<Editor's Pick> In the second year of 5G commercialization, is 5.5G coming too?

The year 2020 is the second year of 5G commercialization and a key year for 5G construction of scale. To date, more than 60 operators around the world have deployed commercial 5G networks and more than 320 operators are investing in 5G. By 2023, the number of 5G connections worldwide is expected to exceed one billion, a full two years faster than the same number of connections obtained in the 4G era. By 2025, the number of 5G connections worldwide is expected to reach 2.8 billion.

A number of cell phone chip suppliers, such as Qualcomm, already offered a variety of 5G solutions, and almost all major cell phone manufacturers have already started selling 5G phone models.

These data and information tell us that 5G is getting closer and closer to mankind.

Do you still have the shallow impression that 5G is faster than 4G? In fact, the 5G era means more than just a spurt in traffic. 5G technology has three features that are unmatched by 4G including "large bandwidth, wide connectivity, and low latency". With the penetration of fifth-generation communication technology into all walks of life, 5G is set to bring a disruptive change to the economy and society.

For the general public, 5G is just starting to make sense, and 5.5G is coming.


Huawei proposed the concept of 5.5G

On November 13, at Huawei Global Mobile Broadband Forum 2020, Wang Tao, Huawei's Managing Director and Director of the Product Investment Review Committee, presented his vision for 5.5G, which has attracted widespread attention in the industry.

What exactly is 5.5G?

Wang Tao pointed out that 5.5G is the industry vision, the enhancement, and expansion of the 5G scene.

The enhancements target the three standard scenarios defined by ITU, namely eMBB (high speed), mMTC (wide connectivity), and URLLC (low latency). REDCAP was introduced to increase the number of terminal types and meet the diverse terminal requirements of broadband IOT in mMTC scenarios. Adding reliability-based latency enables URLLC scenarios to meet the connectivity needs of smart manufacturing, such as remote motion control requirements.

The expansion responds to the growing demand for new applications, and the three major scenarios defined by 5G can no longer support the need for more diverse IoT scenarios. For example, there are scenarios that require both massive connections and huge uplink bandwidth. There are scenarios that require both communication and sensing capabilities. As a result, 5.5G expands on 5G with three new scenarios, including UCBC, RTBC, and HCS.

The core of the 5.5G vision is to turn the triangle that defines the 5G scene into a 5.5G hexagon, from supporting the Internet of Everything to empowering the Intelligent Connectivity of Everything.


Why is 5.5G being proposed when 5G is not yet widely available?

Wang Tao said that by 2020, there will be 800,000 base stations completed worldwide, more than 110 commercial 5G networks worldwide, and the number of users approaching 200 million. More than 60% of smartphone shipments are 5G phones. The number of 5G users worldwide is approaching 200 million, compared to 320,000 and 400,000 in the 3G and 4G era, respectively.

However, Wang Tao also pointed out that there are still some challenges for 5G applications.

First, in terms of real-time interaction, the current 5G VR/AR achieves the basic interaction between people and the virtual world, but in the future of XR Pro, holographic needs immersive experience. The requirements for cellular communications will be even higher, with average access rates increasing from 120Mbps at 4K today to 2Gbps at 16K in the future, and interaction latency will be further reduced. The current latency of about 20ms has been further reduced to about 5ms, which places further evolutionary demands on 5G.

Second, the scale of connection is not enough.  "Towards 2030, cellular networks will need to carry hundreds of billions of connections, the vast majority of which will be carried by 5G. So far, cellular networks have carried only 1.3 billion IoTs. 5G needs to continue to evolve to meet the need for more diverse and complex full-field IoTs," said Wang Tao.

In addition, Wang Tao also mentioned that there are many shortcomings in 5G connectivity for industry scenarios, such as the lack of precise positioning capability, and large uplink bandwidth is also a weakness.

