April 30, 2015 — One session at this year’s Wireless Infrastructure Show that I really found captivating was the “The Road Ahead, the Evolution to 5G.” The nice thing about these sessions is that they, invariably, tell it like it is. There is so much hype out there about 5G that a candid assessment of what it is and where it is going is a refreshing change.
This session did exactly that. It laid bare the challenges – infrastructure, capex/opex and expectations. Exactly what the infrastructure of small cells will look like is one of the million dollar questions. Candid discussion about issues such as how to deal with the massive MIMO antenna deployments that will be required. How they will interface with the existing macro infrastructure and how band stratification will be addressed was another topic.
Discussed was the relationship with carriers from all angles such as to how carrier-grade and private deployments will be interfaced. As well, the topic of how carriers will deploy 5G, and use it to deal with the upcoming data tsunami was a hot topic. And what to do with the myriad uncontrolled and unlicensed Wi-Fi cells and how things like VoWi-Fi, LTE-U, carrier aggregation, the Internet of Everything, and virtualization will play out in the 5G space were put out there by the panel of experts.
The term ultra-dense networks (UDNs) was thrown out to describe what much of the 5G landscape will ultimately be comprised – a very apt global definition to this editor. Other issues discussed were around tower loading, collocation and how LTE-A will serve as the stepping stone to 5G. One panelist prognosticated that “everything will go to the cloud” – a rather interesting perspective that can change the way we see infrastructure deployed, going forward.
In the end, the panel discussed the myriad unrealistic expectations out there about 5G. Technology will have to figure out challenges, such as how to keep latency under 1 millisecond and still provide pervasive bandwidth for what will be the next disruptive application – video. In the end, the panel concluded that 5G is way too immature to make any statements of what that landscape will look like once 5G gets traction.
Ernest Worthman is the editor of Small Cell Magazine.