Mobile World Congress is the world’s largest gathering for the mobile technology industry, bringing more than 100K people to Barcelona from across the globe to experience the latest tech impacting the mobile industry. Here's a summary of what happened at the event, through the lens of 5G.
Introducing: the NI-RFmx 2.2, our latest release in advanced measurement software for PXI RF test systems, announced at Mobile World Congress 2017this morning. The NI-RFmx 2.2 reduces measurement time by up to 33%.
Today’s 4G LTE wireless networks can’t handle the data demands of our rapidly approaching, hyperconnected future. The demand for anywhere, anytime access is moving beyond the domain of smartphones, homes, offices, planes, trains, automobiles, and industrial equipment.
This is where 5G comes in: in order to meet bandwidth and latency needs, all of these connections are going to require a new type of wireless signal, as well as a mindset shift among wireless researchers who design, prototype and the test engineers who test these new networks, hand-set devices, and chip-set manufacturers.
5G continues to capture headlines around the globe, as wireless companies everywhere take on the challenge of building a 5G wireless network. 2017 will be a pivotal year for 5G, and Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona will give us a great look at how companies are working towards 5G, and how the industry is beginning to adapt.
In early December, I attended the 3GPP RAN#74 TSG meeting in Vienna, Austria. This was the last plenary meeting before the official 5G work item (WI) kicks off at the 5G RAN #75 meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia next March. The 3GPP membership has poured a lot of investment into the study of new technologies and methods to meet the 5G architecture requirements, and with the first big milestone just three short months away, here are a few high level takeaways from the 3GPP Workshop covering 5G.
First, many companies continue to push their concepts and technologies for inclusion into the first WI. However, time is running out. In March, the 5G Phase 1 WI will start and serve as the base for the initial 5G specification (3GPP Release 15). Although the 3GPP is planning for Phase 2 to start 18 months after Phase 1, use cases or technologies not included in Phase 1 must wait an additional 18 months, which could be commercially challenging for some.
On the opposite side, the 3GPP leadership proposed narrowing the scope of some of the work in Phase 1 to increase the probability of meeting the March deadline and ultimately the Sept 2018 finalization goal. Although no consensus was reached in Vienna, it is clear something has to give in order to move forward. With time the ultimate equalizer, innovation may need to be tempered with the reality that the study items must be completed and consensus reached before the definition phase can begin.
In parallel, the 3GPP continues to evolve LTE 4G particularly for the IoT (NB-IoT), MTC (LTE-MTC), and V2X use cases. In fact, some have proposed delaying 5G work related to these use cases to assess whether these new LTE evolved technologies can address the IMT-2020 requirements. The 3GPP has already signaled that a primary use case for Phase 1 will be eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband), and this may be the major achievement of the Phase 1 work.
Also of interest, eMBB is looking more like a mmWave or cmWave system utilizing multi-carrier OFDM and up to 8 component carriers with a minimum of 100 MHz of bandwidth. Consensus was reached on channel coding with LDPC proposed for data and polar coding targeted for the control channels. Requiring two coding methods is curious because this requires a mobile device to include both methods in the physical layer with the mobile switching between the two depending on the state of the link - increasing cost and adding complexity. Although each method has its merits, it will be interesting to see if the current status quo goes unchecked in March.
Finally, the 3GPP came to consensus on 5G terminology. The new 5G physical layer will be officially named, “NR” for new radio. The new 5G core network will be called, “5G CN”. A connection between NR and 5G CN will be named “NG”. (I think it is safe to say that the marketing experts were conspicuously absent from this discussion.) On to Dubrovnik!
This blog orginially appeared in Microwave Journal as part of the 5G and Beyond series.
What makes this new version so special? For starters, we added NI Linux Real-Time capability for all software defined radio (SDR) products. This added capability empowers you to develop real-time algorithms for execution on the NI Linux Real-Time operating system, work with other tools to move up the protocol stack to MAC and network layers, and access the vast repositories of open source tools and technologies needed to build complete system prototypes.
