April 17, 2019

5G NR: New Radio Options Empowering Digital Service Innovation

5G new radio connectivity will empower some of the more exciting 5G use cases that are being discussed, such as industrial automation, immersive AR and VR and more.

5G new radio (NR) is the new air interface that is being developed specifically for fifth-generation wireless communications. It has been built from the ground up to enable a raft of new service types and radio configurations while supporting existing technologies currently running over LTE. 5G NR is designed to boost the performance, scalability and flexibility of current mobile networks, and to maximize spectral efficiency across licensed, shared and even unlicensed spectrum. 5G will for the first time also use some of the higher bandwidth spectrum in the millimeter wave bands and new radio models, such as beamforming, to produce a more dynamic and controllable radio environment.

Statistics for the new radio capabilities show that 5G outguns LTE in all respects, but why do we need all that power? From a consumer perspective, LTE provides all of the bandwidth and availability required to run their digital lives from their wireless devices. For the first time in mobile technology refresh cycles, the answer lies beyond the smartphone. But what are the 5G NR developments and what new service innovations will it enable?

Ultra-Reliable and Low-Latency Communications

Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC) is a facet of 5G NR that enables latency-sensitive applications, like autonomous vehicles, industrial automation and remote surgery and upgrades more traditional communications services like high-definition video calling. The reliability factor means these applications demand extremely low error rates (lower than 1 in 10⁵ packet loss).

The service innovation potential from the introduction of these 5G NR characteristics is vast, with early use cases such as remote industrial maintenance via augmented reality, self-driving city buses and various flavors of drones, such as parcel delivery, emergency service scouts and even sea rescue.

Massive Machine-Type Communications

The headline enterprise story for 5G NR is “massive IoT” or massive machine-type communications (mMTC), which enables the proliferation of low-cost, low-energy, narrow-bandwidth and mass-scale devices that will constitute the “smart city” and industrial internet of things (IIoT) infrastructure. There are currently several proposed standards frameworks on how this should be done, but 5G NR will make it possible to bring IoT devices onto the cellular networks without investing separately in alternate (and interfering, in some cases) technology.

5G NR increases the possible density of IoT endpoints per cell site, and dynamically tunes the radio spectrum and network resource allocation in use to avoid traffic congestion. Node density and the cost of deploying non-cellular infrastructure would have been one of the largest inhibitors to the growth of Industry 4.0. But mMTC under a 5G NR model would move IoT and existing LTE-style communications into the same operational frameworks, boosting the return on investment for 5G.

Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)

Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) will enable data-thirsty applications that we simply haven’t seen yet in a mobile context, with data rates of up to 10 Gbps, delivered over a mix of low- and high-frequency bands. It will also enable a seamless user experience with quality-of-service levels that have been previously unreachable. eMBB will catalyze applications like 360-degree HD video streaming and immersive augmented reality and super low-latency use cases such as tactile internet and virtual reality.

The pervasive nature of 5G NR networks will also mean that constant user experience can be provided and the need for switching to offload options, such as public Wi-Fi, will be significantly lessened. Under 5G NR, connection density can be significantly raised to around one million connections per square kilometer so public events with thousands of people can easily be supported.

Aligning 5G NR With Digital Service Operations

The new radio options will, for the first time, mirror the SDN-style nature of modern service operations in fixed networks, so the wireless portion of connectivity can be dynamic, programmable, flexible and easily scaled. The huge boost in bandwidth and low-latency characteristics also mirror the power of NFV in the way that capacity overhead becomes much less of a challenge. Ultimately, 5G NR greatly widens prospective new revenue sources for service providers, rather than forcing them to continue the quest for new smartphone subscribers.

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