Wednesday, 12 October 2016

LiFi or Visible Light Communications (VLC) evolves

Even as we increase data rates and network capacity in Wi-Fi with 802.11ac, 11ad and then 11ax, it’s worth keeping an eye on other communication technologies that may become useful in the enterprise. Visible light communication (VLC) is making progress in the background, and while it is barely out of the lab, it may take off in a few years. The startups working with enterprise VLC are adopting the term “LiFi” (although it has—today—no connection with Wi-Fi).  Like all new technologies, there are many possibilities—and the number of potential uses is impressive. Applications include vehicle-to-vehicle, underwater communications, streetlamps, aircraft cabins, and industrial uses where Wi-Fi cannot be used due to RF interference. Attributes of LiFi The most attractive attribute of LiFi is its bandwidth. The visible-light portion of the spectrum spans around 300,000 GHz—six orders of magnitude more than we now use for Wi-Fi in the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands—so the data rates and capacity that can eventually be obtained are almost unimaginable. Most light communication to date has used lasers and fiber-optics. It’s very effective, it's but expensive—although work on Silicon Photonics promises to bring down the cost and perhaps spur another wave of adoption in the data center, displacing copper. But VLC in the enterprise is based on LEDs, not lasers, modulating lightbulbs to communicate with traditional clients such as laptop PCs. LiFi products The most visible proponent is pureLiFi, a startup associated with the University of Edinburgh. Their second-generation product set comprises a ceiling-mounted unit, like a Wi-Fi access point, and a matching PC dongle. The ceiling unit is Ethernet-connected to the enterprise LAN, and its light shines on the photo-diode sensor of a dongle on the PC below it. It also contains a photo-diode to receive the uplink connection from the dongle’s LED. Claimed rates are only 40 Mbps full-duplex over a few meters, with inter-access point handover, so we are clearly at the beginning of the learning curve compared to the theoretically achievable performance. RELATED 802.11ad is the fastest Wi-Fi that you might not ever use Is Wi-Fi finally ‘fast enough?’ Scientists developing solar panel that doubles as a Li-Fi receiver on IDG Answers What does Microsoft Hololens Enterprise Edition offer business that other... This is an interesting start, given the early state of the technology, which is still pre-standard. (In the standards world, the term “VLC” is already claimed by IEEE 802.15.7, and there are moves afoot to start work on LiFi in both 802.15 and the IEEE 802.11 group. LiFi could develop a common MAC with Wi-Fi, which would surely broaden its interest: consider a device that could seamlessly move a connection between 5GHz - 802.11ac, 60GHz - 802.11ad and light.) Nevertheless, it is hard to believe that replicating Wi-Fi topology (ceiling-mounted access points communicating with desk-level mobile devices and PCs) is the best application of LiFi in the enterprise. Surely it would be better to find situations Wi-Fi cannot satisfy and hope to build from those niches to general applications. Proponents have certainly made an effort to identify where differences between Wi-Fi and light might be usefully exploited. Whereas Wi-Fi signals are notoriously difficult to arrest—much of our focus in WLAN design goes to limiting interference from cell to cell—walls block light quite effectively. Also, light communication offers a solution for situations where the Wi-Fi spectrum is congested or suffers interference. But can these differences be exploited for a commercially successful solution? Also, the LiFi access points will need clients. Dongles are clearly a limited solution, but curiously, many of the devices we see in the enterprise—phones and tablets—already have light sensors (the cameras) and transmitters (flashlights). If the installed base of phones and tablets can be made to support LiFi, the barriers to adoption become dramatically lower. Early-stage technology is so difficult to evaluate. To the visionaries, eventual benefits are obvious, but can the industry follow the classic path to commercialization where it exploits vigorous niche opportunities before moving into broader applications? And how long will it take? The answer to the first is that while the possibilities are intriguing, the product stepping stones have not yet emerged. And the second is always “longer than you think.” There’s plenty of time to see how this develops.

