Thursday, 25 June 2015

If 5G is just an incremental step over 4G it will fail

If 5G is an “incremental step” over 4G technology “we are going to fail”, Erik Hoving, CTO of Dutch operator KPN, warned this morning.

“5G is going to ask different things from us as an operator, it’s going to give people different things. If you look at what the demand for 5G is, it’s capacity, but it’s also latency.

There is never going to be a Google car driving safely if the latency isn’t solved, and latency isn’t going to be solved if we continue doing what we are doing today,” he continued.

So far, the mobile industry has developed through “a huge amount of incremental steps that we all thought would bring a better world for our customers. But at the end we have this huge spaghetti of core networks.

And listen to the words – a core network. In any other industry, core would mean one,” the executive commented. “Everything we do needs to start with a picture of the future, which often our industry didn’t do.

Our industry is extremely incrementally driven, because most of the companies are stock-market quoted, and the next quarter is the most important quarter,” Hoving observed.

But, in the face of growing data demand, “there is no way we can step back from the incremental things,” he said. “You have to invest in your core network, you have to invest in your access, you will have to invest in frequencies, because the amount of data that is being consumed is exploding in our face.”

“I think 4G is going to be the horsepower for mobile data consumption for a long while. It’s going to be mixed with WiFi, definitely, and ultimately this will grow into 5G, but first we have to define exactly what 5G will mean,” the executive continued.

With this in mind, “we as an industry, and at KPN, have to simplify what we have first. Because it’s way too complicated,” he said. “If we do not clean-out what we have today, in core networks and in IT at the back-end of our industry, some of our companies will collapse.

Because there is no way you can continue with this IT shebang that we have. We have to first clean-out and virtualise,” Hoving argued.

With many operators here iterating that 2G networks are likely to have a long lifespan, the KPN technology head was especially critical of its younger brother, 3G.

“Basically, 3G is a very mediocre solution. 2G is a voice-centric solution. 3G was created from a technology perspective with a half-baked data solution. And we rolled it out again incrementally,” he said.