LIVE FROM HUAWEI GLOBAL MOBILE BROADBAND FORUM 2014, SHANGHAI: Huawei said it will finalise the name of the emerging technology between 4G and 5G, which it is currently calling 4.5G, in the first quarter of 2015 and targets launching commercial products in 2016.
Ryan Ding (pictured), the company’s president of products and solutions, said that 4.5G isn’t necessarily the final name. “Some people don’t like the name and think it’s just a marketing move. But we think it’s not that important what you call it. It could be 4GX, 4G+ or 4G B.”
He made the parallel with 3G branding, which changed from HSDPA and HSUPA to HSPA.
The company is pushing 4.5G to bridge the gap between 4G and 5G, which likely won’t be ready until at least 2020 and mass deployments aren’t expected until 2022. Ding said some carriers can’t wait that long.
Ding said its 4.5G technology will be part of the 3GPP release 13 and will use NFV, support massive MIMO and will have a new control plan. On the radio side, the company plans to introduce a new codec. It will also make use of unlicensed spectrum, which Huawei is now calling licenced assisted access.
He said operators generally don’t like new generations of technology, because in the past it has meant the need for new spectrum auctions. With Huawei’s vision of 4.5G, he said they can use their existing airwaves as well as reuse the RRU and antenna. “It’s an evolution, not a revolution.”
Huawei is forecasting 30 billion connections by 2020, with people-to-people connections making up just eight billion of those. The company estimates 16 billion people-to-machine connections and six billion connections between things in six years’ time.
To be able to handle those numbers, he said, end-to-end latency needs to drop from the current level of about 40ms to 10ms and peak speeds need to hit 1Gb/s.
Based on Huawei’s current research, he said its technology can reach at least 1Gb/s but thinks it can achieve a higher target, noting its internal target is more aggressive, but it’s not stating that publicly.
The gigabyte era
On a related note, China Mobile executive VP Li Zhengmao said this week that a peak data rate of 1Gb/s should be the goal of 4G not 5G. He said China Mobile will adopt LTE-A to raise peak rates from 100Mb/s to 300Mb/s to 600Mb/s and then to 1Gb/s. “So we won’t have to wait for 5G to enter the gigabyte era,” he claimed.
Canada’s Telus (a Huawei customer) has expressed interest in 4.5G for its Tech City project in Vancouver, which has received support from the city and federal governments.
Telus CTO Ibrahim Gedeon said this week in Shanghai that the industry’s vision of 5G is fantastic, “but I don’t think we can wait until 2020. Before we get to 5G, how do we get to gigabit speeds?”
Gedeon said the industry needs to respond before 5G is ready. “There is no doubt in my mind that there is more to our operator community than just speeds, but we can’t afford to let go of the only thing we have going for us which is infrastructure.”
He noted that the key issue is moving on the journey from 200-300Mb/s to 600Mb/s to 1Gb/s without ripping and replacing every two years.
Many operators are starting to feel pressure on their networks with the rapid rise of M2M, which is making low latency more important. Applications like autonomous vehicles certainly have more stringent requirements than 4G networks can provide.
Orange said recently that it will need to continue to evolve its 4G networks until 2020 because the Internet of Things (IoT) is bringing new objects onto the network that are data only, which is changing the network requirements.