Alcatel-Lucent: 5GNOW to move past OFDM in 5G as a way to encourage IoT

Alcatel-Lucent said the 5GNOW technology group has completed its work on developing new approaches to the physical and medium access layers of wireless networks with the goal of making IoT communications in a 5G world more efficient.

Alcatel-Lucent said its 5GNOW project, which was initiated in 2012, completed its work this month and "delivered a big step toward achieving 5G networks." The company said the group received a scientific excellence honor from the European Commission and will present its findings during the 3GPP 5G workshop in September. Alcatel-Lucent said it expects the group's work to be implemented and expanded through the Fantastic-5G project, which was announced last month to develop a new air interface below 6 GHz for 5G networks.

"Our plan for 5G is to enhance the network in a converged way that will allow service providers to maintain the quality users expect, deliver the capacity they demand, and provide the ability to support new applications and services, such as IoT and M2M type," said Tod Sizer, head of wireless research at Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs, in a release.

The 5GNOW group, an initiative among companies, universities and research institutes including Fraunhofer HHI, IS-Wireless, National Instruments and TU Dresden, said that its work focused on creating new approaches to wireless transmissions that it said can better handle Internet of Things (IoT) transmissions.

Specifically, 5GNOW said that current wireless network technologies like LTE and LTE-Advanced, which are based on orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) waveforms, are not ideally designed for 5G scenarios. Whereas today's wireless networks are primarily designed for smartphones pulling down large amounts of video, the 5G networks of the future will have to handle both large video transmissions as well as short bursts of data to huge numbers of machines and other connected devices. As a result, the group is proposing a change to the "strict synchronism and orthogonality" of OFDM that would allow more communications among more devices with less stress on the network.

"The core of this paradigm is the introduction of new non-orthogonal waveforms that carry the data on the physical layer," 5GNOW wrote in a recent paper. "The idea is to abandon synchronism and orthogonality altogether, thereby admitting some crosstalk or interference, and control these impairments by a suitable transceiver structure and transmission technique. Several waveform approaches such as UFMC, FBMC, and GFDM -- all of them with disruptive advantages over OFDM -- are presented and put in exemplary scenarios such as service differentiation, spectrum agility, CoMP, and real-time transmission. For these scenarios we have clearly outlined the benefits of non-orthogonal asynchronous waveforms over conventional OFDM modulation."

To be clear, the group noted that its work is still very much in the early stages, and a wide range of obstacles must be overcome to commercialize its approach.

For more:
- see this Alcatel-Lucent release
- see these two research papers

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