5G will require full convergence between licensed, unlicensed tech: report


A new report published by the Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA), in partnership with Maravedis-Rethink, makes no mistake about it: 5G will require unlicensed technologies working in conjunction with licensed networks to enable the kinds of services that are envisioned.

“There is increasingly consensus around certain elements of the 5G framework, even if the precise standards are not yet specified, and many of these will be evolutions from current work on the licensed and unlicensed sides of the wireless fence,” the report states. “The licensed and unlicensed spectrum worlds will make significant contributions to the broad architecture that 5G must be, if it is to achieve its goals and not be merely a faster, more efficient version of what has gone before.”

The WBA—whose members read like a who’s who in the licensed and unlicensed industries, including AT&T, Boingo Wireless, Comcast, Sprint, T-Mobile, Google, Cisco and Microsoft, but no Verizon—conducts an industrywide survey each year and puts its findings into a report to update the industry. This year’s report focuses on next-generation Wi-Fi, the need for convergence and coexistence between licensed and unlicensed technologies, as well as connected cities and city services.

It’s worth noting that the report also says operators remain a key partner for cities, compared to infrastructure vendors or systems integrators, and a smart city is not associated with a single technology or type of infrastructure. A combination of technologies—sensors, optical networking, location-based services and more—that fall under the Internet of Things (IoT) computing paradigm will be involved.

As for that convergence, the report indicates the work IEEE has been doing will, indeed, play a bigger role in how 5G networks evolve. “In 5G, it is widely assumed that the IEEE standards will take an even more integrated role in the new networks, and it has multiple standards, defined or in the works, which will address the various use cases defined for 5G by the NGMN Alliance and others (802.11ah for low power wide area, 802.11ac and 11ax for high speeds and density, 802.11ad and 11ay for high frequency spectrum, and so on),” the report states.

Indeed, the report notes that at an IEEE 802.11 plenary meeting in November 2015, Cisco’s Andrew Myles, manager of wireless and security standards, put the question of whether 802.11 should be submitted to the ITU as a candidate to be an IMT-2020 standard. “Whether that happens or not, the 802.11 community will make very valuable contributions to what becomes 5G, in the commercial sense,” wrote the report’s authors, Caroline Gabriel and Adlane Fellah of Maravedis-Rethink.

RELATED: IEEE wants to collaborate with 3GPP on 5G

The IEEE 802 LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802) recently expressed its desire to collaborate with the 3GPP toward support of IMT-2020 and next-generation networks.

IEEE 802 LMSC Chairman Paul Nikolich sent a letter to 3GPP PCG Chair Zhiqin Wang last month with a detailed proposal on how the two groups could work together. “We propose some collaborative approaches and request the 3GPP Project Coordination Group (PCG) to suggest further details consistent with its goals and operating procedures,” the letter stated (PDF). IEEE suggests the two begin collaboration by developing a common understanding of the role of interworking with IEEE 802 networks in meeting the IMT-2020 requirements.