PARTNER CONTENT: Over the past few years, Huawei has pushed the development of 5G-Advanced, which is also known as 5.5G, and those efforts are coming to fruition in 2024 as operators are now in the process of moving to the commercial phase for launching services and applications.

The initial start of the 5G-Advanced era began with 3GPP Release-18, the scope of which was finalised in December 2021.

With operators at different stages of monetising their next generation networks, 5G-Advanced provides them with a flexible framework to support massive use cases, such as millions of sensors for industrial IoT, while catering to specific types of traffic profiles.

During MWC24, Mobile World Live caught up with three operator executives to discuss the latest developments related to 5G-Advanced now that some of the testing and validation measures are completed.

Emmanuel Chautard, SVP Operations and Networks Economics of Orange Group, stated there are several factors driving the onset of 5G-Advanced, including new services such as XR that require higher network capabilities to deliver low latency and higher bandwidth.

He also noted 2 billion services require intelligent connections with low latency to meet the demands of increasingly complex scenarios. Lastly, Emmanuel stated industry standards and industry ecosystems are maturing, both of which set the stage for 5G-Advanced developments and deployments.

“Overall, 5G-Advanced is a result of business development and technical standards development,” he explained.

Sheldon Yau, Head of Wireless and Core Network with HKT, stated 5G-Advanced is important in the evolution of 5G networks, as well as for staying ahead of competitors. He also noted how crucial it is in the evolution toward 6G.

Yau highlighted 5G-Advanced’s multi-dimensional capabilities, such as Personal IoT (P-IoT) as well as integrated sensing and communications, which in turn will give rise to new technologies and applications. He noted HKT plans to acquire more spectrum resources to build 5G-Advanced networks and become an industry leader over the next decade.

Dr. Mahmoud R Sherif, Head of Innovation and Technico Business Development at du, said his company has enabled standalone (SA) 5G in its network as part of a plan to launch 5G-Advanced.

Dr. Sherif cited the superior downlink and uplink speeds and capacity of 5G-Advanced as the primary reasons for deploying it. While the current version of 5G is lagging in terms of uplink speeds, he noted 5G-Advanced provides fibre-like speeds for mobile broadband users, guaranteed.

He noted du is also exploring how to use 5G-Advanced to upgrade downlink speeds to up to 300 Mb/s to 500Mb/s, whether it’s through 3CC or multi-carrier link aggregation.

“If we get this, then we can offer things like fibre-like fixed wireless access with a guaranteed experience,” he said. “It would be an excellent proposition for our current fixed wireless uses.”

5G-Advanced use cases
Emmanuel stated Orange has already assessed some key 5G-Advanced technologies, including a 6GHz test and P-IoT verification. As Orange expands the reach of its SA 5G network across Europe, 5G-Advanced services will also improve network energy efficiency to lower power consumption.

As for use cases, he explained Orange is exploring end-to-end slicing for cloud gaming as well as additional new applications for various gaming scenarios, and a next generation, real-time communication service.

Dr. Sherif stated 5G-Advanced is the perfect network for providing the best customer experience across 3D devices such as the Apple Vision Pro.

5G-Advanced also holds the promise of connecting low cost, low power devices using reduced capability (RedCap.) RedCap, which was first introduced in Release 17, is expected to provision devices with low power consumption including industrial IoT sensors. 

Dr. Sherif noted Redcap breaks the price barriers to enable operators to offer services and applications, such as warehousing, CCTV and digital production “at very competitive prices”.

He also sees 5G-Advanced as one of the main pillars for connected vehicles due to its robust network capabilities.

Monetisation of 5G-Advanced
Orange’s Emmanuel Chautard stated large-scale 5G-Advanced networks will enable new services such the metaverse but noted operators “need full interoperability with service platforms, both core network and RAN”.

“We are not sure of the adoption of such services,” he explained. “However, we want to be ready to host them, to manage the quality of service and to provide sufficient capacity on our networks to guarantee performance with the right monetisation framework, leading to a relevant return on investment.

Technology breakthroughs
Orange’s approach for deploying extensive 5G-Advanced service is using mid-band spectrum, which is in the range from 1.8GHz to 2.6GHz, while also combining C-Band and mmWave on high band spectrum.

“Combining these two together, we can build a very high quality 5G-Advanced network to maximise the spectrum value,” he said.

HKT’s Yau stated the operator is looking to technological breakthroughs in the fields of URLLC and mMTC.

“URLLC can enable a large number of key services, and mMTC will profoundly change the business landscape,” he said.

HKT has deployed 10G capable, 5G-Advanced networks in popular shopping malls in Hong Kong. Yau noted 5G-Advanced offers stable 10Gb/s speeds to support upgraded digital experiences such as AR shopping, navigation and gaming, which in turn increase customer engagements.

Going forward, HKT will introduce P-IoT technology to produce more IoT products and apply it to verticals such as healthcare, construction, transportation, and logistics.

Yau stated P-IoT can enable automatic payments by allowing customers to use barcodes instead of standing in line at a retail store. It also lets shoppers pay for items on their shopping cards automatically by using P-IoT. 

Dr. Sherif stated 5G-Advanced has roughly ten times the capabilities compared to the current generation of 5G, with the bonus of “a lot more spectrum coordination such as the basic TDD 3CC that we are already in the process of deploying”.

“In addition, the extremely larger antenna array technology can provide fibre-like fixed wireless access with a guaranteed experience,” said Dr. Sherif. “This brings the possibility for speed monetisation on top of the traditional volume-based monetisation.”