Cable industry aims to shape 5G as CableLabs joins innovation center at University of Surrey

The standards around next-generation mobile technologies – 2G, 3G, 4G – typically were driven by mobile operators and their vendor partners. CableLabs is aiming to change that, however, with the next iteration, namely 5G technology.

The non-profit R&D and innovation lab, which conducts research for cable TV company members around the world, announced this week that it has joined the United Kingdom's 5G Innovation Centre co-located at the University of Surrey. CableLabs also is an industry affiliate with NYU Wireless, which has done significant research in the high-band millimeter wave technology, but Pete Smyth, vice president, Core Innovation at CableLabs, said the two institutions are complementary. "That's why we joined both," he told FierceWirelessTech.

In particular, the University of Surrey is concentrated on the air interface below 6 GHz. The 5G Innovation Centre formally opened last fall with support from partners that included Huawei, EE, Telefonica, Samsung, Vodafone and more. It houses 170 researchers and at its heart is a state-of-the-art testbed for conducting trials for emerging 5G ideas. The initiative set ambitious goals for its research, such as making 5G 50 times faster than 4G, and setting its capacity per square meter to 1,000 times greater than that of 4G. 

According to Smyth, this might even be the time when fixed-mobile convergence lives up to its earlier hype with the advent of 5G. "It's really bringing about fixed mobile convergence," he said. "I know that we've talked about fixed mobile convergence for probably the last 20 or 30 years or so, but now we actually have a new standard that I think is implicitly driving the agenda of the fixed mobile convergence at a network level."

The only way to bring about some of the low latency that's being talked about is to bring all the services onto one network so that it's not making protocol changes every time, switching between fixed and mobile. After all, every time you make a protocol change, it adds to the latency.

Smyth pointed out that one of the most intriguing aspects of the 5G goals is the target of one millisecond of latency for real time network control. "This alone would have profound implications for the way that networks are designed and where the content resides," he wrote in a blog post. "After all, there is no getting around the speed of light. New applications and services will be found for ultra-low latency such as augmented reality with haptic feedback in real time, network control of robots and driverless cars."

Smyth argued that at the heart of 5G is content. Current IP protocols are rapidly becoming obsolete since they were designed for a world where communications were point-to-point oriented. Today, the internet focuses on the distribution and storage of content.

To achieve 1 ms latency and to improve the associated quality of experience (QoS), 5G networks will proactively move content closer to the user based on predictive algorithms, he said.

"Already the 5G IC has shown success rates of 95 percent in this approach," Smyth said. "Associated with this is a movement away from IP to perhaps information-centric networking (ICN). This is an approach to evolve the internet infrastructure away from a host-centric paradigm based on perpetual connectivity and end-to-end communications to a network architecture in which the focal point is 'named information' (or content or data). These ideas will be at the heart of all networks in the next five to 15 years. All of these are very active areas of research at 5G IC and CableLabs."

As part of its 5G IC membership, CableLabs will sponsor a PhD student "while gaining access to the whole output of the centre," Smyth said. The company has already identified several areas of interest to cable system operators for the PhD student, such as the use of shared spectrum in both licensed and unlicensed bands or software-defined networks for 5G cores.

For more:
- see this CableLabs blog

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