5G-Advanced will power mobile XR experiences virtually anywhere
5G-Advanced is taking shape before our eyes. Last month, 3GPP approved many of the items in Release 18, defining the features that will make up 5G-Advanced networks when they first appear in 2025. Now that our target is in sight, we felt it is high time to shine a spotlight on how these features will make 5G-Advanced a truly meaningful evolutionary step in our long cellular journey.
Last month, Nokia Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Nishant Batra outlined four dimensions in which 5G-Advanced will shape our industry. We’re calling them the “four E’s”, and they are experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence. Over the coming months Nokia Standards will be describing each of these E’s in detail, starting today with experience.
Taking XR to the next level
5G-Advanced will greatly enhance today’s extended reality (XR) experience by expanding the reach of VR and immersive AR applications beyond bulky head-mounted devices. Release 18 technologies will be critical in shrinking the XR rig down to the size of eyewear that will fit into a breast pocket. These smaller, more efficient devices would enable XR use cases everywhere there is a 5G-Advanced connection, granting users the true perception of being in a remote environment and allowing them to efficiently interact in such surroundings, no matter where they are physically located.
For instance, a technician driving home might get a call about emergency repairs needed on machinery located hundreds of miles away. The technician could pull to the side of the road, put on XR glasses, and then project herself into the workshop, where she could operate or repair the machine just as if she were physically present. 5G-Advanced-enabled XR would allow someone to attend a conference in Phoenix remotely, projecting himself into the auditorium or onto the exhibition floor, while physically walking the halls of a conference in Barcelona.
For these scenarios to become reality, we not only will need to offer consistently high data rates under bounded latency conditions, but we must create a high degree of application awareness within the network – capabilities that will be supported for the first time in Release 18. That application awareness will allow us to move the XR processing load from the device into the network. This will greatly cut down on the cost, size and power of user equipment, which are all key to making small, unobtrusive XR devices. 5G-Advanced will perform more intelligent radio resource management actions in line with applications’ QoS demands. For instance, the network will even be able to collect “field of view” information, allowing it to prioritize video that is directly in front of a user’s eyes while minimizing radio resource usage for footage that is not fully visible. Those capabilities are particularly critical to immersive VR cloud-gaming experiences.
Similarly, we envision that the radio access network will have more knowledge of the video and audio codecs used for XR applications, allowing the network to better prioritize scheduling and differentiate payloads with contextual information. This will mean better end-user quality of experience and higher capacity, so operators can support larger number of XR users in their networks. This allows for simultaneous immersive XR experiences on the same cell. At a concert, a light and pyrotechnics show could become completely virtual with thousands of spectators seeing a mixture of live performance and virtual spectacle from their own perspectives.
Finally, by moving all these XR functions onto the network and introducing new device power-saving solutions tailored for XR applications, 5G-Advanced will achieve much greater energy efficiency in XR devices. This will not only boost the XR experience by supporting prolonged sessions on untethered XR devices, but also shrink the size of XR headgear further as battery sizes decrease.
A truly mobile XR experience
5G-Advanced will offer users a superior XR experience while on the move, truly enabling a high-data rate experience unrestricted by power cables or wires. XR applications could turn the backseat of a moving car into a virtual theme park. New tech sports like drone racing could take advantage of 5G-Advanced to create longer more elaborate events. Drone racers could become one with their drones, projecting themselves into the “cockpits” of their devices as they traverse a long-distance racecourse at breathtaking speeds. Or mixed reality applications could become truly untethered. A whole city could become an augmented playground as users move about and engage freely with their physical environments without worrying about losing connectivity as they move from indoors to outdoors and between neighborhoods.
Enabling this kind of mobility requires highly agile and robust mobility solutions with virtually zero interruptions when handing over from one cell tower to the next. Zero interruption time is important not just for XR but also industrial IoT services that have strict limitations on packet latencies. 5G-Advanced will achieve this kind of instantaneous handover through enhancements like inter-cell beam management in single-transceiver devices. In the case of millimeter wave connectivity, we will enhance mobility by improving the secondary-cell-setup latencies in carrier aggregation as well as provide dual connections to individual devices.
A renewed focus on the uplink
The modern mobile user experience is more than just the passive consumption of content. Users are becoming content creators. Therefore, our networks must evolve to support far greater uplink speeds. 5G-Advanced will address the growth in uplink hungry applications like live high-quality video streaming. We predict that 5G-Advanced will offer 20% higher data rates for uplink as compared to 5G through new innovations in MIMO, uplink enhancements with higher rank and multilayer transmissions, including support for UEs with more uplink transmission chains.
These innovations are particularly relevant for networks with standalone operations, where devices don’t need to share their Tx branches and hardware resources between 5G NR and LTE transmissions. Similarly, we expect to greatly enhance fundamental uplink coverage. By applying frequency domain spectrum shaping, 5G-Advanced could reduce the peak-to-average power ratios of QPSK and 16 QAM transmissions by up to 2dB. This will extend the improved user experience all the way to the cell edge.
We won’t just need higher uplink capacities but also lower uplink latencies. A prerequisite for good end-user experience in an XR world is that we have low latencies in both link directions, as XR applications often require highly responsive bidirectional communication. 5G-Advanced will achieve this greater symmetry of latency by enhancing the capabilities of static time division duplexing (TDD) networks, granting them much greater flexibility in their duplexing schemes. One obstacle we are overcoming is the harmful cross-link interference (CLI) experienced by neighboring cells having opposite link directions. 5G-Advanced is set to introduce CLI mitigation techniques that will allow individual cells to more freely adjust TDD patterns to best serve traffic demands.
It’s quite clear that 5G-Advanced will change the user experience in numerous ways, allowing us to engage with highly immersive new worlds as well as improve the day-to-day mobility we experience today. But experience is just one dimension of the 5G-Advanced future we foresee. Be sure to come back to the Nokia blog in the coming months, as we explain how 5G-Advanced will extend and expand the capabilities of the network while providing new levels of operational excellence.