How should 5G innovators prepare for smooth and reliable design, deployment, delivery, operations and optimization of their 5G businesses?

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), industry regulators, makers of 5G devices such as base stations, component manufacturers and chipset providers face challenges in making networks and equipment ready, and in conducting 5G trials and achieving successful rollouts against deadlines.

They need to make sure the technology works like it’s supposed to, and find efficiencies to bring down development costs. A lot of this depends on having effective design, test and visibility strategies.

DigiconAsia gathered some insights from Gooi Soon Chai, President of Keysight Technologies’ Electronic Industrial Solutions Group, on how leading ecosystem players could meet the challenges of implementing 5G.

5G has been touted and hyped for several years now. What are the challenges to 5G becoming a reality today?

Gooi: Mobile network operators are eager to deploy 5G and deliver new services to consumers and industries. More than 350 operators worldwide have invested in 5G network tests, trials, pilots, or actual deployments, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA). But 5G and the new services it enables will put pressure on networks and related resources as they make unprecedented latency and bandwidth demands. 5G represents an exponential increase in technical complexity. Key technical challenges come from 5G New Radio (NR), massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), millimeter-wave (mmWave) frequencies, and over-the-air (OTA) test methods.

As for Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), applications will increase access requests and mobile automotive IoT applications will stretch latency demands as both formerly-disconnected environments connect online with specific expectations. Mobile edge computing will become more important to process the increased number of access requests and meet stringent latency requirements.

Apart from this, key challenges relate to IIoT device technologies and validating that they can interact reliably with one another. The 5Cs of IoT summarizes the most important of these issues: connectivity, continuity, coexistence, compliance and cybersecurity.

Validation and testing throughout the technology development stages is critical for 5G to deliver on its potential. Delivering 5G takes end-to-end Layer 1–7 test, precision measurement, and deep network visibility solutions to de-risk 5G development and operation across the ecosystem.

Are there any compelling reasons for businesses to deploy 5G? What are some of the most compelling use cases?

Gooi: 5G has everyone excited about the possibilities such a high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless standard will bring. There are three main use cases: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) that delivers a faster and more enjoyable connected experience, massive machine-type communications (mMTC) for IoT cellular communications supporting massive numbers of devices with dramatic improvements in power efficiency, and ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC) that enable critical applications like autonomous driving and remote surgery.

While the most compelling use cases are in manufacturing automation and transport and application monetization, which have implications for data centre infrastructure and design-for-test, 5G also promises to change the way we live, work and play in dramatic ways.

New high-bandwidth, low-latency applications—particularly IIoT, autonomous driving, and immersive experience applications—will enable uses that we haven’t even imagined yet. After all, who could have imagined 10 years ago that 4G would have led to ridesharing apps like Uber and Grab or augmented reality games such as Ingress and Pokémon Go?

Meeting the IIoT needs of manufacturing and transportation requires a speed upgrade in data center infrastructure. More users at higher data speeds will create demand for faster memory, data buses, and transceivers in the data center.

Meeting the speed and flexibility demands will be one reason for the data center infrastructure upgrade, but customer traceability through the network for application monetization will be the main driver to adopt the latest standards.

Also, design-for-test will not be limited to ‘one-and-done’ testing. Software-defined networks, advanced malware detection, and evolving new formats of large and small format data transfers will make embedded testing during operation vital to ensure operation.

Advanced design, test, and monitoring capabilities that ensure networks and products deliver the expected performance and failsafe reliability will be on the rise. New networks will require dynamic data and network intelligence to monitor operations.

In your opinion, how could the challenges to implementing 5G be overcome?

Gooi: As 5G will increase the transfer rate of mobile devices, network operators will need to increase the throughput of their core networks correspondingly. Given the latency requirements of 5G, there has been a great deal of study on the radio access network (RAN) architecture, the place where the user devices and the cellular network meet. Centralized RAN (C-RAN) separates the radio functions from the processing functions of the edge network by pooling baseband functions into centralized baseband units, with only the radios and the most latency-sensitive functions left at the network edge.

For chip makers and smartphone manufacturers, devices will need a 5G NR chipset to connect to new 5G networks. However, 4G LTE and 5G networks will co-exist for a long time. The industry refers to this deployment type as 5G non-standalone (NSA), while the 5G standalone (SA) network refers to a pure 5G implementation. 5G NSA introduces several hardware and software challenges for connected devices.

Smartphones, tablets, and other communication-enabled devices will need to support all the traditional 4G LTE protocols, but also support greater carrier aggregation, more MIMO antennas, more tightly condensed QAM, and perhaps even mmWave circuitry.

Antennas will be one of the biggest issues. A typical 4G LTE phone has 5 antennas – a primary and secondary LTE antenna, a GPS antenna, and 2×2 Wi-Fi antennas. Adding the new 5G 2×2 MIMO antennas and four or more mmWave antenna arrays to the mix spells size challenge. Suddenly, the phone casing seems very small. 5G smartphones will likely have antennas on the top, bottom, and along both sides of the case.

5G’s increased bandwidth and low latency capabilities open up some exciting new possibilities for smartphones. Beyond just 8K HD streaming movies, entertainment will be available in full 3D, augmented by virtual reality.

What roles should governments, industry bodies, telcos, ISPs and technology innovators/vendors play in making 5G a reality? Are they collaborating effectively across industries and across borders to make it happen?

Gooi: 5G challenges are pretty much the same in each market, requiring unprecedented levels of standardization and proven interoperability between ecosystem participants spanning telcos, device, network equipment, and chip makers.

Government and regulatory bodies in many instances act to foster cooperation and collaboration between telcos, ISPs, vendors and other participants in the ecosystem. Concerted efforts have been made to accelerate 5G testing and deployment.

At Keysight, we are engaged in many facets of accelerating 5G innovation. We participate in the development of the wireless standards in organizations like 3GPP – the standards organization that develops protocols for mobile telephony, and we have contributed more to the development of the 5G NR standard than any other test vendor. By providing early access to key design and test capabilities, we have enabled more than a dozen device makers to launch commercial 5G phones.

We also partner with leaders across the 5G ecosystem – with chipset companies, device designers, network equipment manufacturers, and mobile network operators – to make sure that we are pushing the boundaries of measurement solutions to validate and accelerate their designs as they push the boundaries of technology innovation.

International and local examples of companies we are partnering with include all the key chipset makers – most recently, Qualcomm Technologies to accelerate small cell deployment supported by 5G virtualized radio access network (vRAN) architecture, and Samsung Electronics’ LSI Business – a global leader in semiconductor components and 5G technology, to validate dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) technology used in the smartphone maker’s new 5G modem.

We have also collaborated extensively with other leading global operators like Verizon, China Telecom, and NTT Docomo amongst others.