How 5G-Advanced will help quench the world’s growing thirst for capacity
To understand the future of 5G, one only needs to look to South Korea. One of the earliest 5G adopters, South Korea has seen its mobile data usage soar since the introduction of the first 5G smartphone in 2019. According to tefficient, 5G traffic accounts for more than 50% of the total mobile data traffic in the country after only two years. What’s more 5G is quickly supplanting 4G. At the start of 2021, 4G traffic was relatively stable in South Korea, tefficient found, but in the last few months 4G usage has begun falling, replaced by 5G.
What are the reasons for such fast adoption and the explosion in data usage? 5G technology features improvements such as lower latency, increased bandwidth and higher capacity compared to 4G/LTE technology, which encourages more data use. But technology isn’t the only driver of the digital acceleration we are experiencing. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all aspects of our lives and profoundly affected the way we interact with the others. Our private and our work lives are now very different, and so too is the way we consume and produce data.
To meet these increasing demands for data we need to optimize 5G to its limits. Network capacity and bandwidth are becoming critical to enable the best user experience and the best system performance at the lowest cost per bit. Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) is one of the three defining characteristics of 5G, and with the upcoming 3GPP Release 18 standard we will be able tap into the full the potential of eMBB in 5G-Advanced.
5G-Advanced will enable significantly higher capacities than previous 5G releases. It will also improve the user experience in many ways by lowering latency, expanding bandwidth and improving reliability when the user is both stationary and on the move. But to truly understand the significance of eMBB in future 5G-Advanced networks we need to understand the value it creates for specific applications.
Extended Reality (XR) will be a big game changer – perhaps as big as the introduction of the smartphone -- and it is expected to be a new killer application in the 5G-Advanced era. P&S Intelligence predicts there will be over 100 million XR users by 2025 and 1 billion by 2030, driven in part by the surging adoption of 5G.
5G-Advanced will enable immersive XR services by providing low latency capabilities with needed uplink capacities, which will allow XR apps to split their heavy processing load between the device and the edge cloud. In addition, 5G-Advanced will provide precise localization services, enabling an immersive, privacy-friendly XR experience. eMBB, for instance, could support fully immersive XR meetings while commuting.
5G-Advanced eMBB also presents a significant opportunity for the manufacturing sector. eMBB’s high bandwidth and connection density will ensure a very high level of connectivity in factories. This will enable a wealth of new industrial use cases such as the remote monitoring of production assets, real-time analytics for predicting equipment breakdowns and downtime, augmented repairs through XR, and real-time data exchange between industrial control devices and the cloud.
5G-Advanced is also an example of how technology can be deployed in ways that protect the environment and promote long-term sustainability. Intelligent devices such as smart cameras connected to 5G-Advanced networks through eMBB can generate data analytics, resulting in both economic and environmental benefits in areas such as agriculture, farming and aquaculture.
The benefits of eMBB cannot be understated, but they are one of many new 5G-Advanced features identified for Release 18. 5G-Advanced will included new enhanced mobility capabilities, sub-10 cm positioning accuracy and new specifications for making 5G systems much more cost and energy efficient. In addition, Release 18 will focus on enhancing reduced capability (RedCap) user equipment to bring new types of devices onto the 5G network. In future blog posts, we explore many of these new aspects of 5G-Advanced and the amazing new applications and use cases they will enable.
Stay tuned, 5G-Advanced is just starting to take shape.
To learn more about the newest 5G-Adavnced/Release 18 developments, read Antti Toskala’s kick-off blog post.