Inventing the future of wireless networks

How do you predict the future? That’s one of the big challenges of the world’s largest academic 5G innovation centre (5GIC), which brings together the UK’s four mobile operators with 70 researchers from 24 companies, including Blu Wireless.

The challenge is to develop the technology that will be used for mobile connectivity of all kinds from 2020 and last for another 20 years. What will networks look like in 2040, for example? That’s a mind blowing question. The £70m centre at the University of Surrey in Guildford is part of finding those answers, having already shown technology that enables data speeds of over 1Tbit/s on mobile links. But it’s not just the link from the basestation to the user. All that data has to be carried over the core network out to the edge – whether that’s a basestation, small cell or some other technology by 2040 – and that’s a major challenge, especially when we don’t know what 5G will look like yet.

What we can predict is that demand for capacity, download speeds and upload speeds will increase dramatically. So how do you develop a system that’s 1000 times faster than today’s highest 4G speeds, with response times 5 times faster and with 1000 times the capacity, all with today’s technology? Much of the work is in understanding the physical technology and what the system architecture could do. This will open up the ability to carry 4K UltraHD video to mobile phones, as well as providing a huge step forward for the Internet of Things (IoT). The current technology proposals for 5G can support three times the number of IoT devices than 4G using a spare code multiple access approach. Both these advances are already being demonstrated at the centre, for the first time anywhere in the world, with an UHD demo from Huawei and BT.

It’s an ambitious target, but the partners involved in the centre are aiming to create a complete 5G system at the centre by 2018 using today’s technologies, including a complete core network that can also be used for IoT. Before that happens, the standards will also be completed by the end of 2016 to allow developers to get to work on implementing the technologies we will need for those networks.

There’s a long way to go with 5G, but the 5GIC is right at the forefront of the latest technologies, working out the way forward. One of those key technologies will be millimetre wave, where Blu Wireless has world-leading expertise. Whether this is for point to point backhaul links to a basestation or small cell, or an ultra high bandwidth link direct to a terminal, the researchers at the centre can use BWT’s technology to push back the boundaries of what’s possible in mobile network technology.

Bringing together researchers and technology experts from all over the world and from both small and large companies, 5GIC is one of the best ways of not just predicting the future, but inventing it instead.