Nearly 40 operators have announced 3GPP 5G service launches as of last month, according to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association. This early commercial momentum is exciting. As a leader focused on pathfinding the next cutting-edge technologies at Intel, my team and I are already spearheading the next wave of innovation with a focus on 5G URLLC – initially standardized in 3GPP Release 15 and enhanced in Release 16 – what some in the industry term as 5G Phase II.
5G’s multi-gigabit data rates, high system spectral efficiency and low latency capabilities are enabling the next generation of operator services. With 5G Phase II and URLLC, five-nines (99.999%) reliability and as low as 1 millisecond latency will be combined with new deployment models. This will enable critical new innovations in media, AI and distributed computing. In concert, I believe these will create the next wireless technology inflection point.
The speed at which new trends in compute, connectivity, AI, and media are emerging is staggering. We now stand on the verge of an era marked by the proliferation of data-rich and autonomous applications communicating at gigabit-per-second data rates with latencies in the milliseconds. This gives us a unique opportunity to redefine the future of compute from being centered on a single device, to compute that is fluid and pervasive both at the edge and in the cloud. This, in turn, will create a fully connected, mobile intelligent society.
With this future in mind, Intel recently collaborated with ABI Research to look at how we as an industry might drive value creation and adoption of 5G URLLC and related new technologies into vertical markets (check out the webinar here). In my view there are three key issues worth contemplation:
Cultural differences across enterprise types will change tech adoption and network roll outs
One of the biggest challenges we will face is that 5G URLLC applications are going to be specific to individual enterprise verticals and consumer applications, rather than broad-based and fairly homogeneous wireless broadband connections. There are some important cultural gaps between the traditional telecommunications industry, which has built solutions for breadth, and vertical industries – like manufacturing, which tend to build for specificity. I’d encourage you to read “The Role of 5G URLLC for the Future of Mobile Service Providers” to learn more about these nuances.
To bridge this gap, the telecommunications industry and industrial manufacturers need to understand these differences, and a company like Intel needs to help provide the right building blocks to serve specific solutions. ABI’s piece, ““The Opportunity for URLLC in Industrial Manufacturing” does an excellent job grouping industrial manufacturing use cases in order to identify common requirements for each application. This serves as a useful aid in thinking about how to bridge the cultural differences inherent in these two industries.
A mix of access technologies may be utilized
I alluded to the incredible diversity of use cases and requirements within enterprise verticals above. Because of the nature of this diversity, it will be important to consider all the tools we have in our toolkit that can be used.
5G can be truly transformative with URLLC if it’s done right. Its ultra-reliable and ultra-low latency capabilities for demanding applications can be combined with extreme mobile broadband throughput and capacity. This can provide a new level of quality and predictability to a wide spectrum of applications, from deterministic TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) to automotive V2X to Augmented Reality.
In addition to 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and Next Generation WiGig 802.11ay have particular relevance in enterprise settings. For example, some key features of Wi-Fi 6 that are useful in the manufacturing context include the use of a variety of different unlicensed spectrum bands (2.4/5 GHz bands and 6 GHz, when available), improved support for outdoor operation (i.e. in settings like coal mines or ports), and improved performance over a wider range of implementations (i.e. higher densities and longer ranges).
If we look at Next Gen WiGig, we see peak data rates of more than 100 Gbps for indoor and outdoor short range uses, as well as operation in unlicensed 60 GHz operation. It also can take advantage of large swaths of spectrum (7 GHz in most countries, 14 GHz in the US/EU.) Not to mention we are also seeing significantly increased reliability and reduced latency through a number of techniques including enhanced beamforming and channel access.
For the first time, broad-scale wireless technologies – 5G, Wi-Fi 6 & next gen WiGig – will support high levels of performance across throughput, capacity, reliability and low-latency vectors, previously the exclusive domain of wireline. I believe this will open vast new opportunities for enterprises, industries and new consumer use-cases.
A range of spectrum usage models should be considered
With the advent of new 5G and Wi-Fi uses cases in vertical industries, the industry and its customers will require access to a diverse set of spectrum resources, from very low to very high bands. A range of solutions for these segments is being considered in addition to the core MNO-exclusively licensed bands that can be enabled through network slicing. These include locally or privately licensed spectrum for industrial settings such as factory floors, shared resource ideas such as sharing between federal and commercial entities, and unlicensed spectrum and approaches through new capabilities such as Wi-Fi 6 / .11ax scheduling.
To close, one of my favorite ideas is that “Human technology is predictable, but how humans use it is not.” What is interesting with the next phase of 5G and Wi-Fi is that humans are using technology to connect machines in unprecedented ways. The opportunities that this new technological chapter can give rise to are boundless – if we can remain flexible, creative and humble enough to learn from one another.