Free space optical destined to connect Optical Satellites

Laser Light to leverage free-space optics and terrestrial fibre optic networks network in space linking Optical Satellites as a Global Service

Laser Light Communications (US) and its affiliate firm, Laser Light Global, Ltd. (UK) has selected Equinix, Inc. (NASDAQ: EQIX) as its strategic interconnection provider for a network that will combine spaced-based optics and terrestrial fiber-optic network infrastructure to create an Optical Satellite as a Service (OSaaS) offering it calls SpaceCable.

The resulting All Optical Hybrid Global Network (or HALO, as laser Light calls it) will offer 100-Gbps connectivity to carriers, enterprises, and government customers via Equinix facilities. Laser Light will establish its first point of presence at Equinix's DC11 International Business Exchange (IBX) data center in metro Washington, DC.

The company will use that facility as an initial stepping stone toward installation, testing, and demonstration of its capabilities, which will include not only laser communications but software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) capabilities as well. According to the company's website, Laser Light will leverage 8 to 12 satellites in medium Earth orbit to create a network that will offer an initial service capacity of 7.2 Tbps.

The satellites will pass signals among themselves and to the ground via free-space optics. The space interconnections will include 48 links of 200 Gbps apiece, as well as 72 steerable up/down links to Earth at 100 Gbps. The company will complement the satellite network with its Extended Ground Network (XGNS) of terrestrial fiber. Laser Light says it will leverage software-defined networking (SDN) technology to fully leverage the network's spatial diversity for alternative routing to achieve the lowest latency as well as select route options to circumvent any changing atmospheric conditions the satellite transmissions may encounter.

The satellites and terrestrial network should be ready sometime in 2018, according to information on the company's website. "A partnership with Equinix permits Laser Light to become a truly Tier 1 global carrier with access to facilities, and incumbent local fiber providers, in a 'one stop shop' partnership," said Robert Brumley, Laser Light's CEO. "Also, Equinix's mix of enterprise, global carriers, and government customers permits Laser Light to be present in the marketplace for high-volume data services in the key regional markets around the globe.

We are excited that Equinix and Laser Light have formed this partnership in this stage of our development to draw on their extensive experience as a global facilities provider, and cooperate with us in our deployment of a unique, SDN global network." "We are excited to work with Laser Light as the interconnection provider for this cutting-edge satellite technology that greatly increases access to many parts of the world that are underserved by current fiber and wireless networks," added Ihab Tarazi, CTO at Equinix. "By adding 'SpaceCable' as an equivalent offering together with terrestrial and submarine cables, Equinix customers looking for low latency solutions to reach new or emerging markets will have access to a full suite of data transport options."

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

5G usage models with field trials to begin development with Nokia at BT Adastral Park

BT and Nokia have signed a research collaboration agreement on 5G at the BT Labs at Adastral Park, Suffolk. The two companies have agreed to work together on potential customer use cases for 5G technologies, the creation of 5G proof-of-concept trials and the development of technology standards and equipment. 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. 5G is intended to provide improved ultrafast speeds to mobile users and targets peak rates of multiple Gigabits and latency in the range of one millisecond. Howard Watson, chief exec of BT Technology, said: "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 & Ireland at Nokia, said the company was "delighted to be working with BT". Nokia is currently conducting trials of its latest 5G-ready radio equipment. The technology will run on Nokia’s AirScale radio access, as well as a new 5G frame structure and 4 x 100MHz carrier aggregation. The two companies have a history of working together, with Nokia supplying BT’s 21C Core Routing Platform, the BT/EE subscriber register infrastructure, and part of the EE Radio Access Network. An official 5G standard is expected to be agreed next year, with Ofcom not expected to decide what spectrum it will use until the end of the decade.

Ofcom kicks off 5G spectrum auction!

What about the delayed auction for more 4G capacity?

