5G won’t simply be a utilitarian evolution of the network—it will be mandatory to support the future of business. It’s a powerful statement about a powerful future, outlined in a new 5G Americas white paper titled “5G Services & Use Cases,” which I recently had the privilege of writing with Brian Daly of AT&T. This newly released report takes a fresh look at 5G use cases, going beyond performance attributes to explore the types of interactions taking place over the network. In doing so, it provides a more comprehensive picture of 5G requirements, and the technology enablers and architecture needed to deliver a new generation of 5G services and applications, transforming industries, and the way we live, work and play.
The 5G Americas’ new white paper, “5G Services & Use Cases”:
- Maps the changing market, technology, and societal trends driving evolving cellular networks
- Identifies and chronicles new trends in use cases, applications, and services
- Hones in on requirements and performance indicators of those use cases
- Defines key technology enablers for each use case and maps them to 5G capabilities
- Discusses the challenges and policy implications of 5G
5G wireless networks promise to deliver pervasive connectivity to virtually every product imaginable, which in turn will engender a new range of related services with disparate requirements. Fully-autonomous vehicles will need to tap into several wireless communications technologies to support vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-everything communications (V2X), and deliver rich in-car media experiences. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) will hinge on the availability of mass connectivity, cloud computing resources, big data analytics and artificial intelligence to digitize factories and automate robotic processes. mHealth and eHealth will rely on a distributed and modular architecture with enhanced security features to deliver personalized and precision medical services, supported by mass quantities of IoT devices producing large volumes of data.
Many of these 5G services, like those outlined above, don’t fit neatly into the taxonomy of use cases commonly applied to 5G—enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB), massive Internet of Things (mIoT), and critical communications—which are usually characterized by their required performance attributes. For example, a smart factory might have automated product lines dependent on ultra-reliable, low latency communications (URLLC), and at the same time have delay-tolerant sensors keeping track of vast amounts of inventory. In this case, the vertical-centric services enabled by the Industrial Internet of Things might span two of the commonly ascribed use cases, although their requirements dramatically differ.
In this white paper, we considered 5G use cases not just by performance attributes, but also in terms of the types of interactions taking place: between people, between machines, or between people and machines.
This alternative taxonomy provides a more complete picture of how several use cases span multiple types of interactions and feature categories. Using this new taxonomy, we were able to outline the key performance requirements of families of use cases that have the potential to impact many industries, including not just eMBB, mIoT, and URLLC, but also connected vehicles, enhanced multi-media, and fixed wireless access for early 5G deployments.
The exercise of outlining these requirements highlighted the importance of network transformation, leveraging technology enablers such as NFV (Network Function Virtualization), SDN (Software-Defined Networking), MEC (Multi-Access Edge Computing), and network slicing, among others, to meeting enhanced service needs. The paper examines this topic in detail, as well as the 3GPP’s definition of the 5G system architecture needed to support 5G data connectivity and services.
Meeting these requirements will necessitate collaboration between use case developers, vertical industries, and 5G system designers. Verticals that have historically embraced process improvements over technology innovations to create efficiencies (in the industrial space, energy, healthcare, and other sectors) are already undergoing significant change, which will only accelerate as the commercial availability of 5G approaches. As stated at the beginning of this article, these industries are recognizing that the adoption of smart, connected 5G systems will not be optional, but rather necessary to meet the growing demands of competitive markets.
It’s evident that 5G will supply tools intended to address increased cellular needs, but by its nature will, in turn, create more demand for its expanded access options and improved service capabilities. It is my hope that this white paper will help move the conversation in a productive direction today to the evolving needs of a new 5G future.