Last week I went to the 3rd annual Brooklyn 5G Summit – an event hosted by Nokia and the New York University (NYU) Wireless, NYU Tandon School of Engineering and IEEE communication society. The theme of the summit this year was “Making 5G a commercial reality”. The two-day event packed even more speakers, industry ingenuity and interesting ideas than a future 5G network could carry. The speakers represented the full scope of the industry – service providers from around the globe, equipment providers (including our competition), academics, regulatory authorities and industry partners from the automotive and health sectors.
As one industry analyst recognized, the 5G Brooklyn Summit is a different kind of event exactly for that reason: it brings together all the pieces of the puzzle for actual conversation and information sharing. This honest dialog and exchange needs to happen more. Only with this tight alignment will 5G build on its lofty goals – not only to transform the telco industry – but the world as we know it.
Key takeaways from the Summit
While we all get excited in any new hype curve about the new technology and new opportunities – and on this front 5G will not disappoint – I think maybe more unique about 5G is the broad engagement and interest from verticals in the technology and in its potential power. Peter Merz from Nokia Bell Labs did a nice summary of the main take away from the event which included all sides of the complicated equation to making 5G a reality. From the technology angle he highlighted a few points that are critical to address as 5G moves from hypothetical to commercial deployments these include:
- Rapid innovation of the networks is key to cope with increasing demands
- 5G is more than the New Radio. It includes evolution of LTE
- We have moved from Why to How:
- Higher frequency bands are seen as a key building block
- Channel models have matured and entered standardization
- Miniaturization and maturing of new technologies will remain key challenges
- Consistent coverage remains a prerequisite for many deployments
- 5G opportunities in IoT are infinite but require interoperability with legacy system too
I think the other equally important angle is the broader participation of verticals and regulators in the process. While this exuberance has a way of creating innovation and excitement, this messy scenario could derail a shift and successful roll-out. Peter summarized it this way:
- 5G is seen as the platform and acceleration has started in many domains – can it be everything to everyone?
- Guard against the risk of fragmentation and ensure forward flexibility for the today unknowns
- Sound business perspective is needed to justify investments
- Regulators are active to speed up adoption of new bands including flexible licensing models
Click here to watch video replay of this year’s Brooklyn 5G summit event on IEEE.tv .
How is 5G different from 4G?
I have been in telco long enough to have seen the last wireless architecture upgrade to 4G/LTE. Sure it also was exciting – it ushered the era for high-speed mobile broadband and put the smart phone at the center of our lives in a way that the 3G revolution did not. But operators and the industry went about things very much the same way they did for 3G. The standards were approved, the networks were built and while consumers were thrilled with the end results – vertical industries were still somewhat on the sidelines. It was more of an improvement of our lives than a big disruption the way the Internet was when it came into existence.
As we move into the 5G era, the requirements are definitely more complex and I think more revolutionary. This time the problem being tackled is truly bringing something new to the table – being pushed by the looming future of possibly trillions of devices that need a better way to talk to each other. Allowing these devices to communicate is not just about your refrigerator telling you what you are running low on but about the car industry finding new ways to prevent the nearly 1.25 million deaths globally by giving drivers more intelligence to drive smarter first and then eventually moving towards autonomous cars.
Nor are these requirements about having your FitBit help you track your daily exercise but rather about your doctor being alerted to a potential disease by monitoring small physical anomalies, even before you have any symptoms. Simply put if we get the network right – 5G will create new companies, fortunes, industries and bring about a new era for human kind much in the same way the Internet did.
But does this new wind of change have the strength to push the entire industry to work differently? There are certainly positive signs. Instead of the normal process for approving standards in telco – the industry is smartly pushing ahead in the rapid-development IT fashion testing, building and dreaming in real-time and improving standard blueprints as they go. Service providers are talking to each other to ensure they are not creating fragmented approaches and boldly exploring innovative new business ideas.
Vendors and academia are focusing their research on real challenges not just technology for technology sake. They are also creating products that support a phased commercial roll-out that leverages software to bring in the right requirements at the right time. And lastly, this time around telco needs to actively engage with vertical industries about the future requirements, not only to create new opportunities but also to help make them happen.
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