Communications regulator Ofcom has opened a consultation on the first tranche of its 5G spectrum auction. The consultation presents its initial thinking on how it could expand spectrum access for mobile services in the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band, said the regulator. The band is currently used by fixed links and by satellite services for space to Earth reception. "We consider this band a high priority band for future mobile use, due to the large amount of spectrum available and the interest in this band for the rollout of future 5G services (the fifth generation of mobile connectivity technology, which is currently being developed)," it said in a statement.

National regulators across Europe and industry have identified the wider 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band as a potential first 5G band. Ofcom is proposing to make 116 MHz within the 3.6 to 3.8 GHz band available for mobile and 5G services. However, as ISP Review points out, 5G technology is expected to deliver its best speeds using much higher frequencies. International 5G standards are also yet to be set and are not expected to come into force until 2017. Ofcom has promised there would be enough spectrum available for 5G networks by the time they became commercially available in 2020.

The regulator is also expected to open a consultation on its delayed spectrum auction for further 4G capacity. But a number of telcos have called on the regulator to impose a 30 per cent cap on operators bidding in the next spectrum auction. That move would limit the proportion of airwaves an operator can own, and inhibit bids from EE and Vodafone. The consultation for 5G spectrum will close on by 5pm on 1 December 2016.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Allocation of additional spectrum between 3.6 and 3.8 GHz beibg considered by Ofcom

The four UK mobile network operators (MNOs) could benefit from the allocation of additional frequencies in the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band if the outcome of a new consultation by Ofcom is favourable towards such a move. Ofcom already plans to auction spectrum in the 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz and 3.4 GHz bands to support future 5G networks, and also recently said it was considering the 3.8-4.2 GHz band as the first opportunity under a proposed structure for shared spectrum access. It is now turning its attention to opportunities within the 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz band, noting that this would include eventually awarding for mobile use the remaining 116 MHz of the band that is not already in use for electronic communications services. Interested parties have until Dec. 1 to submit their responses to the proposals outlined by Ofcom. “National regulators across Europe and industry have identified the wider 3.4 to 3.8 GHz band as a potential first 5G band. This band can provide the large bandwidths necessary for new 5G services and is harmonised within Europe,” the regulator said. The 3.6 GHz-3.8 GHz portion of the band is currently used for other purposes such as satellite services and wireless broadband services, but Ofcom noted that the “intensity of use” in the band is low. For example, there are a total of 35 fixed links in the band, compared to thousands in several other bands. UK Broadband also has a national licence to access 84 MHz of this band. Spectrum is a hotly contested issue in many markets in Europe, especially with regard to new 5G networks, but the situation is particularly tense in the UK because of the imbalance of spectrum assets held by the different MNOs. Three UK especially is in a precarious position, as pointed out recently by CCS Insight: "The operator claims to carry over 40 per cent of UK data traffic, but holds only about a 15 per cent share of the airwaves -- an unsustainable position that has already forced Three to raise prices on some tariffs," CCS Insight observed. Three UK CEO Dave Dyson has already called on Ofcom to implement a spectrum cap of 30 per cent on each operator, warning that EE parent company BT could use its financial clout to outbid rival mobile operators in future spectrum auctions. Vodafone UK recently explained its plans for its existing spectrum assets in an interview with FierceWireless:Europe, but the operator’s policy is not to comment on future spectrum auctions.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The 5G Automotive Association.

5G Automotive Association was founded by Intel, Ericsson, BMW and others to speed development of next-generation infrastructure technologies.

Several tech vendors are partnering with three automakers to create an association that is aimed at accelerating the development of 5G technologies for self-driving cars. The companies, on Sept. 27 2016, announced the 5G Automotive Association, which will work to develop, test and promote technologies that will form the basis of the next-generation infrastructure that will be needed to make autonomous vehicles a reality.

Networking vendors Ericsson, Huawei Technologies and Nokia and chip makers Intel and Qualcomm are being joined by automakers Audi, BMW and Daimler in the initiative, which officials with the companies said is an example of the need for partnerships to speed the development of the necessary technologies.

