NORMA 5G project marks end to one size fits all

Caroline Gabriel/Rethink Wireless

As featured in Rethink's Wireless Watch

If 5G is to deliver on any of its large promises, it will have to signal the end of 'one size fits all' for wireless networks. The latest in the long string of international 5G projects, launched by the European Union's PPP (public-private partnership), has this firmly in its sights, which gives cause for optimism that it will deliver something useful.

The initiative has one of the tongue-twisting names beloved of the EU - 5G Novel Radio Multiservice adaptive network Architecture - but at least this comes with a neat acronym, NORMA - although the lower case 'adaptive' sadly downplays the most important world in the title. A network that can adapt to many services and usage patterns, some of them as-yet undefined and even unforeseen, is the goal, and will be essential to 5G.

The 5G PPP, launched in December 2013 to support and coordinate R&D efforts in this area across Europe, said in a statement: "Not following the 'one system fits all services' paradigm of current architectures, 5G NORMA will allow for adapting the mechanisms executed for a given service to the specific service requirements, resulting in a novel service and context-dependent adaptation of network functions."

If any proof is needed that a single-minded network is no longer relevant to modern needs, we only have to look at the way M2M applications were sidelined in the LTE process, with participants wholly obsessed with the rise in broadband usage. That has forced the 3GPP community to revisit M2M in order to apply cellular to the internet of things (IoT), hastily reviving dormant specifications like Category-1 and throwing together new low power specs for Release 13.

There are 13 organizations involved in NORMA's quest to avoid these pitfalls this time around, and to develop an end-to-end network architecture which can meet an extremely diverse and unpredictable range of requirements and use cases. The lead vendors are local giants Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent, plus NEC Europe, and the group includes three European operators - Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Vodafone. Other participants include UK consultancy Real Wireless, which will model the socioeconomic benefits of 5G for current, and potential future, users; as well as academic partners, the Kaiserslautern University of Technology in Germany, and the Carlos III University of Madrid.




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