At the Mobile World Congress 2018 (MWC) in Barcelona, 5G internet was more than just a buzzword and looks set to be a reality soon. While smartphone announcements at MWC tend to dominate headlines, the world’s biggest mobile show puts far more focus on the future of the telecom industry. Players like Qualcomm, Huawei, Nokia (the networks company), Ericsson, Intel were some of the big names showcasing what a 5G-ready future will be like once it starts going live.
Qualcomm has already announced its 5G-ready X50 modem and will partner with players like Xiaomi, HMD Global that manufacturers Nokia phones, etc. to bring 5G-enabled smartphones in the early half of 2019. At the Qualcomm booth in MWC 2018, one of the live demos showcased the speeds and user experiences that will be possible when 5G networks are ready.
Qualcomm’s simulated speed tests showed that 5G will make it possible to stream 8K video at 120fps without any lag and the data-rate speeds could be expected to be around 1.1.Gigabit per second. In fact, videos higher than 8K, once that becomes a reality, will also be easy to handle for the 5G network. The Qualcomm demo showed that even at the edge of the network, speeds will be around 446 MB per second and the 5G network will have enough bandwidth to experience 8K video, something not possible on current 4G LTE networks.
It will also mean that movie and video downloads will be done in just under a minute. In fact, as the demonstration showed, the typical 5G user will get download speeds of 400-plus megabit per second. The reason for slowing down of the speeds will be the older TCP protocols for data transfers and 5G will probably mean that the older protocols on data transfer will have to be reconsidered.
The other crucial aspect of 5G will be that network latency will go down significantly. In the current 4G LTE networks (CAT 20), the median latency is around 15-20 milliseconds, which might not seem like a lot, but for industrial use cases and larger enterprises, this is far too high. Also for emergency response systems, this number is still too high. But with 5G, network latency could go down to a median time of 5 milliseconds.
For future computing, this will mean big changes and will open up new use cases. One, it will allow the merger of local and virtual computing in ways not yet possible. The power of the cloud and the local device could be merged via a more efficient 5G network. For example, with VR gaming, a portion of the game could be loaded locally, while the rest would happen on the cloud and the 5G network will help merge it together. A similar scenario can take place for video editing, where some of it takes place on the device and then a filter is applied to a large 8K video on the cloud and sent back to the device.
The way chipset vendors like Qualcomm and Intel see it, 5G networks could sustain everything from the connected smart car to a 5G personal computer to enterprise servers. Intel showed a concept 5G connected PC to showcase. The chipset player expects 5G-ready modems to be out commercially by the first half of 2019, and also sees widespread use cases for its future chipsets. Intel’s concept connected PC uses the more efficient 28mmWave spectrum (uses between 30 to 300 Ghz).
Another player showcasing 5G-capable devices was Huawei, which is one of the biggest telecom players in the world. Huawei’s booth had 5G-ready WiFi routers and chipsets on display and these are expected to be commercially available by the end of 2019. In theory, these could offer up to 2 Gbps speeds once 5G networks go live.
Of course, the 5G networks will come with their own challenges. For instance, with 28mm wave spectrum, there is the problem of receiving the network inside buildings, and might require extra towers to ensure steady connection. Most players are still conducting interoperability tests with the network equipment providers in order to make sure that the 5G-ready chipsets will work the 5G networks. In Qualcomm’s case, the testing is still ongoing in labs, though it is expected to move to the real world in some months. Qualcomm expects 5G smartphones in 2018 and claims that the X50, which is its first 5G modem will offer 4GBs per second.
The other crucial aspect of the 5G network, when it goes live, will be the efficiency. It will be capable of handling a larger volume of users and could be particularly beneficial in markets in India, where the networks are congested given the high volume of users.
Disclaimer: The reporter was in Barcelona attending MWC 2018 at the invite of Samsung India.