Monday, 22 August 2016 01:06

BT and Nokia 5G collaboration another step towards 5G future, plus 5G comment

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5G. The standard is still yet to be fully worked out, and everyone wants to be a part of bringing the 5G standard to life, with BT no exception.

Nokia and BT have signed a research collaboration agreement on 5G technologies, hastening the day that 5G technologies are agreed upon and are actively being manufactured for global usage.

That day hasn’t arrived yet, but with the proponents of 5G so actively creating the future, its arrival is inevitable, and it will be truly incredible when that finally happens.

Until then, work on 5G continues apace, as the need for a dramatically upgraded form of wireless broadband grows ever more urgent.

Imagine those billions of Internet of Things devices communicating across today’s 3G and 4G LTE and LTE-A networks.

With outages happening to major telcos, and with demand for data only increasing, we need 5G technology to keep up with humanity’s insatiable hunger for data, information, transacting and communicating.

Between then and now, Nokia reminds us that after LTE-Advanced comes "LTE-Advanced Pro", which "will be represented by major advances to current 4G capabilities, including public safety features, carrier aggregation enhancements, interworking with Wi-Fi and licensed-assisted access".

But after that Nokia and partners want to release true 5G technology and networks, so a natural upgrade cycle begins. To get there, the agreement needs to be the claimed "step forward" toward 5G – yet another step in unison with the many global creators of the eventual 5G standard.

To paraphrase a famous phrase, this is yet another small step for a telco and network equipment partner on the road to 5G, and yet another giant step for the wireless future of mankind.

So, what 5G activity will specifically happen between the pair?

Nokia and BT say they will now "work together on potential customer use cases for 5G technologies, the creation of 5G Proof of Concept (PoC) trials and the development of the emerging technology standards and equipment".

Both players say the "trials will focus on the technology enablers for 5G including mmWave radio and convergence, as well as potential commercial services including ultrafast mobile broadband, mission-critical services and the Internet of Things (IoT)".

Then we get to an explanation as to why 5G is necessary.

BT and Nokia state that:

By integrating the best capabilities of fixed and mobile networks, 5G will deliver seamless connectivity which is even more capable than today’s 4G technologies.

  • It will deliver greatly improved ultrafast speeds to mobile users and targets peak rates of multiple Gigabits and latency in the range of one millisecond.
  • Such speeds would allow for the simultaneous streaming of data-heavy content such as virtual reality or live 360 degree video to any device, while greatly reduced latency would mean truly real-time engagement between remote users and systems.
  • This is essential for consumer applications such as mobile gaming and major technology advancements like driverless cars.
  • However, both companies say they "believe that the technology’s biggest potential is its ability to improve the flexibility and usability of mobile networks", allowing them to "flex" to meet the specific needs of customers.

What does this mean?

Well, it might "include lower latency to support critical communications, or greater power efficiency and higher bandwidth usage for different applications. This new flexibility will be critical to support new business and consumer services based on IoT, including connected cars, smart cities and remote health monitoring applications".

Howard Watson, chief executive of BT Technology, Service and Operations, said: “Our EE mobile business already boasts the biggest 4G network in the UK, which is set to cover 95 per cent of the country by 2020. We will build on that foundation to develop the next generation of LTE-Advanced Pro and 5G services over the next few years.

“It’s still early days for 5G technology, but experience tells us that a collaborative approach is key to success. We’re delighted to be working with Nokia to drive a common approach to 5G, and to develop exciting use cases which bring together our combined experience in fixed and mobile technologies.”

Cormac Whelan, head of the UK and Ireland at Nokia, said: “5G is the communications technology of the future, and it will transform how we communicate with each other, as well as communicate with devices and ‘things’.

“Nokia is delighted to be working with BT in laying the foundations for 5G adoption in the coming years, and in helping define how this technology will enable exciting and innovative experiences.”

We are reminded that "as a first step in the collaboration, Nokia is currently conducting trials of its latest 5G-ready radio equipment at the BT Labs at Adastral Park, Suffolk.

‘This radio system demonstrates key 5G technology ingredients that are currently in standardisation running on Nokia’s AirScale radio access, including an entirely new 5G frame structure and 4 x 100MHz carrier aggregation".

Billing itself as "best known for its work on fibre-optic and broadband technologies", BT Labs says it has "played a major role in the development of wireless data services, and were the location for the first trial of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) data calls – the precursor to today’s 3G and 4G data services".

To end, both companies are already partners, with the agreement building "on the existing relationship between the two companies in which Nokia supplies BT’s 21C Core Routing Platform and both the BT/EE subscriber register infrastructure and part of the EE Radio Access Network".

That means Nokia already contributes a great deal to BT’s operations, with the eventual introduction of 5G a win-win-win for all, so while perhaps this deal was simply a formality. it is another step on the journey from the dream of 5G’s capabilities to its everyday reality for us all in a few years time.

5G comment:

5G. It’s here, there and everywhere, except streaming into our phones over a completely upgraded 5G mobile network.

The standard is still being developed, with plenty of 4.75G-like solutions being trialled and tested, most apparently quite successfully, but without yet delivering the true knockout 5G blow.

This would be the technology safely evolving to deliver such speeds with the chipsets, modems, frequencies and antennas built into 5G-enabled smartphones, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspot and other connected devices with 5G SIM card sockets.

Of course, there will be compatibility with what will also be extremely fast 4.75G and better networks, and with 4G LTE-A networks continuing to grow, there will be a clear blend of 4G and 5G networks and coverage areas for some time to come, as still is the case with 3G and 4G networks today.

Heck, even with 2G networks, although with Telstra shutting its 2G network down at year’s end, and Optus from April 2017, with no word from Vodafone yet, 2G’s time grows short at 5G slowly grows ever close.

Everyone’s on the 5G bandwagon today, with Intel the newest player – which you can read about in iTWire’s article entitled: "Intel will be able to deliver end-to-end 5G wireless technologies".

Then, of course, there’s Nokia with its 5G initiatives, Ericsson with its 5G activities, too, Huawei joining in the amazing race to 5G, and even Artemis Networks having now claimed some time ago its pCells and software defined network can deliver the equivalent of mobile fibre 5G right now to today’s 4G LTE smartphones. Indeed, as noted by Artemis, the company and its claim of truly revolutionary technology has attracted the interest of major players Nokia and Levi Stadiums, as well as an Artemis-powered network in San Francisco using Dish Network's spectrum.

There clearly is a major 5G arms race underway, with whoever gets there first or whoever gets most of their technology used in the final standard presumably benefitting a great deal. 

It is driving fierce competition in the space. 

It will be fascinating to see the next Artemis update on its announced plans, as it will be see the work continue with all the other 5G players.

After all, they are all working feverishly to engineer the transfer of 5G from science fiction into long-awaited science fact, and when they succeed, the famed tyranny of distance will be gone until the far future development of teleportation eliminates the problem of distance completely, once and for all.

Until then our 5G future awaits!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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