4.5G: Opening Giga mobile world, empowering vertical markets

Huawei Technologies
12 May 2016

Sponsored article

Given the current explosive development of mobile broadband (MBB), we expect the number of MBB users around the world to reach 6.7 billion by 2020, while each user is expected to use as much as 5 GB of data per month. Meanwhile, there is already a need for wide scale development of an Internet of Things (IoT). By 2020, there will be some 31 billion IoT connections worldwide. These days, mobile network operators are placing more and more importance on the exploration of vertical markets and IoT is a typical example of this trend.

Huawei proposed 4.5G concept based on a deep understanding of the mobile broadband industry. 4.5G has two targets: first is to provide gigabit transmission capability for MBB; second is to explore new vertical markets for operators. 4.5G will need to be able to support 2K/4K video, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), drones, and IoT services, which may emerge in the next two to three years. 4.5G is based on 4G evolution, so what is required to transition from 4G to 4.5G is only software upgrades or minor hardware changes. Current investments in 4G infrastructure are well protected. 4.5G is the ineluctable way to 5G. 4.5G will coexist with 5G, which will adopt a new air interface, for a long time.

After more than a year of development, 4.5G has already made great progress. The three guiding principles for 4.5G proposed by Huawei have become the new network benchmark in MBB industry: Gbps (A peak rate of over 1 Gbps).

Experience 4.0 (Both video and voice services will be delivered in High Definition experience); Connection+ (Empowering vertical markets, including NB-IoT for cellular narrowband internet of things and LiTRA for public safety networks based on LTE integrated broadband trunked radio). With regard to 4.5 standardization, in October of 2015, 3GPP approved LTE-Advanced Pro as a distinctive marker that evolves the LTE and LTE-Advanced technology series. In terms of deployment, over a dozen of the world's leading operators began deploying 4.5G on pre-commercial or trial networks. We can expect that over 60 4.5G networks will be commercially deployed around the world in 2016.

Another important role for 4.5G is to prepare for the arrival of 5G. It allows us to adopt certain 5G candidate technologies in 4.5G networks, benefiting operators before 5G arrives. It also gives the opportunity to adjust network architectures ahead of time for the introduction of 5G. Finally, 4.5G can help investigate and cultivate new services and market sectors for 5G.

4.5G – The essential path to MBB2020

MBB, cloud computing, big data analysis, IoT, and social networking are the symbols of the ICT revolution, which are reshaping the world. These technologies are sparking a new wave of human society development around the world.

Since MBB is the foundation of all the others, it is hard to overstate the significance of the MBB revolution. The rapid spread of smart devices and of 4G network deployment have both accelerated MBB development. The number of connections needed is growing at a phenomenal pace. Around the world, there are 4 billion people with no Internet access and one billion without any phone or Internet connections at all. That means current coverage still has to grow quite a bit to cover everyone. Another issue is that the average data use per user continues to grow as well. Online video has become the main driver of data consumption. According to YouTube statistics for 2014, 50% of all video traffic came from mobile devices.

New services such as 2K/4K video, VR, AR, drones, and the like, which may appear in the next two to three years, will present even more difficult challenges than we face today. Huawei's mLAB estimates that there will be as many as 6.7 billion MBB subscribers by 2020. Per user consumption is expected to grow tenfold for a total of 5 GB per month.

Not only that, we are just now entering the age of IoT. From wearable devices to smart homes, from smart cities to smart logistics management, IoT is completely transforming society. Cellular networks have the most global coverage and are particularly well positioned to provide network access. Large scale IoT creates tremendous opportunities for the entire telecommunications industry. According to one GSMA report, by the end of 2014, there were already 243 million Cellular Internet of Things (C-IoT) connections, and by 2020 this number will reach 1 billion. These numbers do not even take into account the potential new technologies which may result in even more explosive growth. The actual figures may be larger by an order of magnitude.

Today's 4G network is not capable of meeting the needs of an MBB network like this one we have just described. That is why 5G is designed to meet the needs. The access speed, the delay, and the number of connections supported of 5G should all be superior to 4G by an order of magnitude. Not only that, 5G deployment should be cost efficient and electrically efficient. But the wireless industry has become aware of a few problems with transitioning from 4G to 5G. These issues make 4.5G an essential step:

  • 5G will not be commercially deployed until 2020, a 5-year gap.
  • 5G might use higher frequencies, which allow for larger bandwidth but result in higher costs for intensive and widespread coverage. This means that the existing network with lower frequencies will be needed to offer a good coverage for a long time.
  • 4G needs to take steps to get ready for 5G. For example, in order to support the coexistence of 4G and 5G, the air interface will need some changes so that the new 5G air interface can be more quickly added to the existing network architecture.
  • 4G will have to be used as a testing ground for the introduction of 5G new services. For instance, there are plans for commercial deployment of NB-IoT services in 2016 that will support over 100,000 connections in each cell.

Based on the understanding of these issues, in October of 2014, Huawei proposed the 4.5G concept. Compared with 5G, a revolutionary new air interface, 4.5G is a smoother evolution of 4G network. With just software upgrades, or only minor changes to the hardware, the existing 4G infrastructure can still be used, thereby current investment is protected.
4.5G networks can be deployed quickly, shortening the time to market for related services. 4.5G is the essential path we must take to MBB2020.

To read full version of the white paper: http://www.telecomasia.net/pdf/Huawei/Huawei_12_4_5G_OpeningGigaMobileWorld.pdf

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