Technology vendors disagreed over the timescales for 5G deployments at Tuesday’s Mobile World Congress keynote.
Qualcomm’s CEO Steve Mollenkopf called for the benefits of LTE to be fully maximised to protect R&D and deployment investment, whereas Ken Hu, Huawei’s rotating CEO, stressed the benefits of 5G over today’s LTE.
“The debate is when do we call it 5G,” said Mollenkopf. “There’s still a lot to do.”
“The biggest challenge we face with 5G is the extreme number of use cases. There will be many new methods for billions of devices to connect and interact, and we need to transform the edge of the internet to better support mobile devices. It’s at the edge that real innovation will take place,” he added.
However, he warned that there was an ongoing need for multimode support to protect existing and future LTE investment, and “we don’t need to make a huge technology jump when LTE is providing some of this already.”
Hu countered this viewpoint with the claim that LTE cannot support the 1,000s of connections needed for IoT services. “5G will be capable of connecting 100 billion devices, which will be very valuable for industrial applications.”
The Huawei exec noted that only 5G latency capabilities could fulfil the much-hyped driverless car concept. “Stopping a car travelling at 100kph would extend braking distance by another 1.4 meters due to LTE latency, but only 2.8cm with 5G.”
“5G provides us with a very powerful applications platform that will take the technology into new industry segments and trigger positive disruption. But we must involve the key industry verticals in how 5G evolves. The communications industry did this in isolation in the past, which resulted in a fragment approach.”
As an indication of Huawei’s keenness to move forward, the company confirmed it had already developed a new air interface for 5G. Hu added that 5G would have a virtualised architecture leading to a single physical network providing support for a multitude of different apps.
Mollenkopf, meanwhile, indicated that the concept of 5G was still a very much under discussion, emphasising Qualcomm’s views that this next-gen technology must target user-centric connectivity. “It’s important that the mobile user is seen as part of the network, a node.”