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5G-Advanced will extend the 5G network’s reach to new devices, industries and places

5G-Advanced will extend the 5G network’s reach to new devices, industries and places

The last two generations of mobile networking have been focused on mobile broadband communications – getting faster speeds to more devices at lower costs. But as we approach the halfway mark of the 5th generation, the network is extending its reach in multiple new directions. 5G-Advanced will extend the coverage of 5G uplink transmissions. It will support new types of devices that have modest data-rate requirements, and it will bring 5G capabilities to new vertical industries and markets.

This “extension” is one of what Nokia’s Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Nishant Batra calls the 4 E’s – experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence. Each represents a distinct dimension in which the network will be transformed as we move from 5G to 5G-Advanced. As part of a series of blog posts exploring each of these dimensions, my colleagues Sari Nielsen and Klaus Pedersen recently tackled the experience theme while my colleague Matthew Baker addressed expansion. This month, I will explore the theme of extension.

Meeting XR’s demand for coverage

As 5G embraces extended reality (XR), we will need to provide better uplink performance to account for the new streams of visual data imposed on our fields of view. This not only means improvements to uplink data rates, but also better uplink coverage to ensure our XR experience remains uninterrupted. We also need to provide that coverage regardless of whether the XR application demands very small or very large date rates. Improving uplink coverage becomes even more imperative as 5G networks increasingly utilize time division duplexing (TDD) configurations, which generally prioritize downlink over uplink. 

5G-Advanced will improve uplink coverage first with the initial connection setup by using better random access channel coverage. Next, 5G-Advanced will optimize the uplink data rate within the given link budget by dynamically changing the uplink waveform. The network will prioritize coverage-enhancing waveforms dynamically when the user is close to the cell edge and deprioritize them as the user moves toward the cell center. 5G-Advanced will also improve the device’s power efficiency through spectral shaping, enabling it to draw on more resources in the frequency domain. This allows the device to use higher transmit power, thus boosting uplink coverage.

Setting the stage for a new class of devices

Fig. 1.

5G brings some amazing improvements in throughput to the table. Carrier aggregation and mmWave will support multi-gigabit data rates, but this only benefits use cases that demand such rates to begin with. In order to become “one network for all,” 5G must provide cost-efficient solutions for the cases where received data rates fall in the single-digit Mbps range. 

Ultimately these types of devices could become the vast majority of connections on the 5G network. Such solutions could be wearable devices, industrial devices like wireless sensors and consumer applications like home appliances and surveillance cameras. In each of these scenarios, not only does the application demand relatively low data rates, but also the cost of connectivity, the complexity of its design and the power it consumes must all be minimized. 

3GPP started the work in Release 17 toward this kind of economical connectivity with the Reduced Capability (RedCap) devices, which support smaller bandwidth and fewer antennas than full-blown 5G devices. With Release 18 5G-Advanced, we are going further down that path, optimizing devices for peak date rates on the order of 10 Mbps or less. This will be ideal for IoT modules used in machine-to-machine connectivity, and it will allow us to migrate applications that now rely on 4G, 3G or even 2G connections, over to 5G in most cost-efficient manner. This will make 5G-Advanced suitable for a broad range of solutions where modem cost is a key criterium in determining the connection technology selected. 

But 5G-Advanced will do more than just bring current and future IoT use cases into the 5G fold. It will enable 5G to embrace whole new categories of devices we never imagined would have a cellular connection. Drones are a prime example. Today most unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) rely on connectivity technologies that require visual line of sight, which greatly limits their range and use. 5G-Advanced, however, will support UAV flightpath planning, identification and connection reliability, all while extending the range of the UAV to wherever the 5G network reaches.

Capturing new industries

Fig. 2.

There are several industries that have dedicated spectrum allocations that simply can’t make use of 5G effectively. Often these allocations are limited in bandwidth as the licenses were awarded in the 2G and 3G eras. For instance, GSM Railway has only around 3.6 MHz of bandwidth available to 5G during the transition period from 2G to 5G. Smart grids in the US and other countries have only 3 MHz of bandwidth to work with. Meanwhile 5G is designed to operate in 5 MHz channel bandwidths at minimum, making it difficult to work with these industry spectrum allocations. 5G-Advanced, however, will support smaller bandwidth channels, extending 5G capabilities to most specialty bands in numerous new industries as well as to dedicated public safety networks and any use case utilizing a frequency band with less than 5 MHz of bandwidth.

This extension into smaller bandwidths, however, won’t change the basic 5G user equipment (UE) functionalities such as cell search. That means 5G-Advanced will be able to lower the threshold for supporting these new vertical use cases with minimal and simple chipset modifications. 

It’s clear 5G-Advanced will open up many new possibilities for 5G connectivity, allowing it to reach places, devices and use cases not possible when the initial 5G standards were codified.  5G-Advanced will extend the reach of the network for better coverage. It will extend to verticals currently limited to 2G and 3G connectivity. And it will bring new lower-complexity cost-optimized devices into the 5G fold. This will lead to a migration over to 5G of existing use cases from earlier generations as well as enable a new class of 5G applications. Stay tuned for further insight into 5G-Advanced as we tackle the fourth “E”, operational excellence, in our next blog post.

For more information on how 5G-Advanced will extend the reach of the 5G network be sure to check out our 5G-Advanced webpage.