"The success of 5G is dependent on cross-industry work in new ecosystems to digitalize industries," Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson said in a statement. "With the creation of this association, we will leverage our latest technology, 5G, and work closely together with the car industry to jointly develop solutions as well as provide input to regulation, certification and standardization."

Li Yintao, president of Huawei's 2012 Labs, said in a statement that the association "demonstrates the clear need for a cross-sector collaboration between the mobile industry and car industry for joint innovation, and to establish a platform to align on timeline and priorities and solution roadmaps."

The group will be able to drive everything from worldwide regulations and certification to standardization efforts for autonomous cars and 5G technologies, he said. The burgeoning self-driving car market is getting a lot of attention from many corners. Tech vendors and component makers are rapidly building up their portfolios of products aimed at the space, and companies from Google and to Uber are currently running tests with such vehicles.

Car manufacturers are teaming up with tech companies—as illustrated by the partnership between BMW, Intel and Mobileye to get autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021—to drive their efforts. In addition, governments also are pushing efforts. The Obama administration in January unveiled plans to spend almost US $4 billion over 10 years to fund pilot projects in hopes of accelerating autonomous car efforts in the United States.

5G is seen as a key enabling technology. Though standards for the next-generation connectivity technology aren't expected to be finalized until 2020, tech companies are rolling out pre-standard 5G technologies and products. 5G promises data transfer speeds that will be 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE, as well as significantly lower latency and the ability to support many more devices and systems.

All this will be important for the car-to-car and car-to-cloud communications (or V2X—vehicle-to-everything) that will be crucial in enabling vehicles to operate without human intervention. The vehicles will need to communicate with each other as well as other intelligent environments—such as smart cities—to navigate from one point to another and to avoid obstacles from other cars to pedestrians.

"We expect 5G to become the worldwide dominating mobile communications standard of the next decade," Christoph Grote, senior vice president of electronics for BMW, said in a statement. "For the automotive industry it is essential that 5G fulfills the challenges of the era of digitalization and autonomous driving."

The new association will address technical and regulatory issues, and will look at such tasks as defining and meshing use cases, technical requirements and implementation strategies as well as giving support to standardization and regulatory groups, officials said.

Members also will address a range of V2X technologies, from wireless connectivity to security, privacy and distributed cloud architectures. They also will jointly run development projects that lead to the creation of integrated offerings, interoperability testing, and large-scale pilots and trials. Group members said the association is open to other companies joining.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Real 5G is, for some, Years Away but the need for design is imminent.

Real 5G is Still Years Away Even as The Wireless Industry Prepares for Its Arrival

Dated: Oct 3rd, 2016
Written by Jeffrey Burt Share:

Though the first standards for the new wireless technology are at least two years away, telcos, tech companies and governments already are preparing for its deployment. It's out there on the horizon, tantalizingly close but hard to see, and eagerly awaited by an increasingly connected world. It's called 5G, essentially the next generation of wireless connectivity after 4G LTE, and it holds the promise of more speed and capacity and lower latency to unlock the potential of everything from gaming, streaming video and virtual reality (VR) to the internet of things (IoT), smart cities, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and autonomous cars. In a world where there will be 20 to 50 billion or more connected devices by 2020, 5G is seen as the technology that can connect all these systems and sensors and machines, enabling them to more easily link to the cloud and communicate with each other. It will be the answer for telecommunications companies whose networks are under increasing pressure from the skyrocketing traffic brought on by the proliferation of connected devices, video streaming, cloud computing, data analytics and other emerging trends. All that said, it's going to take some time for 5G to get here. The standards for 5G wireless aren't expected to be ratified until 2020, with ramping up happening after that. However, as the standards bodies get on with their efforts, work is being done on multiple fronts — from carriers and tech vendors to consortiums and governments — to push the industry in that direction and to be ready as the standards start to gel. At the same time, there's also work ongoing to improve the speeds and capabilities of 4G LTE, creating a scenario where the two technologies will co-exist going into the next decade. Still, for many organizations, 5G can't get here soon enough.

