CableLabs Appoints 5G Pioneer Rakesh Taori as VP of Wireless
CableLabs is excited to announce the appointment of Rakesh Taori as its Vice President of Wireless. He will report to Chief Research and Development Officer, Mariam Sorond. In this role, Rakesh will drive CableLabs' efforts in the wireless and mobile area delivering on CableLabs’ vision and strategy for putting the industry in the driver’s seat in the future of connectivity.
“We are delighted to welcome Rakesh to CableLabs. His in-depth knowledge and vast experience in the wireless area will bring tremendous benefits to our members and the industry as a whole,” said Sorond. “Rakesh brings a broad perspective across many technologies and platforms. As the industry embraces the principles of open standards, virtualization, and open interfaces, Rakesh’s creative thinking will propel innovations at CableLabs towards disruptive networks.”
Rakesh’s appointment underscores CableLabs’ commitment to attracting thought leaders from the wireless industry. His decade-long pioneering work in 5G, coupled with his first-hand experience in initial deployments equips him with a solid understanding of the opportunities. He provides a timely addition to CableLabs’ ability to deliver innovations that will continue to place the industry at the leading edge of convergence and connectivity.
“I am thrilled to join CableLabs and I look forward to working with a team of world-class distinguished technologists and research engineers,” said Rakesh. “Delivering ultra-high-speed ubiquitous broadband services to consumers securely, and monitoring, administering and operating billions of machines and objects in public and private networks will require unprecedented levels of innovations in wired and wireless technologies. CableLabs provides the ideal platform for inventing unified architectures that incorporate native support for coexistence and seamless delivery and helps the industry build and deliver innovative and efficient systems to serve these next-generation needs.”
Prior to joining CableLabs, Rakesh was a Fellow of 5G Technologies with JMA Wireless (which acquired Phazr Inc.)—a 5G startup where Rakesh was a founding employee and served as the VP of systems and standards. At Phazr, Rakesh led the systems team that helped architect and build 5G infrastructure equipment, including Phazr’s novel 5G base station—the industry’s most integrated and compact form-factor 5G base station. At JMA/Phazr Rakesh also enabled and led several paid mmW 5G trials and pilot deployments with Tier-1 operators in the European Union and Japan.
Prior to JMA/Phazr, Rakesh amassed valuable experience and expertise while working with technology leaders including Samsung, Ericsson and Philips. Rakesh has served on the Wi-Fi Alliance Board for over 5 years, served as a vice-chairman of the IEEE 802.16 working group and held various leadership positions in several standards organizations. Rakesh holds more than 150 granted U.S. patents.
Subscribe to our blog to learn more about Rakesh’s work in the future.
Leveraging Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence for 5G
The heterogenous nature of future wireless networks comprising of multiple access networks, frequency bands and cells - all with overlapping coverage areas - presents wireless operators with network planning and deployment challenges. Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) can assist wireless operators to overcome these challenges by analyzing the geographic information, engineering parameters and historic data to:
- Forecast the peak traffic, resource utilization and application types
- Optimize and fine tune network parameters for capacity expansion
- Eliminate coverage holes by measuring the interference and using the inter-site distance information
5G can be a key enabler to drive the ML and AI integration into the network edge. The figure below shows how 5G enables simultaneous connections to multiple IoT devices generating massive amounts of data. The integration of ML and AI with 5G multi-access edge computing (MEC) enables wireless operators to offer:
- High level of automation from the distributed ML and AI architecture at the network edge
- Application-based traffic steering and aggregation across heterogeneous access networks
- Dynamic network slicing to address varied use cases with different QoS requirements
- ML/AI-as-a-service offering for end users
ML and AI for Beamforming
5G, deployed using mm-wave, has beam-based cell coverage unlike 4G which has sector-based coverage. A machine learned algorithm can assist the 5G cell site to compute a set of candidate beams, originating either from the serving or its neighboring cell site. An ideal set is the set that contains fewer beams and has a high probability of containing the best beam. The best beam is the beam with highest signal strength a.k.a. RSRP. The more activated beams present, the higher the probability of finding the best beam; although the higher number of activated beams increases the system resource consumption.
The user equipment (UE) measures and reports all the candidate beams to the serving cell site, which will then decide if the UE needs to be handed over to a neighboring cell site and to which candidate beam. The UE reports the Beam State Information (BSI) based on measurements of Beam Reference Signal (BRS) comprising of parameters such as Beam Index (BI) and Beam Reference Signal Received Power (BRSRP). Finding the best beam by using BRSRP can lead to multi-target regression (MRT) problem while finding the best beam by using BI can lead to multi-class classification (MCC) problem.