We also introduced the MIMO Application Framework, a fully configurable, parameterizable physical layer written and delivered in LabVIEW application source code that helps build massive MIMO prototypes.
We’re excited to share this LabVIEW update that allows you to be more efficient and have the time to focus on what you do best – creating new technologies and solutions for future 5G systems.
When paired with our software defined radio (SDR) hardware, our new MIMO system provides a well-documented, reconfigurable, parameterized physical layer written and delivered in LabVIEW source code - enabling researchers to build both traditional MIMO and Massive MIMO prototypes.
Our LabVIEW Communications MIMO Application Framework lets you develop algorithms and evaluate custom IP to solve a lot of the practical challenges associated with real-world, multi-user MIMO deployments. Scalable from 4 to 128 antennas, the MIMO Application Framework - when used with the NI USRP RIO and NI PXI hardware platforms - allows you to create small to large scale antenna systems with minimal system integration or design effort.
Researchers can use the system out of the box to conduct Massive MIMO experiments and seamlessly integrate their own custom signal processing algorithms in a fraction of the time compared to other approaches, speeding up the overall design process as the wireless industry races toward 5G.
In October, I traveled to Asia with stops in China and South Korea. While in China, I gave a talk on 5G at the Wireless Communications and Signal Processing conference (WCSP) in beautiful Yangzhou. I met with several researchers at the conference and was also able to travel to Nanjing to meet with professors at Southeast University (SEU). As you can imagine, wireless researchers are focused on mmWave and Massive MIMO.
While discussing mmWave, I conducted an informal survey with a central question of, “what is your frequency range of interest”. Although my informal poll is far from definitive, there was a lot of interest in 28 GHz. This is a bit surprising considering China has yet to officially designate mmWave spectrum for 5G. Additionally, it appears that spectrum around 28 GHz could pose a challenge in this region. I expect we’ll be hearing more on this in the near future, so stay tuned.
On the Massive MIMO front, Prof Xiqi Gao at SEU is exploring a new Massive MIMO technique called Beam Division Multiple Access (BDMA). This technique uses orthogonal beams to provide access to mobile users at the base station spatially, and his team plans to build the world’s first working BDMA Massive MIMO prototype.
Next I traveled to Seoul, South Korea where I attended the International Conference on Information and Communication Technology Convergence (ICTC) in Jeju Island. My industry presentation at ICTC focused on wireless research and the role software defined radios play in the design validation and the standardization process. While the conference covered many topics, much of the discussion was centered around 5G, from network to applications.
While in Korea, I was also able to meet with several researchers around the country including professors at UNTI, Seoul National University, Yonsei and ETRI. All the researchers have a keen interest in 5G and a spirited interest in prototyping. I was encouraged to chat at length with several researchers about how LabVIEW Communications and the USRP RIO are impacting 5G wireless research in areas such as Full Duplex Radio, LTE and WiFi coexistence, and V2X. In particular, I wanted to highlight the work of Prof Chan-Byoung Chae at Yonsei University. Our lead user team has been working with Prof Chae in the area of Full Duplex Radio for several years and at NIDays in Seoul, Prof Chae and his students demonstrated a working full duplex radio system using the NI platform to prototype a full duplex radio system capable of transmitting and receiving a full 120 MHz wide channel – the widest bandwidth ever demonstrated!
We’re seeing exciting developments on the 5G front every day. Next month I’ll be attending the 3GPP plenary meeting in Vienna. Look for updates from that meeting in my next post.
In early September, I attended the 3GPP RAN #73 plenary meeting in New Orleans. Even though we were in New Orleans, this was no party. Members submitted 528 documents for review, and over 250 participants from 135 different entities attended with a commitment to evolve our wireless standards to address the growing demands of the market.
Here are some key takeaways:
Release 14 (also known as LTE Advanced Pro) is on track with impactful updates for NB IoT and eMTC. Even though not technically 5G, Release 14’s coverage of NB IoT and eMTC have enhanced LTE’s ability to create a network of “things”.
LAA has given way to eLAA and this type of coexistence with WiFi and unlicensed bands continues to be an interesting and viable extension for bandwidth improvement using existing infrastructure.