"Mobile data traffic on AT&T's national wireless network increased more 150,000 percent from January 2007-December 2015," Hank Kafka, AT&T's vice president of radio access and devices, wrote in an email to eWEEK. "We're engineering and designing for another 10X growth in volume across the network. Today, more than 60 percent of our network traffic is video and we expect continued growth. We believe 5G will add higher capacity, lower latency and faster throughput. We also anticipate it will bring great opportunity to further scale up the IoT, including smart grids, connected cars, homes and cities, connected health and more." Accelerating 5G Innovation Carriers estimate 5G will offer speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE networks. Picture downloading a full-length high-definition video onto a smartphone in seconds rather than minutes. There will be plenty of bandwidth to support all the devices and systems that will make up the IoT with latency at 1 millisecond, almost where it needs to be for such applications as V2X (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-cloud) communications. The latency on today's 4G networks is about 50 ms.

"We are moving into a constantly connected world," Nigel Eastwood, CEO of New Call Telecom in the UK, wrote in a column in the Economic Times. "We are able to connect with friends anytime, anywhere, or do live stock trading or shop anytime. … The Internet of things, driverless cars, augmented reality will all be real in the coming years and all will depend on telecom networks for smooth, seamless functioning." Industry analysts are expecting the ramp uo to 5G to be quick once standards are in place and products start hitting the market.

ABI Research analysts are predicting that by 2025, mobile broadband operators worldwide will see 5G revenues of $247 billion. "5G will be a fast-growing cellular technology, most probably faster than preceding generations, including 4G," Joe Hoffman, managing director and vice president at ABI, said in a statement. "The technology migration over the next few years will mean the continued decline of 2G. 3G and 4G will grow in many markets, but 5G will generate new use cases and market revenues."

The building blocks for 5G are being put in place now. The 3GPP (3rd Generation Partner Project), which defined the standards for 4G, is beginning to work on creating the underlying standards around the new technology with the first step beginning in 2018 and the rest of the work running into 2019 and 2020. However, even as the standards work is ongoing, telcos and tech vendors are making incremental steps toward 5G. Carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, China Mobile, NTT DoCoMo and SK Telecom are taking steps toward 5G, such as running lab tests and working with standards bodies and industry consortiums to prepare for the advent of 5G. Verizon and AT&T are running field trials in cities in the United States as part of larger strategies to accelerate the development of 5G technologies. AT&T's Kafka noted that the carrier is also testing such technologies as fixed and mobile applications both indoors and outdoors as well as such capabilities as beam forming, beam tracking and multi- and single-user MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), all of which will be vitally important in 5G networks. Engineers also are testing how 5G technologies run in different spectrums. A broad array of tech vendors, from Intel and Qualcomm to Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, Google and Cisco Systems, also are building out their portfolios to offer products that will be ready for 5G infrastructures. Recently, Ericsson announced the addition of a 5G NR radio for massive MIMO support that officials said will combine with other 5G technologies the company has released to give it all the components necessary to enable carriers to build 5G networks in 2017. Governments are taking steps to help fuel the innovation around 5G.

South Korean officials have promised $1.5 billion to help drive 5G development, while the Obama administration earlier this year rolled out a $400 million program. In addition, regulatory agencies in the United States, the European Union and in the Asia/Pacific region have all looked to ease the path toward the new wireless technology. In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in July approved opening new, higher-frequency spectrum for wireless technology in anticipation of the expected increase in traffic and to bolster innovation around 5G. Existing 3G and 4G networks currently operate in the crowded sub-6GHz spectrum, which is used by radio and television broadcasters, satellite operators and others. The higher-frequency bands are less crowded, but come with their own challenges. They would enable the use of millimeter waves (mmWaves), but they can't travel as far as lower-frequency signals and can be obstructed by walls, leaves and other obstacles. That will force the development of new antenna designs for mobile devices and the wider use of small cells that will relay traffic from one to another and ensure coverage over long distances.

