The future of wireless and the case for exploring verticals in 5G

CdGpWwtW4AAQjhTAs we outlined last month in our guide to the challenges facing 5G and IoT, the connected devices of the future offer real potential to make existing businesses, services and utilities more efficient and more effective — better tailoring the service they provide.

In the wireless industry, the reality is that there is limited appetite to pursue the new generation of wireless technology (5G) for the industry’s own sake. Despite rapid takeup of LTE (4G) cellular technology, shrinking profit margins are affecting infrastructure spending, leaving finances that may not look attractive to investors and cause difficulties for a further round of investment so soon after completing the last round of upgrades.

The real business case for 5G, therefore, needs to come from the vertical industries that will benefit from the technology.

The rationale behind this was recently vindicated by the results of the European Commission 5G socioeconomic project Real Wireless contributed to, announced in Brussels on the 9th March 2016 (which we explored in more detail in a separate blog post). Our work found that, for an approximate deployment cost of €56 billlion, 5G can be expected to generate benefits of €95.9 billion across automotive, healthcare, transport and utilities alone — per annum.

However further quantitive evidence is required for a vertical-orientated business case to be established, and it falls to the wireless industry to lead the way in kick starting this process.

Any eventual solution will need to account for not only what dynamics are at play in the verticals, but also expert input from the leaders in these vertical industries on how they will evolve in the coming decades. It’s therefore crucial that the other verticals that could benefit from 5G are stakeholders in the development of this technology, to ensure they can fully benefit.

As chair of the executive committee for Cambridge Wireless’s Future of Wireless International Conference, I believe this year’s conference will provide an important opportunity for the industry to come together and explore how wireless can impact these verticals. Not just the cost savings each vertical can enjoy, but the challenges 5G will need to overcome, the opportunities that exist and — crucially — the common themes that span across these vertical industries enabling platforms of scale.

The Future of Wireless International Conference 2016 will be held at The IET, Savoy Place, London on 21–22 June. More information and registration details can be found here:

MWC 2016 conclusions

Now the dust has settled from Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2016 and everyone has hopefully recovered, it’s a good time to look back on the big stories from the show this year. It’s easy to get caught up in the buzz of the show, but the big stories at MWC are a great indicator for where the wireless industry is focusing its attention.

So what caught the eye of Real Wireless’s experts this year?

As expected, 5G grabbed most of the headlines at the show, with Real Wireless CTO Simon Fletcher giving a number of presentations on the topic — including one that drew together our work on the EC’s 5G socioeconomic report, with the outcomes of last summer’s FWIC conference.

We found many vendors claiming to be 5G ready or compliant, essentially a marketing trick but an important one for those keen to demonstrate they are completely up to date with developments in 5G (or what they believe 5G is) in this fast-paced market.

Some particularly interesting demos included those that highlighted current developments in 5G, for example the 5GIC/University of Surrey 5G demo on the Cobham stand, demonstrating how a massive multi-antenna array can serve many connected IoT users within a cell. The demo could scale to show the impact of more simultaneous IoT users in a cell and what the required throughput would be to serve them. Another demo saw 1 Gbps LTE throughput based on the aggregation of five channels of 20 MHz, each supporting 2 x 2 MIMO streams and 256 QAM based on LTE Advanced.

These demonstrations are still examining the technology capabilities and more in-depth analysis would be required in future to determine the more practical impacts in these environments such as analysing the most appropriate propagation models and impact of clutter and terrain at frequencies above 24 GHz.

There are encouraging signs of nascent engagements with verticals, though not fully linked to 5G, with efforts being directed towards establishing common technology platforms. We highlighted before the show that the industry needs to play its part in liaising more closely with vertical industries to ensure 5G reaches its full potential. Regional administrations such as the European Commission were vocal on needing to see meaningful evidence of progress on this if they are to justify their level of investment to their citizens.

Has the industry demonstrated enough progress?

Our thoughts are that verticals have made a good start, but must do more to define what 5G will mean for them. After all, it’s the verticals themselves who are going to benefit most from 5G, so it makes senses for them to be involved as much as possible. Our job at Real Wireless is to bridge the gap between the technical and the business aspects, which is what we’ve been doing through numerous workshops with the European Commission.

LAA, LTE-U and MulteFire
LAA LTE, MulteFire and LTE-U featured prominently from a number of vendors — LTE in licence-exempt spectrum and LTE — Wi-Fi co-existence was the topic of much discussion throughout the week.

