5G should not be a technology dumping ground, says Alcatel-Lucent exec

LAS VEGAS--Michael Peeters, wireless CTO at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), is getting frustrated with the industry's approach to 5G, which he contends is getting everything but the kitchen sink dumped into it.

Michael Peeters Alcatel-Lucent


In a keynote address at the Towers & Small Cell Summit, part of CTIA's Super Mobility Week, Peeters said companies are throwing into 5G pretty much everything that was not included in earlier technology evolutions, with examples including massive MIMO, machine-to-machine (M2M) and millimeter-wave technologies. Further, he noted some companies are arguing that intellectual property and assets that they possess should be considered 5G components even though 5G has not even been defined.

"This is ridiculous," Peeters said.

5G will not be about more capacity or bandwidth, he continued. Instead, 5G's key feature is that it will be "invisible" to both end users as well as operators, which will find 5G is "non-disruptive," Peeters said. He added that next-generation network architecture also must be federated and open.

Peeters said the path to 5G will include a stopover into what he termed "4.5 G," the first step of which involves deploying small cells for network densification, which can enable a 50 percent reduction in total cost of ownership (TCO) within congested areas. He noted widespread deployment of small cells over existing networks will mean that many carriers will not need to deploy 5G for capacity gains until 2022-2023.

According to Peeters, operators that employ network functions virtualization (NFV) to move functionality into the cloud will become more nimble, and end users will remain blissfully unaware of constant changes to the network that are enabled by NFV and software-defined networking (SDN).

He noted that a virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) for M2M can reduce TCO to 35 percent less than traditional EPCs. Further, a virtualized radio access network (vRAN) can produce TCO savings of 40 percent, Peeters said.

Operators are already moving to "federate everything," Peeters said. For example, some are using carrier aggregation to federate spectrum. Another step toward federation is dual connectivity, wherein a user device connects simultaneously to at least two different network points, such as a macro cell and a small cell. This is currently being standardized in 3GPP.

In addition, Peeters said new approaches to enable the use of LTE in unlicensed bands traditionally used by Wi-Fi will provide a 30 percent capacity gain.

The Alcatel-Lucent executive also issued a call for operators to open their networks in numerous ways. For example, he said they should aim to speed innovation by installing interoperable network equipment rather than getting locked into proprietary solutions.

He also told operators that when it comes to working with third-party providers, they should not stop at opening their network interfaces. Instead, carriers should consider exposing their data--such as information regarding a user's location--to third parties as well. This will enable new business models and enable better segmentation of end users and provide more opportunities in terms of business models, Peeters said.  

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