If you work in telecommunications or watch the industry closely, it seems that 5G has dominated the discussion for nearly a decade. It seems that way because it’s true – important, impactful things take time – but the best is yet to come. Even as 5G technology matures, the 3GPP standard continues to evolve, new features in the standard continue to translate into the product, and more spectrum is used. 5G has become a global force that will only grow in both impact and ubiquity as it evolves into 5G Advanced, merging connectivity, computing power and artificial intelligence (AI) at the connected intelligent edge.
What does this future look like? Qualcomm examined the parts and sum at the recent Qualcomm 5G summit in San Diego, California, the company’s hometown. In a series of masterclass sessions, business leaders delved deep into the global spectrum landscape and prospects, new features of 3GPP Release 17 and the role of AI in 5G.
Spotlight on 5G spectrum
Aspasia Paroutsas, Qualcomm’s vice president of regulatory affairs, discussed spectrum as an “indispensable but limited resource” that should be used as efficiently as possible by operators. According to the numbers, the average consumer today uses about 11 GB of data per month; that figure is expected to grow to 41 GB per month by the end of 2027. “To support all this ever-growing demand, we need more spectrum. But at the same time, we need to find more efficient and innovative ways to share this spectrum.”
A prime example, she said, is how US operators, the Federal Communications Commission and other stakeholders worked together to share access to the CBRS band. In this case, there is a three-level spectrum access system (SAS) coupled with an Environmental Sensing Network (ESN) that can dynamically detect which spectrum is being used by existing users and where access can be facilitated according to a prioritization scheme. Another area of spectrum innovation is for shared mmWave access. Qualcomm proposes a mechanism to share access to 600 megahertz spectrum in the 37 GHz band, taking advantage of the highly directional nature of mmWave frequencies. Another promising spectrum sharing mechanism, New Radio-Unlicensed (NR-U), will allow 5G and Wi-Fi to share access to the unlicensed 5 GHz and 6 GHz bands.
What’s in 5G version 17?
Qualcomm is a major force in the 3GPP standardization body and has driven the uptake of a wide variety of Release 17 content through early R&D investments, advanced prototyping and his work within the international body, according to Juan, the vice president of company technical standards. Montojo.
Montojo gave a masterclass on what’s in Release 17, which was completed or “frozen” in June in 3GPP language, dividing the standout features into two broad groups: 5G improvements at the system level and extending the standard to new types of devices. At the system level, he called for further improvements to MIMO; the new ability to improve the uplink for high-capacity mmWave bands; improvements in power consumption; extending 5G to unlicensed bands; and the new ability to deploy mmWave RF repeaters to rapidly and cost-effectively densify high-band networks.
As for expanding 5G into new areas, 3GPP has approved NR Light or RedCap, which gives the right size of 5G for mid-tier use cases with smaller footprint devices that require lower complexity, less power consumption, larger network. need. efficiency and coverage optimization. Please note, RedCap should not be confused with NB-IoT or eMTC, which have less performance compared to NR Light.
Other areas of expansion include the use of satellite-based non-terrestrial networks (NTN) to extend broadband to underutilized areas by expanding existing networks, and to support the Internet of Things at scale. Another important area is building the foundation for standardized extended reality (XR) support on the device and network side — “the same thing we did for voice 20 years ago,” Montojo said.
The role of AI in the future of 5G
Qualcomm is a leader in AI, as evidenced by a number of firsts — model quantization, on-device learning, federated learning, semantic video segmentation, AI for wireless, video super resolutions, and neural video compression — as outlined by senior technology director Joseph Soriaga during a panel discussion about the powerful combination of AI and 5G.
“Qualcomm is truly committed to ensuring we can make AI ubiquitous,” he said, noting that AI is the confluence of the company’s fundamental, platform and applied research.
Against that combination of 5G and AI, engineering vice president Tingfang Ji said some wireless problems can be solved with a fundamental system understanding and practical implementation. “But at the same time, there are a few wireless challenges that have eluded us.” This is where AI comes in.
For Industry 4.0-type applications, AI helps optimize the 5G system to support strict KPIs around latency, reliability, and positioning. “If you cut the thread, you still have to keep all the KPIs,” said Xiaoxia Zhang, senior director of technology. “With 5G and AI, even in a challenging indoor environment, an industrial environment… we can still meet the strict requirements. This would only be available with AI that supports 5G.”
To take this vision on a large scale from the lab to the real world, Qualcomm announced its Snapdragon X70 Modem RF System with integrated 5G/AI processing (another world first) earlier this year. Director of product management Frances Chen said the combo delivers significantly increased downlink throughput at the cell edge under certain conditions and uses AI to improve mmWave beam management, increase mmWave link robustness and improve UE mobility. . “We basically trained the network model to recognize human-device interaction so that we can accurately and quickly reconfigure and reroute the antenna.”
View the full masterclass panel discussion here.
To understand how new spectrum, Release 17 improvements, and the combination of 5G and AI, all fit together and pave the way for 5G Advanced – which starts with Release 18 – and 6G beyond, read the article, The 5G Advanced vision: Merging connectivity, compute and AI at the edge† For more information, watch the masterclass from senior vice president of engineering John Smee, Driving the technological evolution for 5G Advanced†