5G, Edge and Non-Terrestrial Networks: Highlights from the Brooklyn 5G Summit

by Nadine Jenkins

Blu Wireless recently exhibited at the Brooklyn 5G Summit in New York – a summit that brought together leaders from across the industry, facilitating open and candid discussions about the state of the industry and where it is headed. Attending for the third time, we ran a Point-to-Point demonstration using our latest 5G mmWave equipment, showcasing the maturity, robustness and reliability of our technology. This was very well received amongst stand visitors and sparked interesting conversations about the role of mmWave technology in the global deployment of 5G networks.

Summit attendees from industry and academia alike agreed that 2019 is going to be a big year for 5G. In panel discussions and keynotes, they shared valuable insights on crucial economic and spectral factors, as well as learnings from the deployment of 5G networks and promising use cases for 5G.

5G and IoT

5G will enable connectivity between any device anywhere – from wearables and smartphone devices with enhanced capabilities to industrial robots and unmanned vehicles. With no one standard, no one type of equipment, and no one spectrum involved, 5G’s applications and reach are limitless. This connectivity transformation is going to be highly dependent on the effective application of IoT. 5G goes far beyond users being able to access the Internet. Local authorities will be able to monitor traffic congestion remotely via sensors, receiving real-time updates on traffic flow. Rail passengers will be able to use reliable high-speed internet connection while travelling at up to 140mph on board, boosting productivity and transforming previously unconnected commuting time into the opportunity of managing personal and work related tasks without disruption.

5G and the Edge

Data processing was another big focus at the event. In order for 5G to function effectively, low latency when processing high data rates quickly and efficiently is a crucial requirement. One example application that benefits from edge computing is voice recognition. Currently smart phones and voice assistant devices do not have the necessary resources to process the data within the device itself, which means data is sent to the cloud for processing. As well as providing the processing requirements close to the source, edge computing has the additional benefit of security given it removes the requirement for voice data to move across the network. A core technique that we use at Blu Wireless to enable smart city 5G networks is placing nodes on street furniture in this way to provide far more rapid, multi-gigabit connectivity. The less distance the data has to travel, the faster the connectivity for a variety of IoT-powered 5G applications.

5G and Non-Terrestrial Networks

One of the highlights was a thought-provoking presentation from the CTO of Google Loon, Sal Candido, about non-terrestrial networks and high-altitude pseudo-satellites (HAPS). Loon provides internet access to rural and remote areas using high-altitude balloons within the stratosphere which create an aerial wireless network.

Non-terrestrial networks will expand coverage to currently unconnected/under-connected global locations and be capable of providing fast interim coverage following natural disasters. This session was of particular interest as Blu Wireless are also involved in a HAPS project, developing technology for non-terrestrial networks by providing the mmWave baseband processing solution for solar-powered unmanned drones delivering aerial wireless networks.

Google Loon have confirmed Telkom Kenya as their first commercial signing. Their HAPS are particularly relevant for deployment in the Global South, as backwards compatibility is less of an issue in these regions. In densely populated areas such as the USA, UK and Europe, where widespread 3G and 4G networks precede the 5G network, backwards compatibility requirements for 5G implementations can complicate the process of developing new technology. This means that non-terrestrial 5G networks will likely be deployed more rapidly across rural regions than in-land 5G networks in more urbanised areas.

5G and 3GPP

This year’s event was more heavily weighted towards the licensed spectrum. There was much discussion over the 3GPP standard, whereas the unlicensed spectrum has typically had more attention given to it in previous years, including from the University of Stanford. What is clear from discussions about the 3GPP licensed band is that, though it can operate in mmWave frequencies of 28-39Gbit, the unlicensed spectrum Blu Wireless are using enables cost-effective connectivity for optimal coverage, enhanced capacity, and the high level of performance required by 5G applications. It was made clear in the panel discussions that a comprehensive spectrum strategy is essential to enable the evolution to the promise of a rich 5G experience – including the use of both licensed and unlicensed spectrum.

As in previous years, this was a very well-run event with many interesting and insightful industry leaders attending, fostering open discussion around the latest developments in 5G. We’re looking forward to attending next year.

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