From phones to drones; micro cells to macro cells; data transport to data center—one thing became abundantly clear at Mobile World Congress 2017. 5G will be the virtual and literal lifeblood of our technological future, coursing through every aspect of how we conduct business and move through our daily lives. As MWC’s theme, “The Next Element,” brought to life—5G won’t just be faster, it will be a foundational, elemental part of everything.
Last week, I had the pleasure of being part of a panel focusing on the expected impact of 5G, sharing the stage with other industry leaders. Five themes rapidly emerged.
1. 5G is No Longer “Coming.” It’s Here.
Last year, we were announcing our 5G Mobile Trial Platform, a small, powerful, and portable solution enabling the rapid development, prototyping, and testing of 5G technologies, devices, and network capabilities. This year, Intel was able to announce not only the 3rd Generation of the Intel 5G Mobile Trial Platform but also able showcase live over-the-air (OTA) connectivity at 28GHz between the platform and Ericsson’s 5G Radio Prototype system.
In just one year, we’ve been able to leverage key learnings from early trials to iterate on the platform, and incorporate those insights within our roadmap—announcing the industry’s first global 5G modem, offering multi-Gbps throughput in both sub-6 and 28GHz ranges. This modem will start sampling in H2 of this year, not 2020.
Each presenter on the panel had a Gbps or mmWave story to tell, illustrating that 5G is no longer coming; it’s here. And it’s only a matter of time before it’s productized.
2. 5G Commercial Availability Will Take a Group Effort.
The pace of innovation continues to amaze us all. The future we imagined for 2020 could be realized much sooner with tight collaboration. The age of proprietary technologies and business strategies is coming to a close. 5G solutions must be built on a foundation of openness and transparency to enable global interoperability and adoption at scale. Purpose-built networks must transform, becoming software-defined, virtualized and heterogeneous to meet diverse, evolving 5G requirements.
Ericsson also presented during the panel, and we were pleased to announce at MWC ‘17 that we’ve extended our partnership to include the 5G Innovators Initiative (5GI2). The 5GI2 is designed to drive cooperation among technology companies, industry leaders, and academia to explore, test and innovate with 5G network and distributed edge technology.
This is just one of a wave of announcements between Intel and partners, which also include news of a partnership with Nokia Acceleration Labs for commercial testing, and collaborations on non-standalone 5G NR and 3GPP standards.
3. 5G’s Diverse Requirements Call for an End-to-End Approach.
The Internet of Things, Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications. Our panel touched on all of these use cases, each of which comes with its own set of requirements. From the client, to the network, to the cloud—every aspect of the 5G value chain must be designed with flexibility in mind.
Intel is investing in each of these areas—with a robust multi-comms modem roadmap (LTE Evolution, NB-IOT, WiFi, mmWave) built to meet 5G NR requirements; innovations in Mobile Edge Computing (Massive MIMO, FlexRAN, network slicing); advancements in SDN and NFV at the core and in the cloud; and an evolving 5G Mobile Trial Platform for the rapid development and testing of future solutions.
4. 5G Will Disrupt Industries and Launch New Categories.
The 5G Impact Panel sparked discussion about virtual reality, autonomous driving, connected homes, smart industrial use cases, and smart cities. Intel is working with partners to enable the delivery of new solutions and services in each of these verticals.
Parked right up front at the Intel booth was a BMW 740i, connected to a nearby base station via the new Intel® GO™ Automotive 5G Platform. This demo showcased its ability to access both 5G mmWave for V2X connectivity, and 4G LTE for V2V and fall back connectivity live OTA for the very first time. Imagine the new business opportunities autonomous cars alone will create. Fleet and riding sharing use cases; entertainment and media services; productivity applications; data and analytical value—the possibilities are nearly endless. Also at our booth was a demonstration of mesh, backhaul, connectivity to enable a range of IoT use cases, many of which haven’t even been dreamt of yet.
MWC 2017 brought us more demonstrations of real-life technologies, representing just the tip of the iceberg of innovation to come. As Ericsson and King’s College London demonstrated during our panel discussion—5G will democratize access to expertise, much in the same way previous generations of mobile democratized access to information. When expertise is unleashed, the impossible becomes possible.
5. 5G Will Change Our Lives in Real, Meaningful Ways.
And while it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of some of the advancements in consumer electronics—it’s important to remember that 5G’s purpose isn’t just to entertain. 5G will solve real problems for our communities, and in fact, our world.
What if our homes could be made safer with connected home security solutions? Our water, monitored to ensure cleanliness and sustainable usage? Our food, more efficiently produced with IoT-based precision farming? Our air quality, ameliorated with a reduced carbon footprint? Our energy consumption, decreased with power-conscious solutions? Our health, improved with access to remote care performed by experts using tetherless VR headsets?
We demonstrated just a few of these possibilities at our booth with a GE connected light pole, a Bosch air monitoring system, drone solutions to enable first responders, and tetherless 5G VR experiences. The ability of 5G to solve societal challenges was a consistent red thread of the presentations within the 5G Impact Panel, and MWC at large.
As deeply as I am steeped in all things 5G, Mobile World Congress continues to surprise and inspire me. I am proud to be part of an industry that is enabling a smart, connected society, and a sustainable global economy. Intel, and its partners, look forward to making that future a reality with the next generation of wireless devices, networks, and services.