One of the basic requirements for networked, self-driving cars might be achieved earlier than expected: Rajeev Suri, CEO of the Finnish telecommunications group Nokia stated at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona at the end of February that the first products for the ultra-fast 5G, successor to LTE, will be available in 2017. Official estimates had previously always mentioned 2020 as the probable date.
“2020 is probably when we’ll see global volume deployments, but we’ll probably start to see a lot of action, in an evolutionary way, ahead of 2020 – 2017, 2018, 2019,” said Suri, who was announcing investment in 5G technology for his company this year. According to Suri, everyone in the mobile phone industry is pulling together in a way not seen for earlier launches of new standards: “I’ve seen almost none of the organizational angst and infighting that have characterized earlier deals.”
Ultra-fast speeds and extremely low latency
Suri explained that both customers and suppliers already know more details of the demands placed on the new network than was the case during the development of its predecessors, 3G and 4G. Higher speeds are necessary due to increasing video and virtual reality offers among other things, noted Suri. For example, he continued, there was a need for extremely low latency (delays) due to communication from vehicle to vehicle for driverless cars and the need to connect thousands of devices to one radio cell.
Data speeds for 5G are up to 10 GBit/s which is 100 times faster than today’s LTE networks, meaning that it would only take around 3.6 seconds to download a bulging DVD. 10,000 subscribers can use one radio cell with 5G. Currently the number is only 200. Latency (delays) can be reduced to 1 millisecond. Delays of 25 to 50 milliseconds are usual nowadays. Previous figures meant that response times were too long for driverless cars and robots in the operating theatre.
The next Generation of mobile phone networks will be defined by the end of this year “in real terms”, Suri announced in Barcelona. He was presenting Nokia’s new telecommunications system, AirScale Radio Access. Among other things, it comprises a cloud-based Radio Access Network (RAN) designed for open interfaces. Airscale should therefore be able to support every existing mobile phone technology (2G, 3G, TDD-LTE, FDD-LTE, LTE Advanced, LTE Advanced Pro, 5G) within a single base station – and do so simultaneously.
Nokia became the world’s largest network equipment provider in January 2016 with the takeover of the network and telecommunications group Alcatel-Lucent. Over 40,000 researchers and scientists work for the company. They are working on equipment which can be upgraded to 5G and sold from 2017, explained Rajeev Suri.