Release 15 – the much anticipated “5G” release – generated a lot of discussion. Not surprisingly, the 3GPP has agreed to focus on the Enhanced Mobile Broadband (EMBB) use case for release 15, and the ultralow latency, ultra-reliable and massive MTC use cases will be deferred to March 2017. There will be some investigative work continuing on these use cases but the extent and scope of this work is still to be determined.
“New Radio”, as the new Physical Layer is called in the 3GPP, will have a distinct focus on the EMBB use case as a priority. This aligns with the 3GPP System Architecture (SA) groups’ request from this past June. Of particular note, the RAN groups will focus on the “non standalone” case where New Radio takes advantage of the existing EPC core network rather than relying on a completely new architecture. New Radio investigation will also focus on spectrum below 40 GHz, with higher frequency work also deferred until next March.
My time in New Orleans shows that 5G continues to progress and the narrowing of the scope coupled with the important additions to Release 14 for NB IoT and eLAA provide pragmatic evolutions to expedite next generation wireless capabilities. The 3GPP will collectively choose the official Release 15 work items in March of 2017, which will give us a good picture of the initial 5G spec.
Every summer, the dogs days of August hit Texas where each new day resembles the last - hot, dry and sunny. Don’t get me wrong, I love the sun and the outdoors, but the heat can start to wear on you during the long summer months. For us wireless folks, however, this summer was unlike any other – full of surprises, world records, and teeming with the promise of new mountains to climb.
On July 14th, the FCC announced new rules to open up 11 GHz of spectrum for flexible, mobile and fixed use wireless broadband – 3.85 GHz of licensed spectrum and 7 GHz of unlicensed spectrum. The new rules create a new Upper Microwave Flexible Use service in the 28 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz), 37 GHz (37-38.6 GHz), and 39 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) bands, and a new unlicensed band at 64-71 GHz. This move extends beyond current generations of mobile communication, increasing data rates and reliability and lowering latency for device to device communication, spectrum usage, and multiple antenna transmission. By doing so the FCC has extended the capabilities of 5G wireless access and definitively put the United States at the forefront of the 5G race.
The next day, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the National Science Foundation, non-profit organization US Ignite, and representatives from several companies including NI announced the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research. With over $400M in funding, the Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research initiative seeks to create four “at scale” wireless test beds located in cities throughout the US. The unprecedented scale and investment highlights the US government’s acknowledgement of the importance of 5G to the world and the desire for the US to drive it forward. I was honored to speak at the announcement, and as Prof Ted Rappaport pronounced during a panel later that day it was indeed a “double rainbow day” for US wireless researchers.
And just as the long days of August kicked into high gear, NI hosted its annual conference, NIWeek 2016 in Austin, Texas. Wireless researchers from all over the world gathered at the 5G Summit to exchange ideas and demonstrate the latest research. Of particular note, Michael Ha of the FCC joined panels to discuss the mmWave spectrum issues and the US roles in defining 5G spectrum, as well as sharing unlicensed spectrum between licensed and unlicensed carriers. Dr. Arun Ghosh from AT&T Wireless Research took to the NIWeek keynote stage to discuss the group’s novel mmWave channel sounder that captures channel data at 28 GHz comprehensively to create the most accurate models in the world. And with the Olympics taking place in August, it only seemed right that Prof Ove Edfors from Lund University in Sweden and Prof Andrew Nix from the University of Bristol in the UK present on their Massive MIMO prototype that set new world records in spectral efficiency achieving 145 bits/s/Hz using a 128 antenna system!
5G is indeed gearing up and unlike summers past, rest and relaxation took a backseat as the significance and importance of 5G gathered even more momentum and urgency. NI is particularly excited to be working so closely with academia, industry, and governments to drive the 5G agenda forward. The “everything after” seems most poignant as new stakes have been thrust into the ground and researchers work furiously to meet these once seemingly unattainable objectives. Much progress has been made this summer and I believe we will look back fondly at this time where a re-energized research community focused on a bright and very wireless future.