ML and AI can assist in finding the best beam by considering the instantaneous values updated at each UE measurement of the parameters mentioned below:
- Beam Index (BI)
- Beam Reference Signal Received Power (BRSRP)
- Distance (of UE to serving cell site),
- Position (GPS location of UE)
- Speed (UE mobility)
- Channel quality indicator (CQI)
- Historic values based on past events and measurements including previous serving beam information, time spent on each serving beam, and distance trends
Once the UE identifies the best beam, it can start the random-access procedure to connect to the beam using timing and angular information. After the UE connects to the beam, data session begins on the UE-specific (dedicated) beam.
ML and AI for Massive MIMO
Massive MIMO is a key 5G technology. Massive simply refers to the large number of antennas (32 or more logical antenna ports) in the base station antenna array. Massive MIMO enhances user experience by significantly increasing throughput, network capacity and coverage while reducing interference by:
- Serving multiple spatially separated users with an antenna array in the same time and frequency resource
- Serving specific users with beam forming steering a narrow beam with high gain to send the radio signals and information directly to the device instead of broadcasting across the entire cell, reducing radio interference across the cell.
The weights for antenna elements for a massive MIMO 5G cell site are critical for maximizing the beamforming effect. ML and AI can be used to:
- Identify dynamic change and forecast the user distribution by analyzing historical data
- Dynamically optimize the weights of antenna elements using the historical data
- Perform adaptive optimization of weights for specific use cases with unique user-distribution
- Improve the coverage in a multi-cell scenario considering the inter-site interference between multiple 5G massive MIMO cell sites
ML and AI for Network Slicing
In the current one-size-fits-all approach implementation for wireless networks, most resources are underutilized and not optimized for high-bandwidth and low-latency scenarios. Fixed resource assignment for diverse applications with differential requirements may not be an efficient approach for using available network resources. Network slicing creates multiple dedicated virtual networks using a common physical infrastructure, where each network slice can be independently managed and orchestrated.
Embedding ML algorithms and AI into 5G networks can enhance automation and adaptability, enabling efficient orchestration and dynamic provisioning of the network slice. ML and AI can collect real time information for multidimensional analysis and construct a panoramic data map of each network slice based on:
- User subscription,
- Quality of service (QoS),
- Network performance,
- Events and logs
Different aspects where ML and AI can be leveraged include:
- Predicting and forecasting the network resources can enable wireless operators to anticipate network outages, equipment failures and performance degradation
- Cognitive scaling to assist wireless operators to dynamically modify network resources for capacity requirements based on the predictive analysis and forecasted results
- Predicting UE mobility in 5G networks allowing Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF) to update mobility patterns based on user subscription, historical statistics and instantaneous radio conditions for optimization and seamless transition to ensure better quality of service.
- Enhancing the security in 5G networks preventing attacks and frauds by recognizing user patterns and tagging certain events to prevent similar attacks in future.
With future heterogenous wireless networks implemented with varied technologies addressing different use cases providing connectivity to millions of users simultaneously requiring customization per slice and per service, involving large amounts of KPIs to maintain, ML and AI will be an essential and required methodology to be adopted by wireless operators in near future.
Deploying ML and AI into Wireless Networks
Wireless operators can deploy AI in three ways:
- Embedding ML and AI algorithms within individual edge devices for to low computational capability and quick decision-making
- Lightweight ML and AI engines at the network edge to perform multi-access edge computing (MEC) for real-time computation and dynamic decision making suitable for low-latency IoT services addressing varied use case scenarios
- ML and AI platform built within the system orchestrator for centralized deployment to perform heavy computation and storage for historical analysis and projections
Benefits of Leveraging ML and AI in 5G
The application of ML and AI in wireless is still at its infancy and will gradually mature in the coming years for creating smarter wireless networks. The network topology, design and propagation models along with user’s mobility and usage patterns in 5G will be complex. ML and AI can will play a key role in assisting wireless operators to deploy, operate and manage the 5G networks with proliferation of IoT devices. ML and AI will build more intelligence in 5G systems and allow for a shift from managing networks to managing services. ML and AI can be used to address several use cases to help wireless operators transition from a human management model to self-driven automatic management transforming the network operations and maintenance processes.
