LIVE FROM WORLD INTERNET CONFERENCE, WUZHEN, CHINA: Panellists agreed 5G is already happening, specifically in LTE networks, with China leading the charge and likely to be the first country to create demand for the new radio standard.

In a discussion about creating a better connected future Serge Willenegger, SVP of product management at Qualcomm (pictured, centre), said it’s clear the 5G vision is happening in China already with the shared economy coupled with big data and the mobile internet working its way deep into society.

“It’s really fantastic there is a region with such scale. That is a good foundation for what will eventually trigger the need for the next generation radio. 5G is only relevant if we have use cases, business models and demand. This gives me strong confidence that in the not so distant future we’ll connect the vision with the technology,” he explained.

The discussion was part of a half-day programme organised by the GSMA.

Willenegger said everyone should remember it takes a couple of years to realise the vision of a new technology – it took ten years with LTE – so the industry needs a step-wise approach.

The unknowns
Balazs Bertenyi, chairman of 3GPP (pictured, second from left), stated reality has surpassed the 5G vision, but also gone in different directions: “With 5G, the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know where it’s going to take us.”

He said the 3GPP is trying to ensure it is flexible enough in both the technology and the processes to accommodate any twists and turns along the way.

Bi Qi, CTO of China Telecom Research Institute (pictured, far right), added 5G developments have progressed in two directions. The first is on improving data rates and reducing delays: for this part the industry needs to go to high bands because the frequencies there are more abundant. The promotion of high-frequency bands is being led by the US and making good progress, he said.

The other direction is coverage, which requires the use of low frequencies below 6GHz: in this area, China is leading.

“For these two directions to make progress we need significant industry collaboration and help from governments,” he said.

Willenegger noted progress in terms of “the never ending spectrum question”, but added: “as we try to move to deployments in 2019 and 2020, having clarity on the spectrum situation will help us prioritise and focus resources. So it would be fantastic to see further progress there.”