There are five Plug-Ins in total, covering a broad range of emerging radio technologies. They are software-driven and thus designed to be easily deployed, although the method varies from one to another. The thinking behind them is to give operators an early opportunity to implement some of the technologies expected to form the eventual 5G standard well in advance of the anticipated commencement of 5G subscriptions in 2020.
“We believe that to get to 5G operators will need to evolve both their network and their business,” said Joachim Bildt, Head of Product Marketing, Business Unit Radio at Ericsson, in an interview with Telecoms.com. “They will need to continue to invest in their current networks, with LTE expected to become the dominant cellular access technology in 2019 and downlink peak data speeds of 1Gbps are expected to be commercially available this year.
“In addition operators need to prepare their networks for new 5G use-cases by integrating key 5G technology concepts into today’s networks. Ericsson is launching 5G Plug-Ins to address this challenge. They are software-driven innovations supported by the Ericsson Radio System, specifically focused on capabilities that operators can leverage within their current network to facilitate the evolution to 5G.
“With 5G we’re moving from the network-focused concept of cells to the user-focused concept of beams. Today’s cellular network sends out energy in all directions while beams concentrate this energy, sending the signal more directly to the user.”
Here’s a diagram showing what each of the five plug-ins is called.
“The first one is the massive MIMO plugin, which improves both the capacity and coverage of the network,” said Bildt. “It’s a combination of single-user MIMO and beamforming. The second plugin takes that concept even further and is multi-user MIMO, which enhances user experience and reduces interference by transmitting data to multiple user devices using the same time and frequency resources.
“The third one is the RAN virtualization plug-in, which improves network efficiency and performance by enabling virtual network functions to be centralised on a common platform supporting both 4G and 5G. The fourth is the intelligent connectivity plug-in, which enables the network to robustly anchor and intelligently route data based on application requirements and resource availability. The fifth plug-in is latency reduction, which reduces time to content while enabling realtime communications for 5G applications such as drones. This is achieved by shortening access procedures to enable more frequent transmissions.”
In essence 5G needs to solve two challenges: an order of magnitude increase in performance and the support for the anticipated zillions of IoT devices expected to be wirelessly connected in future. The technical implications of these are immense and it will take a lot of time and money to implement. With this launch Ericsson is offering operators a first step in this network upgrade process, as well as an early opportunity to field-test some pre-5G technologies.