There are high synergies between ML, AI and 5G. All of them address low latency use cases where the sensing and processing of data is time sensitive. These use cases include self-driving autonomous vehicles, time-critical industry automation and remote healthcare. 5G offers ultra-reliable low latency which is 10 times faster than 4G. However, to achieve even lower latencies, to enable event-driven analysis, real-time processing and decision making, there is a need for a paradigm shift from the current centralized and virtualized cloud-based AI towards a distributed AI architecture where the decision-making intelligence is closer to the edge of 5G networks.
The Role of CableLabs
The cable network carries a significant share of wireless data today and is well positioned to lay an ideal foundation to enable 5G with continued advancement of broadband technology. Next-generation wireless networks will utilize higher frequency spectrum bands that potentially offer greater bandwidth and improved network capacity, however, face challenges with reduced propagation range. The 5G mm-wave small cells require deep dense fiber networks and the cable industry is ideally placed to backhaul these small cells because of its already laid out fiber infrastructure which penetrates deep into the access network close to the end-user premises. The short-range and high-capacity physical properties of 5G have high synergies with fixed wireless networks.
A multi-faceted CableLabs team is addressing the key technologies for 5G deployments that can benefit the cable industry. We are a leading contributor to European Telecommunication Standards Institute NFV Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG). Our SNAPS™ program is part of Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV). We are working to optimize Wi-Fi technologies and networks in collaboration with our members and the broader ecosystem. We are driving enhancements and are standardizing features across the industry that will make the Wi-Fi experience seamless and consistent. We are driving active contributions to 3GPP Release 16 work items for member use cases and requirements.
Our 10G platform complements 5G and is also a key enabler to provide the supporting infrastructure for 5G to achieve its full potential. CableLabs is leading the efforts for spectrum sharing to enable coexistence between Wi-Fi and cellular technologies, that will enable multi-access sharing with 3.5 GHz to make the 5G vision a reality.
5G Link Aggregation with Multipath TCP (MPTCP)
The unprecedented growth of data traffic and the number of connected devices has made it evident that the current end-to-end host-centric communication paradigm will not be able to meet user demand for massive data rates and low latency. The wireless industry is constantly pushing technology frontiers to cope with this increasing user demand.
The advent of the fifth-generation cellular architecture (5G), along with the evolving LTE and Wi-Fi networks, will boost the ability of the wireless industry to support the new connected reality. The heterogeneous environment, with multiple access networks coexisting, will require end devices to connect to all available wireless access networks to efficiently use the available network resources and spectrum. The use of multi-homing by deploying multi-interface connectivity at the wireless edge of the network has become increasingly prominent. One of the most widely adopted, practically implemented multihoming techniques is Multipath TCP (MPTCP). With successful deployments of MPTCP by some wireless operators aggregating diverse wireless access technologies such as LTE and Wi-Fi, the use of MPTCP has been considered a base feature for 5G.
Multipath TCP (MPTCP)
Traditional TCP is a single-path protocol. An established TCP connection is bound to a specific IP address between the communicating nodes. The wireless industry was motivated to come up with MPTCP because all next-generation networks are multipath (where mobile devices have multiple wireless interfaces), data centers have multiple paths between servers, and multihoming has become the norm.
MPTCP, a proxy-based aggregation solution led by Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), is simply an overlay network to the underlying IP network. MPTCP is an extension of traditional TCP, ensuring application compatibility (i.e., the ability to run applications on MPTCP that run on TCP) and network compatibility (i.e., the ability to operate MPTCP over any Internet path where TCP operates). MPTCP allows multiple paths to be used simultaneously by a single transport connection.
MPTCP in 5G
MPTCP is now an integral part of 5G mobile networks as a standard feature of 3GPP Release 16. The 3GPP 5G mobile core features Access Traffic Steering, Switching and Splitting (ATSSS) and has officially standardized on MPTCP as a foundational capability. ATSSS allows operators to direct traffic through certain access networks, switch traffic across access networks and aggregate traffic over multiple access networks. Continuous user experience with higher throughout is delivered as the mobile device moves around and among access network technologies such as 5G NR, Wi-Fi and others. The following diagram illustrates how ATSSS is integrated into the 5G mobile core and 5G mobile device.