The FCC is dealing with these issues by loosening rules as to where building owners and wireless providers can put small cells. However, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a keynote at the CTIA 2016 show, said carriers and the federal government may get pushback from state and local officials about the number of small cells that will be needed to support 5G connectivity.

There are about 200,000 cell towers in the United States, but millions of smaller cell sites will be required for the deployment of 5G. Telcos may run into "NIMBY" situations and the FCC is hoping to address that issue, Wheeler said. "If siting for a small cell takes as long and costs as much as siting for a cell tower, few communities will ever have the benefits of 5G," he said. "We recognize that this is a major concern and are committed to working to lessen these burdens and costs to ensure that 5G is available nationwide, while respecting the vital role that the communities themselves play in the siting process."

What Is 5G?

The talk by carriers and network equipment vendors of 5G and 5G-ready products is raising the question about how many of the promised benefits are real and how many are marketing hype. The tech industry only has to look back at when "virtualization" and "cloud" were just coming into the vernacular to see how terms can be co-opted by marketers to describe their products. Stephane Teral, senior research director of mobile infrastructure and carrier economics for IHS Markit, said in a recent report that much of what is being referred to now as 5G is really advanced 4G LTE technologies. Talk about 5G began in 2012, and ramped up a year later when NTT DoCoMo officials said they expected to have 5G capabilities in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Teral said. Verizon in 2015 then said it planned to have first commercial deployments of 5G in 2017. However, the analyst said that what will come over the next few years will be more an extension of the LTE and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) standard. Real 5G technology will come when the 6GHz spectrum is put to use. "All the technology being developed for next year are really clearly for the 4G era, coming from the evolution of 4G features," Teral told eWEEK, adding that there is nothing new in the sub-6GHz bands, which is where mobile and wireless communications already are located. "What is it going to bring that we don't already have?" The real change will come with mmWaves in the higher spectrum, which won't come until 2020, he said.

John Delaney, associate vice president for mobility at IDC, also is tackling the question. In a recent research note, Delaney pointed out that the 3GPP has agreed on three broad use cases for 5G: enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications. While they don't mandate particular technologies, the use cases do point to "certain groups of technology" that will be needed to address them. "'Massive' communications, for example, indicates the need to use higher-frequency spectrum, which in turn points to advanced MIMO, advanced beam forming and beam tracking," Delaney wrote. "Another example is 'low-latency' communications, which points to the need for a more decentralized network architecture. … These use case-related technologies can therefore be seen as touchstones for 5G relevance." Real 5G also will bring the need for "new radio" (NR) and new radio access network (RAN) technologies, so that if an RAN uses technologies of 4G or other prior generations, it's probably not a 5G RAN. "We don't know exactly what 5G is yet," he wrote. "But we've reached the point where we know enough about 5G to see what it will not be and to get growing clarity about what it is likely to be. On that basis, we believe we're now entering the period in which vendors' claims to have 5G products need to be considered on their merits, rather than being dismissed out of hand for being 'too early.'" Akshay Sharma, research director in Gartner's Carrier Network Infrastructure group, is less concerned about whether products are 5G or pre-5G and more about the destination. "They're stepping stones to get to the final step of 5G, so it's all good," Sharma told eWEEK. "There are all kinds of different implementations." It comes down to becoming more agile and more flexible, running on more frequencies and being more application-oriented. When companies talk about pre-5G now, they understand essentially what 5G will be about and can help carriers build architectures that will be ready for 5G, he said. "As long as the architecture is directed toward a software-defined model rather than having to rip and replace hardware, that's what carriers are worried about," Sharma said, adding that they want to keep their capital and operational expenses as low as possible.

