The primary goal of 5G is to overcome the limitations of the existing 4G network.
To achieve this, engineers have to overcome the following challenges to achieve peak performance of the future network.
IoT and number of connections
The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to massively increase the number of devices and connections across wireless networks. Although many of these devices will only be sending and receiving very small amounts of data, they will introduce new demands in total data volume and managing the physical number of connections.
In existing 3GPP networks, there is a limit on the number of users that can be connected and the numbers of users transmitting or receiving data on specific network nodes. This limit is not sufficient to handle the tremendous growth expected for IoT applications. Thus, new scheduling and access control mechanisms will be required in the 5G era.
Real-time information for critical services
Emergency services and other critical services require highly reliable real-time data. For instance, medical facilities use wireless networks for remote patient monitoring and let medical staff provide remote support to patients. Fire, police and ambulance services require highly reliable voice links without issues like call dropping and busy networks.
Today, dedicated networks provide these needs, but have limited data capacity. These networks require a large investment of resources to achieve high data rates, and real-time interaction to allow critical services to respond faster. So new network technologies are required to ensure ultra-reliable connections and operations. This is based on using ad-hoc backhaul and networking, direct communication between devices, and flexible reconfiguration of networks.
Data volume is a key driver for 5G development. The amount of data being carried on mobile networks is expected to continue growing until 2030 because of applications that require more data, and the increases in screen resolution and developments in 3D video.
The increasing number of devices connected to 5G
Around 50 billion connected devices by 2020 – Source
Engineers can see that data capacity needs to be increased. As new technology evolves, the bottleneck in the system may be resolved, but it’s likely that there will be new data bottlenecks to be overcome in the future.
Machine-to-Machine and automotive
The concept of “machine to machine” communication is not limited to IoT; it plays a crucial role in the automotive industry as well. Automotive wireless connectivity applications are under development or in the deployment stage. Intelligent transport systems create demand for vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, linking vehicles to other devices. The ultimate goal in the 5G era will be fully autonomous driving – but public deployment of this idea requires secure and reliable communications.
5G networks should be able to deliver the capacity, coverage, and latency combination required for heterogeneous network technologies. The challenge for engineers is to provide the flexibility to meet these requirements with the high reliability/availability demands of autonomous driving.
Increasing capacity without increasing the cost
Consumers want more data, but they are not willing to pay more on their phone bills to cover a hundredfold increase in data. So the challenge before network engineers is to increase the data capacity of the network without increasing the operating cost.
One technology in 3GPP for LTE networks separates the distribution of control and user data planes for the purpose of aligning data requirements. A typical example is to use a macro cell to provide the control plane signaling to a wide area and then using small cells to provide user plane data within the coverage of the macro cell. It results in a higher capacity of user plane data within the area without any complexity. Ising existing spectrum and infrastructure to increase capacity without adding significant extra cost will be a key challenge for 5G.
A 5G future
5G networks will be designed for managing increasingly diverse data services, rather than keeping simple browsing and streaming in mind. The high cost implications of developing the new backhaul network will drive the industry to develop technologies that can expand the existing IP network technology and infrastructure more efficiently. Researchers are already investigating specific technologies to support these requirements in the 5G environment, and engineers will be invaluable for helping to overcome the unique challenges that come along with full-scale deployment of a new network.