Even as LTE and LTE Advanced (4th gen cellular systems) are being deployed, work is already starting on their successor: 5G. This whitepaper from Keysight Technologies describes the needs that demand continued development of mobile and fixed-line communications systems, and explains some background on who is involved and what is currently happening in bringing 5G from theory to reality.
The current situation
If we’re all to use our mobile devices to work and play anywhere, we want access to streaming services and all our own 'stuff', instantly, on devices as small as a smartphone or as large as the screen in an auditorium - properly formatted for the size of the screen, of course. We’re already socially networked, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. We want to be able to share versions of our stuff - photos, video, data, whatever - with friends, colleagues, and customers - wherever they may be.
In the same way, we don’t want to buy software applications we don’t need. Instead, we want to rent the applications we need to process our data for just as long as we need them. This is the vision of true 'cloud computing', as opposed to just cloud storage, and its reality depends almost entirely on high-speed connectivity.
This need for high-speed connectivity is a common denominator as we look ahead to 5th gen or 5G networks. Achieving 24/7 access to, and sharing of, all our 'stuff' requires that we continue on our current path: going far beyond simple voice and data services and moving to a future state of 'everything everywhere and always connected'.
Going beyond just voice
For most of the 20th century, network operators used the work of Danish mathematician and engineer A.K. Erlang (1878-1929) as the basis for network planning: the central idea was predicting the number of simultaneous users a landline telecommunications network would have to support. As long as the networks were used mainly for voice calls, the same broad principles applied to mobile networks, with the added flexibility of using a smaller cell size in geographic 'hot spots' where more users could be expected and cell capacity could be exceeded.
Today, as the provisioning and take-up of data services, and the types of connected devices, on both fixed-line and mobile networks continues to rocket, the rules of network provisioning need to be re-written. Data services are by their nature discontinuous. Moving to packet- rather than circuit-based service delivery allows more users to share the same resource even though the overhead associated with directing the data becomes more complex. As fixed-line network infrastructures have moved from copper to the virtually-limitless capacity of fibre, this packet delivery overhead has not been an issue.