Merging connectivity, compute and AI at the edge

The second phase of 5G will help maximize operators’ investments while also laying the foundation for 6G

The first phase of 5G is largely complete and is already delivering impressive new consumer and business experiences. Looking to the coming years, with the transition from 5G to 5G Advanced and then the next generation of mobile phones at the end of this decade, Qualcomm’s John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, said: “We are now at a point of bending. This really sets the stage for 6G, before then we need to make sure we get the most out of all that 5G investment.”

Speaking during a masterclass session at the recent Qualcomm 5G summit in San Diego, Smee discussed the company’s vision for the 5G-enabled “connected intelligent edge…[and] where does it go next?” He discussed 5G as the intersection of communications and computing, citing the proliferation of devices with built-in artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

In this paradigm, where devices use 5G to send contextual information to edge clouds for processing and action, “we are moving into a more immediate world,” Smee said. “That value created at the edge of the network requires low-latency communications. It also requires new ways of computing… That role of 5G at the edge of the network, combined with AI, is how we achieve scale.”

Click here to watch Smee’s full masterclass session, “Driving the Technology Evolution for 5G Advanced”.

As for the standardization timeline, Qualcomm has been conducting 5G Advanced-related R&D for quite some time now. The 3GPP standardization body, of which Qualcomm is an essential driving part,approved the Release 18 framework at the end of 2021† This first package of 5G Advanced standards should be completed in 2024 and commercialization will follow from there.

Smee characterized 5G Advanced as “an opportunity for fundamental innovation” in three broad areas: evolution of mobile broadband and further vertical expansion; finding the balance between immediate commercial needs and the longer-term 5G vision; and new devices and further network evolution.

That last point speaks of the value of the connected intelligent edge where distributed AI, energy-efficient computing power and ubiquitous connectivity come together. “As we look at the connected intelligent edge and realize how important those devices are going to become, we need to know that the evolution of the air interface – on the device side and on the network and how they work together – is more important now than ever.”

Other Release 18 technologies Smee covered include advanced downlink and uplink for massive MIMO, continued work on extended reality (XR), mobile integrated access/backhaul (IAB), smart repeaters, more advanced duplex techniques, use of AI and ML to design networks, make network operations more environmentally friendly, NR-Light for lighter IoT devices, expand the role of positioning, the role of drones and satellite communications, and more.

“When you put all this together, Release 18… ushers in this new era,” he continued. “6G is going cloud native. It will also be AI native. That starts with 5G Advanced.”

Visit this resource library for a detailed overview of Qualcomm’s advanced wireless research, including demonstration videos and interviews with key business leaders.

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