Wang Tao believes that 5G will be the most mainstream technology for mobile communications in the next decade to 2030, considering that the technology itself has a lag. Many of the 5G technologies will continue to serve until 2040. In the next ten to twenty years, we must continue to improve on the capabilities of this generation of technologies, expand application scenarios, and give 5G a strong life force.

Thus, Huawei's 5.5G concept is an evolution of 5G scenario applications before the advent of the 6G era.


What has changed from 5G to 5.5G?

Under the 5.5G vision, new scenario capabilities will create new value for social development and industry upgrades.

1. UCBC uplink ultra-broadband will accelerate the intelligent upgrade of many industries

UCBC scenario supports uplink ultra-broadband experience and realizes 10 times increase of uplink bandwidth capacity in 5G capacity baseline. At the same time, it can also meet the uploading needs of machine vision and mass broadband IoT in the scenes of enterprise production and manufacturing, accelerating the intelligent upgrade of many industries. UCBC can also significantly improve the user experience of deep indoor coverage of the cell phone by multi-frequency uplink aggregation and massive MIMO technology, which can significantly improve the uplink capacity and deep coverage of the user experience.

2. RTBC broadband real-time interaction to create an immersive experience.

RTBC scenarios support high bandwidth and low interaction latency, with a capacity target of 10x bandwidth increase for a given latency. The technology can be used to create immersive experiences when people interact with virtual worlds, such as XR Pro and holographic applications. The ability to rapidly expand pipeline capabilities via generalized carriers and E2E's cross-layer XR experience assurance mechanism effectively provides the ability to interact in real-time with large bandwidths.

3. HCS converges sensory communication to support the development of automatic driving.

HCS mainly enables the two major scenarios of Internet of Vehicle and drones. Supporting automatic driving is a key requirement. Both of these scenarios suggest that wireless cellular networks should provide both communication and sensing capabilities. By applying the beam-scanning technology of Massive MIMO for cellular networks to the sensing domain, it is possible to provide both communication and sensing in HCS scenarios. If extended to indoor scenes, location-based services are also available.

In addition, Wang Tao also said that 5.5G needs to use more spectrum in the Sub100GHzDifferent types of the spectrum have different characteristics, such as FDD symmetric spectrum with low latency, TDD spectrum with large bandwidth, and millimeter-wave with very large bandwidth and low latency.

How to make full use of the advantages of each frequency band is the key direction for the future. We expect to decouple all frequency bands from upstream and downstream, converge all frequency bands on demand, reconstruct Sub100GHz spectrum usage patterns, and maximize spectrum value.

The number of frequency bands, terminal types, service types, and customer types of operators in the 5G era will be much higher than those of any previous standard. To simplify, 5.5G needs to be fully integrated with AI.


How far is it from 5G to 5.5G?

The deployment of China's 5G network has accelerated over the past year. In particular, with the policy of new infrastructure, China's 5G construction is on the fast track. According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of the end of September this year, the cumulative construction of 5G base stations in China had reached 690,000. The cumulative number of terminal connections has exceeded 160 million.

4G changes life and 5G changes society. In the era of 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G, China's telecommunications industry played more of a follower's role. Now with the 5G construction wave, Chinese communication and technology companies are taking the initiative into their own hands, and are leading the world in terms of technology and scale.

It is in this context that 5.5G is proposed, which will not only represent a new concept of communication technology but will become the infrastructure for building an intelligent age that will be relevant to all of us.

"5.5G is a concept that can be called 5.6G, 5.8G, or 5G+. It requires all parties in our industry to continue working under the framework of 3GPP standards and all upstream and downstream of the industry chains to continue to work around the continuous enhancement of 5G capabilities and the continuous expansion of 5G applications. At the same time, there is a need for more in-depth collaboration between 5G and various industries outside of mobile communications to incubate more application scenarios and enable the construction of the digital economy for the whole society.” Wang Tao said.

This is an article from WeChat official accounts LeiPhone(ID: leiphone-sz), written by Li Jingying, translated by Linda Yang.