The user equipment (UE), or mobile device, contains the MPTCP client and ATSSS rules, which instruct the UE how to configure and execute MPTCP operations. The 5G core User Plane Function (UPF) contains the MPTCP proxy. Traffic from applications is directed to the UPF, which then invokes multi-path traffic management toward the UE. 5G RAN and WLAN access networks are portrayed above to carry separate MPTCP traffic flows. The UE provides measurement reports to the UPF such that switching, or traffic aggregation balance decisions made by the UPF, can be done with UE input. This completes the MPTCP user traffic management plane.
The Unified Data Management (UDM) contains the mobile subscriptions, which includes ATSSS as a subscribed feature. The Policy Control Function (PCF) applies policy to traffic flows arranged under the MPTCP user plane as managed by the Session Management Function (SMF).
In summary, MPTCP will be a fully integrated and standard feature within 3GPP Release 16. MPTCP implementation can be enhanced with dual connectivity, software-defined networking and segment routing.
MPTCP with 5G Dual Connectivity (DC)
Introduced in 3GPP Release 15, DC is a feature that allows data exchange between mobile devices and the NR base station, with simultaneous connection to an LTE base station when tight interworking is established between LTE and the 5G NR base station.
The current DC architecture does not support backup and packet duplication to address the latency and out-of-order packet delivery issues with DC. The existing DC algorithm needs enhancements to dynamically select the best available path for a given radio condition considering the ongoing traffic and congestion levels to optimally use each radio link.
MPTCP—composed of path manager, schedular and congestion control mechanism—can address these issues. By integrating MPTCP with the DC and 5G protocol stack to make MPTCP implementation aware of all available network interfaces, the full potential of link aggregation can be realized.
MPTCP Path Control Using Software Defined Networking (SDN)
SDN addresses the issue of out-of-order packet delivery with MPTCP when multiple radio links have varying delays by tracking the available capacity and selecting the best available path considering the varying network conditions. With an SDN-enabled network, an SDN application running on an MPTCP client can monitor data rates on connected paths to identify poor links that increase the number of packets that need reordering. The paths with relatively lower capacity can be removed from link aggregation consideration with MPTCP and can be added back with the availability of sufficiently larger capacity. Using an SDN controller, the capacity over multiple radio links can be estimated, allowing MPTCP to dynamically control the sub-flows.
MPTCP with Segment Routing (SR)
Unlike traditional routers, which forward IP packets by looking up the destination IP address in the IP header and find the best path towards the destination from the routing table, SR leverages the source-based routing model. Similar to labels in Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS), segment routing uses segments, which are instructions that a router executes on the incoming packet. With SR, the source router chooses a path to the destination and encodes the path in the packet header as an ordered list of instructions (segments).
The flow allocation mechanism of SDN-based MPTCP solutions increases the forwarding rules, consuming a lot of storage resources. Combining MPTCP and SR for traffic management will limit the storage requirements.
The Role of CableLabs
CableLabs is an active contributor to 3GPP Release 16 work items that leverage MPTCP via ATSSS. CableLabs has worked with our member operators to bring contributions into 3GPP that address traffic bonding to fixed customer premise equipment (CPE) and mobile devices for higher performance and service availability. Other use cases of interest include the continuous user experience across access networks. CableLabs has been active in 3GPP to drive member requirements into work items that leverage ATSSS for the sake of member priority use cases and member requirements are now part of the 5G standard in 3GPP Release 16.
Comparing 4G and 5G Authentication: What You Need to Know and Why
The 5G (fifth generation) of cellular mobile communication is among the hottest technologies today and is under development by 3GPP. Besides providing faster speed, higher bandwidth, and lower latency, 5G also supports more use cases, such as:
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB)
- Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC)
- Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (uRLLC)
With global deployment imminent, privacy and security protection are of critical importance to 5G. Calls, messaging, and mobile data must be protected with authentication, confidentiality, and integrity. Authentication and key agreement form the cornerstone of mobile communication security by providing mutual authentication between users and the network, as well as cryptographic key establishment that is required to protect both signaling messages and user data. Therefore, each generation of cellular networks defines at least one authentication method. For example, 4G defines EPS-AKA. 5G defines three authentication methods: 5G-AKA, EAP-AKA’, and EAP-TLS. Network practitioners are asking what motivates the adoption of the new 5G authentication methods, how they differ from 4G authentication, and how they differ from each other.
