Now the real work on 5G-Advanced begins
Last month, our Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Nishant Batra laid out an ambitious vision for 5G-Advanced, focusing on what we are calling the four E’s: experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence. This week 3GPP made a critical decision that will help turn Nokia’s 5G-Advanced vision into reality. 3GPP approved the final RAN feature set for the 5G-Advanced in Release 18.
Though there still a few details to be ironed out in the coming weeks, we now know exactly what 5G-Advanced will look like when it is commercially deployed starting in 2025. This means the standards bodies can begin doing the detailed work on the specifications that will go into the final Release 18 standard in 2024, and Nokia can begin marrying those specific technologies with our 5G-Advanced vision.
Let’s explore how these newly approved features fit with each of the four E’s that Nishant defined:
5G-Advanced will make digital experiences truly immersive. This means we will need to improve the service experience in different ways, be that more robust mobility and fewer service interruptions or through entirely new service categories. One new element in 5G-Advanced will be its support for extended reality (XR). XR covers augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), which are both supported in 5G today, but with Release 18 we will be able to expand AR and VR capabilities in many new and exhilarating ways. 5G-Advanced enhancements will efficiently support large numbers of XR users in a given area, permitting massive-scale simultaneous XR sessions. They will reduce power consumption on the device side as well as make the radio network more aware of the service characteristics of the XR applications being used.
Another important element of a demanding service like XR is mobility performance. 5G-Advanced will be able to react quickly to changing mobility requirements activating important features like carrier aggregation quickly when really needed. Release 18 will enable this kind of enhanced mobility by reducing interruption times without requiring two parallel connections when changing the serving cell.
Extension will eliminate the remaining “white spots” in the network, whether they are in underserved and rural areas or in new industrial domains. For example, 5G-Advanced will extend 5G use cases with support for UAVs and will enable lower-cost IoT modules, extending the evolution path of LTE-based IoT. Another important dimension of extension is coverage, which is especially significant for TDD systems that dedicate the majority of their resources to downlink. 5G-Advanced will improve the power efficiency of higher-order uplink modulations, producing higher data rates near the cell edge and allowing dynamic changes of the uplink waveform. 5G-Advanced will also improve the random-access-operation link budget, ensuring connections can be set up even further away from the base station.
Expansion will beget totally new services for 5G, allowing the network to determine the “where” and “when” of any situation with never-before-seen accuracy. This would mean more accurate positioning, including in indoor environments, and the ability to provide accurate timing information as a service, making 5G a viable alternative to satellite-based solutions. 5G-Advanced will improve positioning through carrier-phase-based-positioning solutions, and it will refine 5G timing accuracy by enabling provisioning of time-reference as a service.
5G-Advanced will hone operational performance to unprecedented levels. This directive toward operational excellence will focus on enabling the use of AI/ML in NG-RAN to improve energy efficiency. This will share the traffic between different frequency layers and technologies as well as optimize mobility in the network. To accomplish these levels of energy efficiency, the 5G-Advanced network collect data, which new AI/ML systems will act on. 5G-Advanced will also be more robust and resilient by avoiding single points of failure that could impact large numbers of cells.
We have accomplished a lot since the first 3GPP 5G-Advanced workshop in June, which is quite the achievement considering the work has been done entirely via email and virtual platforms due to pandemic restrictions. Despite those obstacles, we have managed to achieve something unique, namely a common direction of 5G-Advanced standards development showing the future direction of mobile communications beyond year 2025.
But I and my colleagues at Nokia and 3GPP can’t simply rest on this year’s laurels. The real work now begins. We have a high-quality standard to create in due time, supporting hundreds of new technologies and enhancements. And at Nokia we will be hard at work crafting new system designs and service architectures that will transform those 5G-Advanced features into the solutions our customers’ end-users demand. In the coming months, we will explore these topics in more detail by examining the four E’s and how they change our fundamental approach to building networks.