructures and services, policy frameworks must be adapted and be ‘5G ready’. In this context, there are three priorities for policy makers:

  • Making more spectrum available: accelerating spectrum identification and allocation to mobile broadband is critical, as well as ensuring the appropriate rulings in those spectrum bands.
  • Modernizing rules to incentivize and facilitate the deployment of telecom infrastructure: in this context, replicability of processes and simplification of installation regimes for small cells can help dramatically decrease deployment timelines and costs.
  • Ensuring new business models and services can flourish: here’s where balanced net neutrality rules are critical, allowing ‘quality of service’ differentiation. While preserving the principles of the open internet, differentiating network traffic is important as users require higher speeds and lower latency connectivity for specific usages (network slices). In addition, cross border free flow of data is essential to incentivize and scale cloud based services. Regarding data-protection and security, a delicate balance must be found to effectively protect end-users while enabling new digital services.

Globally, who is leading and where does Europe stand in 5G?

At a global level, Nokia sees China, the United States, South Korea and Japan as taking a strong lead in making 5G happen. For example, 5G technology was trialled during the recent winter sports event in South Korea. In general, Nokia sees the first commercial 5G network launches starting in 2019 – a year earlier than previously suggested, and it’s possible that there may even be first 5G services starting in 2018, especially amongst US operators. These are not expected to be full, nationwide launches, but selective evolutions of networks with 5G air links.

Europe is a somewhat different place, where technology launches requiring regulatory alignment can happen at a different speed to other regions. However, it is recognized at EU level that 5G technology is an opportunity for Europe to regain technological leadership and increase competition, with all market players – operators, regulators, vendors and customers working together very closely, not an easy task in such a fragmented market.

When will 5G be commercially relevant?

We see large-scale commercial rollouts of 5G services by 2020, with standardization in place, and chipset and device manufacturers producing a variety of 5G-capable devices in volume.


What do you recommend any MNO today?

The pace of 5G development is running very fast. All operators are forming their 5G plans and implementation strategies, looking at their respective markets and what their competitors may do. Being a pioneer in new technologies and services has its challenges, bringing 5G to market will have financial and operational challenges for service providers. But fortune favors the brave and with 5G, MNOs will have a unique opportunity to change their market position, as was done in the past with 4G.

To sum up, I would recommend having very concrete plans for when and how, as an MNO, you would like to implement 5G technology. And, of course Nokia, is happy to help and advise, because we are working with the biggest and most advanced CSPs across the globe and are happy to share our experience.

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