5G networks should give perception of 'infinite capacity,' say researchers

LONDON--Fifth-generation (5G) mobile networks must give users the impression that there are no limits on capacity, Dr Mehrdad Shariat, research fellow at the University of Surrey's 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) told the Transport Networks for Mobile Operators trade conference here on Wednesday.

Shariat said future mobile networks must "always offer a sufficient data rate to give users the perception of infinite capacity," during a presentation exploring the use of wireless mesh as a backhaul technology for '5G'.

The 5GIC is part of the University's Centre for Communications Systems Research, and is currently working to define what 5G technology will be, and associated standards. It is funded through a mix of government and industry cash, counting companies including Huawei, Samsung, Telefónica, and Vodafone among its backers.

Shariat explained that increasing network density "seems to be the way forward" in terms of meeting the 'infinite capacity' goal, with small cell deployments a key way to match consumers' growing demand for data. Shariat said backhaul "plays a very important role" in meeting an exponential increase in demand for data capacity, and that mesh networks are a viable option as the backhaul technology.

"Mesh networks can be tailor-made for small cell deployments, relax line of sight constraints, and provide path diversity and resiliency," Shariat said.

The university is focusing on developing millimetre wave (mmWave) mesh networks, Shariat explained, noting there are many unlicensed spectrum bands available on which to operate the network.

One key problem, however, is that path loss increases in higher mmWave frequency bands. Shariat said the answer is directional transmission, which can be achieved by deploying more high-frequency antennas.

Key challenges of the directional antenna approach being tackled by the University include interaction between several network layers, achieving efficient operation close to the boundary of the capacity region, ensuring traffic stability, and honouring quality of service agreements.

Shariat said the research has shown that "direct mmWave backhaul has a lot of potential," and narrowed the University's focus on "radio resource management."

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