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The future is 5G – Are we truly ready for it? (Part 1)
May 13, 2020 News


When 5G technology was first announced, everyone was amazed by the potential that came with this technology. The potential of 5G was endless, and businesses all over the world were looking forward to using the technology. But with such technology, there were also many concerns that came with it. While some countries gave green light towards the implementation of 5G technology, others were still looking to understand it further.

There are a number of 5G providers in the world today. From 5G infrastructures to services to solutions provided – all these companies are eager to make this technology available. In light of this, DTA caught up with Gooi Soon Chai, President of Electronic Industrial Solutions Group, Keysight Technologies to find more about the company’s involvement in 5G technology and the challenges that come with it.

According to Gooi, 5G is more than an evolution; it is a revolution by bringing disruptive innovation. 5G is the most talked about technology of 2020. It promises fast, reliable, and near-instant communications that will universally connect people.

Mobile network operators are eager to deploy 5G and deliver new services to consumers and industries, but 5G and the new services will put pressure on networks and related resources as they make unprecedented latency and bandwidth demands.

At the same time, Gooi pointed out that 5G represents an exponential increase in technical complexity. Key technical challenges come from 5G New Radio (NR), massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), millimetre-wave (mmWave) frequencies, and over-the-air (OTA) test methods.

“As 5G will increase the transfer rate of mobile devices, network operators will need to increase the throughput of their core networks correspondingly. Given the latency requirements of 5G, there has been a great deal of study on the radio access network (RAN) architecture, the place where the user devices and the cellular network meet. Centralised RAN (C-RAN) separates the radio functions from the processing functions of the edge network by pooling baseband functions into centralised baseband units, with only the radios and the most latency-sensitive functions left at the network edge.”


Core users of 5G

For chipmakers and smartphone manufacturers, Gooi said these devices will need a 5G NR chipset to connect to new 5G networks. However, 4G LTE and 5G networks will co-exist for a long time. The industry refers to this deployment type as 5G non-standalone (NSA) while the 5G standalone (SA) network refers to a pure 5G implementation. 5G NSA introduces several hardware and software challenges for connected devices.

Also, smartphones, tablets, and other communication-enabled devices will need to support all the traditional 4G LTE protocols, but also support greater carrier aggregation, more MIMO antennas, more tightly condensed QAM, and perhaps even mmWave circuitry.

Antennas will be one of the biggest issues. A typical 4G LTE phone has five antennas – a primary and secondary LTE antenna, a GPS antenna, and 2×2 Wi-Fi antennas. Adding the new 5G 2×2 MIMO antennas and four or more mmWave antenna arrays to the mix creates a size challenge. Suddenly, the phone casing seems very small. 5G smartphones will likely have antennas on the top, bottom, and along both sides of the case.

5G’s increased bandwidth and low latency capabilities open up some exciting new possibilities for smartphones. Beyond just 8K HD streaming movies, entertainment will be available in full 3D, augmented by virtual reality.


5G will revolutionise IoT, Data Centres and Networks

For the Industrial Internet-of-Things (IIoT), applications will increase access requests and mobile automotive IoT applications will stretch latency demands as both formerly-disconnected environments connect online with specific expectations. Mobile edge computing will become more important to process the increased number of access requests and meet stringent latency requirements.

Apart from this, key challenges relate to IIoT device technologies and validating that they can interact reliably with one another. The 5Cs of IoT summarises the most important of these issues: connectivity, continuity, coexistence, compliance and cybersecurity.

Data centre infrastructure will get a speed upgrade. More users at higher data speeds will create demand for faster memory, data buses, and transceivers in the data centre. Meeting the speed and flexibility demands will be one reason, but customer traceability through the network for application monetisation will be the main driver to upgrade to the latest standards.

Design for test will not be limited to ‘once-and-done’ testing. Software-defined networks, advanced malware detection, and evolving new formats of large and small format data transfers will make embedded testing during operation vital to ensure operation. Advanced design, test and monitoring capabilities that ensure networks and products deliver the performance and failsafe reliability expected, will be on the rise.

New networks will require dynamic data intelligence and dynamic network intelligence to monitor operations. Also, new 5G features for ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC) will place new demands on network operators to maintain real-time communications and service level agreements.

Network virtualisation and data centre service level agreements (SLAs) supporting dynamic 5G data streams will open ecosystems for embedded testing of network edge computing resources. Along with these distributed data centre designs is a need to instrument and monitor from the network centre to the edge, as well as east-west transfers within the data centre. Testing of new application protocols and the constant evolution of existing application message formats mixed with malware and attack traffic will no longer be a laboratory exercise.

Validation and testing throughout the technology development stages are critical for 5G to deliver on its potential. To deliver 5G’s complicated and integrated functionality, electronic devices are vulnerable to faults at any point in the technology stack, and end-to-end Layer 1–7 test, precision measurement, and deep network visibility solutions are required to de-risk 5G development and operation across the ecosystem.

“Our customers value our ability to verify the quality, performance, compliance and security of products at every layer with end-to-end solutions that help operators integrate their products into live networks.”