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Apr 06 2017

Changing the world in milliseconds

Twitter: @v_held

Information ages fast in the information age - every millisecond counts

Wait a second – has that web page loaded yet? Actually, a second is as long as most of us are prepared to wait to get to the page we want these days. It’s all about latency.

Already in today’s world, low latency is crucial. Latency determines the perception of speed in about 80% of all mobile broadband uses. The world’s computing and storage power is widely distributed around the globe in thousands of data centers. The cloud world depends on having low latency network connections.

Statistics show that the average size of the top 1,000 web pages is now over 1 MB - and this data needs to be typically requested from 100 resources and from more than 10 different domains. When you remember that not all the elements can be loaded in parallel, the two-way response time should be less than 50 ms to achieve a one-second overall latency.

Yet in the IoT world, one second is often much too long. For many applications, information must be delivered in a couple of milliseconds, otherwise the information is aged. For example, closed-loop control applications for industrial automation need lower than 1 ms latency. In addition, high reliability (packet error rate < 10-9) is important to maintain close synchronization and high availability. Otherwise the whole production process will fail -  in other words, latency in the virtual world directly affects the real world.

With 5G, the wait is over

For Nokia and Intel, 5G is expected to not only provide more of the same, but also something that is not possible with current networks. 5G will be a game changer since it will fuse the physical and virtual worlds by introducing the concept of ultra reliable, low latency communication.

And this is where the opportunity and disruption lies. There are several examples:

Low latency = high productivity

One of the most important enablers of the smart factory of the future will be vastly increased connectivity that will link machines, processes, robots and people, allowing much more flexible and dynamic production. About 90% of industrial connectivity today uses wired connections. These provide the low latency and reliability needed for automation, but lack the flexibility to respond to rapidly changing production demands. Effectively, 5G is a drop-in replacement for today’s wired networks, offering extremely short payback periods driven by higher productivity

Low latency = high safety

Self driving vehicles can reduce accidents and improve road utilization, as they can drive closer together and more safely than human drivers. Transportation companies can take advantage of automated truck platoons, with fleets used more effectively with fewer accidents. However, self driving vehicles are not autonomous, needing to exchange large amounts of data from on-board sensors and cameras very quickly. If a system has a 100 milliseconds delay and a car is running at 120 km/hr, if the car detects danger, it would travel over 3 meters further before taking any action. Larger gaps between cars would be needed to account for this delay. With 5G,  its single digit millisecond latency will make self driving scenarios safer, while improving road throughput at the same time.

Low latency = more healthcare

Hospitals can arrange remote robotic examinations and surgeries via the 5G network as if the surgeon was physically present. The system needs to be extremely reliable, with an end-to-end latency of less than 1 ms to support the necessary touch sensitive (haptic) feedback. Many haptic screens and devices are being developed currently to respond to touch and provide tactile sensations by varying the friction between the user’s finger and the screen. This creates an experience of “You feel what you touch remotely”. 5G is the only wireless technology capable of providing the low latency and high availability required.

Low latency = phenomenal experience

The combination of haptic interaction and 360° cameras feeding live video over a 5G network to a VR head mounted device will also produce powerful experiences at home, giving the user the impression that they are in the remote location and in control. For example, 5G will transform home viewing into a much more immersive experience. With VR, users can enjoy sporting events and concerts as if they were actually there.

Nokia & Intel: creating ultra low latency networks

Nokia and Intel view the 1 ms target as a major technical challenge in 5G, requiring a three-dimensional approach. First it requires a complete redesign of the radio’s frame structure to reduce transmission times for all types of traffic and increase scalability.

Second, Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) will reduce the physical and logical length of connections, enabling traffic to select the shortest possible path by bringing content and processing closer to the end user.

And finally, a software-defined programmable network is needed to manage latency across the entire network. This enables virtual network slices which provide the necessary dedicated paths for the applications that need ultra low latency and ultra reliability.

Nokia and Intel are working together to create the infrastructure for the 5G millisecond opportunity. The recently announced joint 5G Acceleration Labs, in partnership with industry, will focus on latency, as well as other network aspects, to accelerate 5G becoming a commercial reality.

Download our new 5G ultra-low latency infographic to discover more about the 5G millisecond opportunity.

The Brooklyn 5G Summit will be exploring the latest developments in 5G on 19-21 April 2017. Please take a look at the event’s program and register for the free live stream via IEEE.tv.

About Volker Held

At Nokia, Volker is focused on combining the technology and business side of innovation. He heads Nokia’s 5G market development activities for the company, helping to create the future of telecommunications. He was also one of the founders of Nokia FutureWorks and brought Technology Vision 2020 to life.

Tweet me at @v_held