To answer these questions, CableLabs studied and compared 4G and 5G authentication. Our analysis shows that 5G authentication improves 4G EPS-AKA authentication in a number of areas. For instance, 5G offers a unified authentication framework for supporting more use cases, better UE identity protection, enhanced home network control, and additional key separation in key derivation. This study also points out that 5G authentication is not without weakness and requires continuous evolvement.
For more information, please download the “A Comparative Introduction of 4G and 5G Authentication” white paper. Be sure to contact Tao Wan if you have questions.
IPoC: A New Core Networking Protocol for 5G Networks
5G is the latest iteration of cellular network technology developed to meet the growing traffic demand for both smartphones and homes. With beamforming and frequency bands reaching millimeter waves, 5G promises many benefits:
- Higher speeds
- Lower latency
- The ability to connect many more devices
However, current de jure standards and protocols, designed for earlier technologies, have the potential to dilute these promises. To address the limitations of current networks, CableLabs developed the IP over CCN (IPoC) protocol, a compelling new solution to meet the new, more robust requirements of 5G.
Why a New Solution?
The primary goal of the fourth generation (4G or LTE) technology was access to the Internet, so the technology utilized IP networking, the packet routing technology historically and currently used in the Internet.
IP networking has been around since the mid-1970s and has served us remarkably well, but it isn’t without flaws. The purpose of the Internet Protocol is to allow a computer at one fixed location in the network to exchange information with another computer at a fixed location in the network. For mobile devices (that clearly aren’t at a fixed location) this has never been a great fit, and LTE technology had to develop complicated IP over IP tunneling mechanisms (the LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC)) to enable mobility.
Furthermore, in the majority of cases, a mobile application wants to fetch specific data (say the text and images of a blog post) but doesn’t really care which computer it talks to in order to get it. As a result, to improve network efficiency and performance, network operators (both mobile and fixed) have implemented complex Content Distribution Networks in order to try to redirect the mobile application to the nearest server or cache that has the requested data.
In LTE-EPC, all of a user’s IP traffic is tunneled through a centralized choke point (or anchor) in the mobile operator’s core network, which eliminates the ability to serve data from a nearby cache. Also, as a mobile device moves in the network, the EPC needs to create new tunnels and tear down old ones in order to ensure that the user’s data reaches them.
These limitations are widely acknowledged by standards-setting groups. They are currently soliciting input to introduce new protocols that will pave the way for 5G to meet the demands of next-generation technologies, specifically:
- Improve the efficiency and performance of the network mobility plane, compared to today’s LTE standards,
- Support non-IP network protocols, of which Content Centric Networking is a leading candidate.
Benefits of Content Centric Networking
Content Centric Networking: A networking paradigm that emphasizes content by making it directly addressable and routable. Learn more here.
CCN offers several key advantages over IP networking:
- It employs “stateful forwarding” which elegantly and efficiently supports information retrieval by mobile client devices without the need for tunneling or a location registration protocol
- It addresses content directly rather than addressing end hosts, which means that it enables in-network caching, processing and intelligent packet forwarding, allowing it to excel in content retrieval optimization, allowing data to be easily retrieved from an on-path cache
- It supports a client device using multiple network attachments (e.g., radio links) simultaneously, providing greater reliability and performance.
- Its design meets the needs of large-data and IoT applications
For many new applications, CCN provides a much better fit for purpose than the Internet Protocol.
IP over CCN (IPoC): A New Way to Handle IP
In spite of the significant improvements Content Centric Networking offers over current IP networking, the reality is that all of today’s applications, both client and server, are built to use IP networking. We developed IPoC as the solution to this issue. IP over CCN (IPoC) protocol is a general-purpose tunneling protocol that enables delivery of IP traffic over a Content Centric Network (CCN) or a Named Data Network (NDN).
IPoC enables deployment of CCN as the core networking protocol for 5G, both for new, native CCN applications and as a mobility plane for existing IP applications, replacing the LTE-EPC. As a result, IPoC saves the IP investment and allows a full transition to the new CCN protocol.
With this approach:
- Native CCN applications reap the benefits of tunnel-free anchorless networking, along with the latency and efficiency gains that come from in-network caching.
- Existing IP-based applications can be supported with a mobility management solution that is simpler than the existing LTE-EPC. Gone are the special-purpose tunnel management functions that create and destroy tunnels as mobile devices move in the network.
- The need for network slicing to accommodate both IP and CCN and the complications and overhead entailed in running two core networks in parallel are eliminated.