4G LTE Continues to Evolve While talk turns to 5G, 4G LTE continues to grow. LTE is expected to continue to evolve even as carriers and tech vendors push 5G development. The expectation is that the two technologies will co-exist well into the next decade. Some applications will run in the higher spectrum bands of 5G and others will remain in 4G LTE, similar in the way some traffic now is diverted from broadband networks onto WiFi. LTE is evolving into LTE-A, which is increasingly common now and later with LTE-A Pro. As LTE moves from one iteration to another, such advances as increased carrier aggregation and support of unlicensed spectrum are being addressed. Wider deployments of LTE-A Pro technologies reportedly are still a year away, though it's being tested now. IHS' Teral noted that the rollout of LTE and its variants is only gaining momentum now and that carriers have invested a lot of money and effort to build out their 4G networks. With all investment along with the significant speed, bandwidth and latency advances from 3G to 4G, LTE will continue to be a major factor in wireless networks beyond 2020. "LTE has long legs and is not likely to disappear soon," and will co-exist for a long time, he said. In a recent report, analysts with SNS Research said that while 5G will drive spending in the long term, LTE networks will generate significant revenues over the next several years. Mobile operators will generate $600 billion in service revenue from commercial LTE networks this year, a figure that will grow at more than 5 percent a year over the next four years. In addition, more than half of all LTE subscribers will be supported with LTE-A networks by 2020.

Also by 2020, infrastructure investments in LTE and 5G will hit $32 billion, including spending on macro cells, small cells, advanced RAN architectures and mobile core technologies. Network equipment vendors also are looking to use incremental evolution of 4G to help carriers on their paths to 5G. Nokia earlier this month unveiled not only 4.5G Pro, which officials said will boost capacity and speed in operators' networks as they move their infrastructures to 5G, but also plans for 4.9G as another incremental step toward the next-generation technology. The 4.5G Pro technologies, slated to arrive in 2017 and powered by Nokia's AirScale radio portfolio, will deliver 10 times the speeds of 4G networks, enabling service providers to take advantage of diverse licensed and unlicensed spectrum. Nokia executives say 4.9G will be even faster and offer more capacity while reducing latency to complement 5G radio coverage. Challenges Going Forward Despite the promises of 5G and the amount of effort being put behind its development, the road to 5G will have its share of hurdles. One worry has become possible fragmentation of the market. Verizon officials in July released specifications for vendors that will be used to help the carrier build out its 5G networks. The specifications were developed by members of its 5G Technology Forum, which includes Ericsson, Cisco, Intel, Nokia, Samsung and Qualcomm. The goal is to work on the specifications with vendors and contribute them to the 3GPP, officials have said. However, AT&T officials reportedly have pushed back at the move, saying it's unlikely that all of Verizon's specifications will be adopted by the 3GPP and that the result could mean products on the market that don't comply with the 3GPP's final standards.

AT&T instead is trying to get things ready for when the first of the 3GPP standards are released in 2018 to accelerate the commercialization of 5G. Ensuring fragmentation won't occur will be important as the industry marches toward 5G. Other challenges will include the investments that will be required to build 5G networks and the devices that can take advantage of them, while ensuring the security of the networks and the backward compatibility with 4G LTE networks. IHS' Teral said the industry also has to make a clear argument for use cases for 5G. Many of the ones being discussed currently can be addressed by 4G LTE networks and those that can be made for 5G are expensive. "The question is, what exactly will you bring to the party that you don't have today with LTE?" he said. "There is no shortage of use cases. The real problem is what is the use case you really need 5G for and how do you monetize it?" That said, about 75 percent of global operators that participated in an IHS Markit study said that the IoT was the top use case for 5G, according to Teral. Gartner's Sharma said carriers now need to be taking steps to prepare for the eventual arrival of 5G. Among the work they need to be doing now is retraining their engineers in such areas as DevOps and agile development as well as collaborating with cloud-based partners, he said. Carriers also need to embrace software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) in their infrastructures. "You can architect your data center today with these [5G] concepts in mind so when it gets fully baked, you're ready to go," Sharma said. "And you can implement it not with new people, but with the people you already have."