Huawei to commercialize '4.5G' technology in 2016, aims for speeds of 6 Gbps

While standards around what "5G" network technology is are being contemplated, Huawei is thinking ahead to an interim evolution, which it calls "4.5G" and plans to launch commercially in 2016. According to Huawei, such 4.5 G networks will support latency rates of around 10 milliseconds, peak downlink speeds of around 6 Gbps, and the ability to support 100,000 connections within a single square kilometer.  

Weimin (Source: Huawei)

A Huawei executive outlined the vendor's vision for 4.5G at the GSMA Mobile 360 Middle East event in Dubai on Tuesday. Ying Weimin, president of Huawei's wireless network research and development, detailed the company's plans, and said that 4.5G networks will enable the deployment of networks for smart cities, according to Mobile World Live. He said that for Huawei, 4.5G sits in between LTE Advanced deployments, which are ongoing in dozens of carrier networks now, and 5G, which many industry analysts and experts do not think will be commercially deployed until 2020.  

"4G enables users to freely connect with each other, enjoy superior mobile broadband experiences and download at high-speeds, anytime, anywhere," Ying said in a statement. "Over the next couple of years 4.5G technology will be deployed that will offer faster speeds, lower latency and better functionality than the best 4G technologies currently available. It will also open up new revenue streams for operators resulting in a healthier and more profitable mobile broadband business."

Huawei said 4.5G development starts by looking at 3GPP releases for LTE and LTE Advanced, and the company said 4.5G standardization forms a part of this and is expected to be completed in 3GPP releases 13 or 14.

In terms of practical comparisons to today's networks, while Huawei envisions latency rates of around 10 milliseconds, LTE latency rates in the U.S. range from 75 to 83.5 milliseconds, according to research from OpenSignal. Additionally, Category 6 LTE modems can support theoretical peak downlink rates of 300 Mbps, just 5 percent of the theoretical peak rate of 6 Gbps contemplated by Huawei for 4.5G.

Huawei indicated that 4.5G networks will present unique challenges in network design, and will require new techniques for air interface protocols, spectrum frequency and network architecture. The vendor said these include higher order MIMO, "massive" carrier aggregation, Semi Orthogonal Multiple Access (SOMA), shorter wireless scheduling time, the use of unlicensed spectrum as well as open and agile network cloud architecture to speed up the deployment of new services.

While Huawei is thinking through 4.5G, many other network vendors have opined about what 5G will entail. It's unclear how those visions will mesh or how much support Huawei will get for a 4.5G standard.

For instance, Hossein Moiin, CTO of Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Networks, recently said that with 5G the industry should shift from a network-centric view to a "user-centric network design" that builds 5G around use cases and what people will actually be doing via wireless networks. Moiin also says 5G will most likely have a new air interface that will be standardized.

Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) Research thinks 5G networks will require new radio channel models, in part because the likely use of millimeter-wave spectrum in 5G will be new and different. And massive MIMO, which will entail substantially larger antenna arrays, as well as narrow beam forming, which will be facilitated by short millimeter-wave wavelengths, are antenna techniques proposed for 5G that will require better channel model directional resolution.

Michael Peeters, wireless CTO at Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), warned last month that 5G should not become a technology dumping ground for the industry. He said wireless companies are throwing into 5G pretty much everything that was not included in earlier technology evolutions, with examples including massive MIMO, machine-to-machine 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.

For more:
- see this release
- see this Mobile World Live article

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