Ericsson officials want to begin to ease the eventual migration to 5G networking even though standards for the next-generation broadband technology aren't expected until 2020.
The company on June 16 introduced its 5G Plug-Ins, which are software that officials say are designed to bring 5G technology concepts—such as Massive MIMO (multiple input/multiple output), which combines single-user MIMO and beamforming antenna technology with steerable ports, RAN virtualization for improved network efficiency and performance, and intelligent connectivity—to current LTE networks.
With 5G will come new use cases that will demand higher performance, from connected cars to augmented reality (AR), Arun Bansal, senior vice president and head of Ericsson's Radio business unit, said in a statement.
"5G will unlock new consumer and industrial applications, and with our 5G field trial plans already well underway, we are now introducing Ericsson 5G Plug-Ins, which enable the evolutionary steps that operators need to take as they develop networks to secure their 5G future," Bansal said.
Even though subscriptions to 5G aren't expected to take off until 2020, when the standards are scheduled to be set, there is a lot of effort being made now to lay the groundwork for the technology. When completed, 5G wireless systems are expected to deliver speeds that are 10 to 100 times faster than the average 4G LTE connections of today, according to officials with AT&T. Speeds will be measured in gigabits per second, rather than in megabits per second, meaning at 1 gigabit per second a user could download a TV show in less than 3 seconds.
This will have significant implications on a broad array of use cases, from the Internet of things (IoT) and autonomous cars to remote-controlled robots, drones and fixed wireless access. Analysts with ABI Research said in a report in April that mobile broadband operators worldwide in 2025 will see 5G revenues of $247 billion, with the rollout of the 5G networks growing quickly after the standards are set in 2020.
"5G will be a fast growing cellular technology, most probably faster than preceding generations including 4G," Joe Hoffman, managing director and vice president at ABI, said in a statement. "The technology migration over the next few years will mean the continued decline of 2G. 3G and 4G will grow in many markets, but 5G will generate new use cases and market revenues."
Ericsson has been active in 5G development, from participating in field trials with carriers like AT&T and Verizon to partnerships with such tech vendors as Intel and Cisco Systems. Ericsson officials said they expect LTE will continue to expand over the next several years as the IoT grows and end users demand better performance for data and video applications from their networks. By the end of 2021, LTE will have 4.3 billion subscriptions, they said.
However, development of 5G will happen in parallel and will include the growth of new global technologies in higher frequencies, which will have shorter transmission ranges than current cellular networks and will see performance and reliability impacted by such challenges as weather and foliage. The success of 5G will go beyond leveraging new spectrum bands and will include combining LTE with new radio access technologies. That is where Ericsson's 5G Plug-Ins will help, company officials said.
The Plug-Ins are supported by Ericsson's Radio System and are designed to let operators use them within current networks to help their migration to 5G. They include not only massive MIMO, RAN virtualization and intelligent connectivity, but also multiuser MIMO for transmitting data to multiple user devices and for improved capacity and coverage, and latency reduction for enabling real-time communications for such 5G applications as smart cars.
Ericsson's 5G Plug-Ins will be available to operators for trials starting this year, with availability to commercial networks beginning in 2017.