Whatever 5G is ultimately going to be, it's going to be green tech and it’s going to power the Internet of things, but only if various industries open up and collaborate with each other in developing it. And by the way, there’s no hurry – 4G is still capable of awesomeness.
That more or less sums up the morning keynotes of Day 2 of Mobile World Congress 2015 in Barcelona Tuesday, in which several top executives presented their vision of 5G and the roadmap necessary to achieve that vision.
Most 5G visions involve driverless connected cars and related IoT scenarios. Chang-gyu Hwang, CEO of KT, presented a 5G future where the car will become a self-driving mobile office, which in itself illustrates both the need for 5G and the capabilities it will have to support – not just superfast data speeds, but unprecedented connectivity and capacity.
“Driverless cars will be processing data at 1 Gbps. And it won’t be just one car but billions of cars worldwide that will need connectivity all at once, and not just with the network but also each other directly,” Hwang said. “And it won't just be cars, but trillions of connected devices sending and receiving content ranging from text messages to holograms.”
That will put a tremendous load on the network, and it requires an infrastructure that doesn’t exist today, he said. “4G cannot handle that.”
Hwang also said that collaboration on a global scale is going to be key to 5G’s development, particularly in relation to 5G’s role as “the foundation of the IoT era”. He pointed to the IoT Data Ecosystem Project being spearheaded under the GSMA’s Vision 2020 banner, under which KT and Telefonica have worked together to develop standards. “We need more collaborations like this.”
Ken Hu, deputy chairman and rotating CEO of Huawei Technologies, also emphasized the need for collaboration in his own keynote.
“Getting [to 5G] will require an unprecedented level of open collaboration between different sectors – telecoms, health, education, and government, among others,” Hu said, citing a recent attempt by the IEEE, ETSI and 3GPP to develop a standard for connected vehicles.
“Each group had its own standard, and in the end they could never reach a consensus and nothing happened. We have to develop 5G differently. Telecoms must open up and work with other industries to develop standards together. Only then can we make 5G a key enabler.”
Stéphane Richard, CEO of Orange, emphasized the role of 5G in more efficient use of energy resources.
“5G will help shape a greener world. A low-cost, low-energy-consumption network with an end-to-end perspective is essential,” he said. “Data centers, networks and devices should not consume energy when they are not being used. 5G will be designed to advance this purpose – green will be part of its DNA.”
As for how to achieve that, Richard cautioned against racing towards 5G at the expense of 4G deployments and advancements. “We don’t want to jump too fast to the next generation. Let’s enjoy 4G LTE. 5G will be a real industrial project.”
Hwang of KT agreed, saying that 4G still has plenty of life left in it.
“We can use a lot of existing technology with better cost efficiencies and higher performance. We are already upgrading our 4G network to provide 5G-equivalent services such as GIGA LTE and GIGA Wi-Fi. There are more GIGA services on the way for things like IoT, big data and cloud services.”
Hwang said that LTE is already showing the way in terms of how advances in technology can change the way we use mobile networks. “Korea already has 100% LTE coverage with a 65% penetration rate. Video usage is up 14 times, online shopping is up 13 times, and banking is up five times compared to 3G.”
Huawei’s Ken Hu concurred, advocating the evolution of 4G to levels that “will both maximize ROI for 4G and stimulate demand for 5G, so that operators can extend their leadership from 4G to 5G.”
Meanwhile, Hwang confirmed KT’s plans to have 5G ready for public demos during the 2018 Winter Olympics to give users a taste of the 5G experience. “We’re going to have a lot of fun.