We were made aware of a trial in Nuremberg, Germany, which apparently attracted visits from many MNOs who are keen to see LAA LTE in action. We also saw some manufacturers starting to offer 3.5 — 3.7 GHz TDD Wi-Fi or LTE solutions, driven mainly by the 3.5 GHz band / Citizens Broadband Radio Service rules that the FCC adopted in April 2015.

The demonstrations we saw were mainly concerned with obtaining the best possible performance from these technologies, but this leaves many questions unanswered regarding how to ensure “fairness” when Wi-Fi remains the most densely deployed technology in the unlicensed bands.

Small cells
For yet another year, small cells have still not seen the levels of takeup analysts predicted, which could be a risk to vendors that are increasingly being pressured to demonstrate a return on investment.

That said we continue to see some genuinely interesting innovations in the sector, including CommScope (who acquired Airvana in 2015) re-using spectrum over multiple radios within the same cell, cells that offer four times more capacity than before, and IP Access’s innovative small cell infrastructure sharing approach. The Small Cell Forum also presented its annual update including a focus on the enterprise market, reflecting the trends we’ve seen over the last 6 months.

The missing trend
Ahead of the show we released a report on two of the biggest issues facing the industry this year; 5G and the IoT. Both are at very different stages of development but, as we explained, 2016 will be a pivotal year if either is to be a success — and the industry needs to make some big decisions if they are to reach their potential.

While 5G was clearly one of the strongest trends, the noise around IoT was not on a similar level. As we’ve seen with small cells, lots of noise around a topic at MWC does not necessarily translate in to real world development and maturity, so this is not necessarily a sign that the trend is in danger. However, it does raise questions over whether it has lost some of its steam in recent months. In the light of various proprietary and non-cellular approaches continuing to grow their deployment footprints; is the operator community really confident the NB-IoT solutions will come to market quickly enough, within the right regulatory environment, to create a competitive advantage?


Real Wireless managing consultant Oli Bosshard (left) and principal consultant Saul Friedner (right) at MWC 2016

Real Wireless plays crucial role on spectrum requirements for 5G in European Commission 5G report

At a workshop in Brussels this week, the final results of our eagerly-awaited study on the socioeconomic impact of 5G in Europe, were presented to the European Commission and interested stakeholders.

The in-depth report has been produced by experts and academics from across the industry, including Real Wireless, who spent the past year researching the impact 5G will have on vertical industry sectors — and quantifyingthe economic value of this. The study gathered inputs from industry stakeholder workshops and existing 5G projects to determine which verticals and environments to examine in the study. It was decided to focus on four specific verticals which included healthcare, transport, automotive and utilities and four environments including smart cities, non-urban areas, smart homes, and workplaces.

Enabling verticals to explore new avenues
For the reasons we outlined in our recent report, 5G is much more than a new “mobile industry” technology, offering different benefits to different industries, enabling better machine-to-machine (M2M) communications to improve the way businesses operate.

For healthcare, 5G will pave the way for true preventative care, connecting patients with doctors anywhere, anytime. For automotive and transport, 5G can facilitate real-time telematics data to improve the way drivers interact with their vehicles, support the implementation of driverless cars creating a new media hub for passengers and also enabling authorities to better shape and manage traffic on the roads. And for utilities, 5G can turn the vision of smart meters into a genuine mass-market reality, helping consumers and businesses save money and reduce emissions.

5G — creating 2.4 million jobs and delivering benefits of €50.6 billion+
This project was established by the European Commission to fill a major void in 5G research so far, forecasting the quantitative and qualitative impact that 5G will have on society and the economy.

Real Wireless has played a pivotal role in the production of the report, working specifically on how to overcome spectrum challenges when different use cases run concurrently on the same spectrum band:


We also were at the heart of both 5G information gathering workshops. Our business and technical expertise enabled us to bridge the gap between representatives of different verticals and those from the telecoms industry.

Forecasts in the report suggest that deployments of 5G will cost around €56 billion, creating around 2.4 million jobs. The investment will in turn deliver benefits of €95.9 billion per annum in 2025 across these four verticals — and €50.6 billion in benefits for the other four environments. Businesses will benefit from more than half (63%) of the benefits, with consumers and society receiving 37% of the benefits.

A crucial milestone in 5G development
Given the lack of significant research in to the socio-economic impact of 5G, and the important role a vertical-industry led business-case will play in any role, this report is a defining moment for the future of mobile connectivity.

The European Commission plans to publish the full report including all results in April 2016.