4G & Wi-Fi – Joined Up Thinking, and then 5G….
The demand for high bandwidth services from end users and the availability of Wi-Fi on most mobile devices has compelled operators to address consumer expectations around quality and user experience while creating new opportunities for the industry. Along with the 4G network roll-out, the 4G/Small cell combination will continue to provide a scalable and cost effective solution. It offers long term benefits, with the present offload platforms supporting future network infrastructures, and is now a priority for many operators. Last week, AT&T announced its plan to combine 3G, 4G LTE and Wi-Fi access in its radio access small cells and deploy over 40,000 base stations by 2015. AT&T also announced that they will be using early small cells to bolster in-building coverage, suggesting the importance of indoor coverage. Operators including AT&T need not only to deploy offload solutions, but to integrate those solutions with other monetisation opportunities such as offering location based services (indoor and outdoor), to generate additional revenues. While vendors continue to collaborate and address some of the remaining Wi-Fi/Small Cell challenges and issues, Samsung announced last week that it has developed some transceiver technology that can deliver 5G speeds in the 28 GHz frequency at 1.06 Gbps for a distance of two kilometres. Samsung expects to commercialise the technology by 2020. Considering the current stages of research and the rapid development of the market itself (also taking into account the logical evolution towards 4G-LTE Advanced), 2020 is a reasonable prediction for the finalisation of 5G standards and rollout. However, 4G LTE is still not capable of providing its peak theoretical capacity. Keeping this in mind, the next generation 5G technology will not be just about achieving those peak capacity or data rates; it needs better and efficient use of the spectrum.