IPoC Performance in Mobile Networks
With the assistance of two PhD students from Colorado State University, we developed simulation models and conducted performance and efficiency testing of the protocol in comparison to LTE-EPC. In our simulation study, we implemented the IPoC protocol using the Named Data Networking (NDN) simulator ndnSim (which implements a CCN-like semantic) and used mobile communication as the driving example, comparing IPoC-over-NDN protocol performance against GTP-over-IP. We found that the protocol overhead and performance impact of IPoC is minimal, which makes it suitable for immediate deployment. The report on this study includes links to the source code as well.
Want to Take a Closer Look?
IPoC can be best understood as a transition technology. Providing a shim layer and allowing CCN to act as a mobility plane for legacy IP applications, it accommodates the current protocol standards while opening the door for deployment of native CCN applications and the benefits they offer.
The 5G standardization project is seeking new mobility solutions for 5G, and we believe CCN and IPoC would be a great solution to address the needs. We have submitted a definition of the IPoC protocol as an Internet-Draft to the Internet Research Task Force (IRTF) Information Centric Networking Research Group. In addition, we have developed a proof-of-concept implementation of the IPoC protocol on Linux.
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Legislators at the Labs
Eighty politicians walked into a lab... That's not the start of a joke, it was actually the start of our week here at CableLabs! We were excited and honored to host state representatives and senators from across the U.S. on Monday, and to show them the exciting innovation happening in the cable industry.
Our day was all about innovating the future of connectivity. We started by talking about the deployment of gigabit networks, which now reach the majority of Americans, and we showed them the research that makes these services a reality over the existing hybrid fiber coaxial networks of the cable industry. We talked about the importance of wireless connectivity and spectrum research, since everyone connects to broadband via Wi-Fi, and a majority of CableLabs' members are also mobile operators. We focused on cybersecurity – an increasingly important area, given the growth of connected (‘IoT’) devices – and what we are doing to help as part of the broader Internet ecosystem. And finally, no visit to CableLabs would be complete without experiencing the applications that ride over gigabit networks – immersive media, virtual reality, and the holographic effects of light fields were a highlight, and are featured in our latest Near Future film.
So, what do you get when you have eighty politicians in the Labs? Lots of questions! How should we think about 5G? What can we do to extend broadband service to areas that don’t have access? How can we realize the educational possibilities that come with broadband?
All great questions, and at a high level, the answer is that there is no one single technology solution. That is why CableLabs is pushing the envelope of performance on cable, fiber, and wireless, and other technologies, bringing next-generation connectivity to consumers.
But, there is a common thread for policymakers: The innovations we develop at CableLabs are all at least three years away from being realized in the market. The policy environment can help to put new technologies into the hands of consumers through stable, predictable, and consistent policy that is conducive to investment and risk-taking. Since there is that interaction between technology policy and innovation, we appreciated the opportunity to host a great group of elected representatives this week.
CableLabs is the global innovation hub for the cable industry and provides leaders across the globe with technology insights on which to base decisions of significance.
To learn more about Rob and CableLabs tech policy work, please click here.
A Super-Fast, Super-Connected Wireless Future Requires a Balanced Spectrum Policy
Recently, the Senate Commerce Committee held a hearing on the race to 5G, exploring how we can harness the power of wired and wireless broadband to drive transformative communications innovation, and what the government can do to support and accelerate industry efforts. Testimony from a range of ecosystem players – mobile, cable, satellite, and equipment suppliers – made clear that the 5G vision of ultrafast speeds, minimal latency, and expanded coverage across the country will be delivered by a variety of new technologies that will transform our connected lives.
Getting there will require policymakers to unleash wireless bandwidth – the spectrum – that will enable this new world.
At the hearing, industry representatives agreed that the future of connectivity will require access to robust licensed, unlicensed and shared spectrum. Unlicensed spectrum in particular, as Charter Communications Inc.’ Craig Cowden pointed out, will play a key role in the delivery of 5G.
Unlicensed spectrum is open to all and is already intensively used for Wi-Fi, which Americans rely on for broadband access. The central role of unlicensed spectrum will continue in our 5G future, as the growth of Wi-Fi continues and new technologies are developed. It is therefore essential that policymakers include unlicensed spectrum in any 5G discussion, and that Congress and the FCC work to expand this wireless bandwidth.
Wi-Fi and unlicensed spectrum already are central to Americans’ everyday lives. