Part 1: “We are working on cost-efficient evolution from 4G to 5G”

|February 17, 2017 0
Image Courtesy iran-daily.com

Ibrahim Ahmad

Christian Hedelin, VP & Head of Strategy, Network Products at Ericsson shares his views on 5G, how they will make their way in India’s mobile networks, and what are some of the network innovations that his company is working on.

As we see action building up on 3G and 4G in India, many tech players and telecom CTOs have begun talking about 5G. What is Ericsson’s vision and focus on 5G, what kind of investments you are doing to maintain that focus?

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If we talk from use case point of view, it can be divided in terms of supporting two different use case clusters.

The first one is to have a continuous improvement of the mobile broadband services and that includes being able to support higher data rate, video resolution, high bandwidth requirements for smart phones and other devices. With 5G we have opportunity of using the wireless network as a last mile access. So that is one use case cluster. Basically, continue to build the existing mobile networks to provide better broadband services.

The second use case is massive machine type communications, and that is what we are looking at. There are two types of machine-to-machine communication. First is, massive machine type communication, which is a large sensor network that enables you to deploy sensors for applications like utility, agriculture etc. That is also one area, which will evolve a lot. Secondly, we also have mission critical machine type communication, which is large sensor network for smart grids, fleet management, tracking of logistics, etc.

The third use case is critical machine type communications that require higher reliability and latency. These are needed for industrial applications, where we have everything from autonomous vehicle to industrial application and process control. You would like to improve the productivity and things that are very mission critical. There you would need to have high reliability, security and low latency.

What we foresee is that we will have 3G and 4G network, and we will add on 5G capability, so there is a network evolution towards 5G. And we are investing a lot of money in this. We are implementing 5G like capabilities into the 4G network also. So, basically we have more than doubled the investment in 5G product development and more than 20% on the radio side right now.

christian-hedelinDoes it mean that the 4G deployments that you have done in India are almost 5G ready?

You can say, it is partially 5G ready –as the 4G equipment that you deploy in India supports massive IoT and narrow band IoT which is sort of the 5G use case. A part of our portfolio supports 5G also from this year. So, it’s a gradual process. All 4G radios and the base bands of the digital boards being deployed in India support massive IoT.

How can operators bring 5G to India without compromising their large existing investments in the network?

We have recently announced our first 5G capable radio which is called Radio 6468. It is a 4G capable product. But it is also prepared to run with wider carriers that are standardized or have 5G capabilities. We are working on hardware prepared for 4G networks that allows software upgrade to 5G. This is one of our important cornerstones to support our customers in cost efficient evolution from 2G-3G-4G-5G. So for instance, the Ericsson radio network is capable of being upgraded to narrow band IoT which is 4.5G actually. We are now planning to introduce new radio stack for 4G that can support everything for 5G. We are investing in platforms that will allow our customers to gradually move to 5G. All our radio equipment run on multiple standards. It means, that if you deploy 2G radio from Ericsson in India for supporting higher voice capacity, then one can also move around 3G and 4G. We are planning to do the same thing for 5G.

What kind of market do you see especially for massive machine communication? Is that a big market according to you?

Today, you have around half a billion machine connections and most of them are being served by the 2G networks including applications like ATM machines, tax payments systems etc. In Europe, for example, smart metering is vital for reaching the 2020 energy efficiency targets. Smart meters enables consumers to be more engaged and able to take control of their energy consumption, at the same time, helping utilities to optimize their operations. The benefits range from a much better reading capability and to optimizing billing and productivity on those networks, so everyone benefits. You have hundreds and millions of those devices worldwide. You have gas meters, water, and electricity meters. Now, I think, what is also of high interest is of course agricultural applications and with existing 2G, those are harder to serve. Those applications need extra battery or need to have a much lower power function so that it could allow for massive machine type communication in agriculture environment without having to provide more electricity. The ambition for such a network is of course to have automated irrigation, understanding the humidity, temperature and improve the output of the agriculture industry, thanks to 4G and 5G IoT functionalities.

Read part 2 of the interview here…

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