In a blog for Mobile World Live last month, I highlighted the importance of 5G-Advanced for the mobile ecosystem over the next few years and what I can expect from MWC23 Barcelona, specifically the 5G Futures Summit and its To Infinity and Beyond experienced hoped In addition, with 5G-Advanced session.
Now that the session had just ended, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what we actually learned.
But first a summary of my message from the last blog.
While we just hit the first billion 5G connections in late 2022, we know that 5G-Advanced will be a key industry focus in 2023 given the confluence of multiple dynamics: 5G-Advanced standards will be frozen later this year, demand after network technology upgrades on the way to 6G and the potential of 5G-Advanced to represent a network disruption that vendors and operators want to drive.
With that in mind, we had high hopes for what the MWC23 would teach us. With that in mind, what were my top five takeaways from the session?
5G Advanced and 5G Evolution. It may be tempting to view 6G as a long-term goal for cellular networks with 5G-Advanced as a stopover along the way. However, the speakers at the session wanted to position 5G-Advanced as an integral part of the 5G evolution. You’ve seen this in Orange’s nod to Non-Standalone (NSA) and Standalone (SA) launches, with 5G-Advanced being a natural extension, along with Qualcomm’s positioning of 5G Advanced on the road to 6G. In summary, one observation by Huawei was that “as 5G matures, new trends emerge”. While obvious at first glance, it’s another reminder that 5G-Advanced is more than just a new technology, it’s part of the 5G story that many operators have already embraced and is central to its implementation of the broader 5G promise. Services, trends and experiences. When GSMA Intelligence approached operators in 2022 to understand how they felt about their networks, user experience emerged as the top strategic priority, with service reliability expectations being the key customer requirement shaping their network planning. So it wasn’t particularly surprising that much of the 5G Advanced discussion featured experience as a factor. Apart from the title of Orange’s presentation (5G Advanced Experience) or a reference from Huawei to “multidimensional and deterministic services”, Zain captured the connection best. With 5G-Advanced enabling new AI use cases, the Saudi operator argued that a world of new experiences could be unleashed. Regardless of what those experiences are, another argument was to view 5G-Advanced not just as a set of technologies, but to see it as a tool to deliver end-user value. AI in focus. Regardless of what we hope to see from 5G-Advanced, it naturally represents a range of technologies, two of which will receive a lot of attention in the session. Let’s start with AI. Certainly, Zain’s argument that 5G-Advanced will enable new AI-driven use cases was compelling. But the connection between AI and 5G-Advanced goes deeper. As Qualcomm explained, 5G-Advanced represents the collaboration of 5G and AI, supported by a Release 18 scope that includes AI/ML-enabled air-interface design and an extension of ML to the RAN, device, and air-interface layers. Simply put, 5G-Advanced will support the introduction of new AI applications, but will also require AI to operate itself. IoT in focus. Support for Massive IoT was at the heart of the original argument for 5G. But expectations from Huawei, Orange, and Qualcomm all show there’s more to do than just scaling or densifying deployments. Rather, the improvements of 5G-Advanced promise new functions and capabilities: 5G IoT with reduced capacity (RedCap) for cost and efficiency gains, new detection and positioning functions, Ambient Power IoT. Together, the promise is to advance the IoT to support new use cases as well as extreme scale. Something for everyone. While IoT and AI were broad, overarching themes in many of the presentations throughout the session, many other specific aspects of what 5G-Advanced will bring were also broadcast. Non-terrestrial networks including drone and satellite integration. Improved uplink performance. Automation and energy saving. Countless new radio innovations. Combining services, experience and technology, these are more than a random collection of standards and specification inclusions. They represent a wide range of capabilities aimed at enabling a wide range of new services.
Encouraging, if not surprising, the session provided a positive outlook on the prospects that 5G-Advanced can offer. Here, however, it’s important to commend Huawei for saying “further collaboration is needed” and acknowledging the support of the 5G Futures Community in supporting the technology. Finally, without continued spectrum allocations, support for refarming, testing and interoperability testing, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of 5G-Advanced. That’s reason to look forward to the 2024 edition of the session and the progress we’ll (hopefully) see.
– Peter Jarich – Head, GSMA Intelligence
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its members or associate members.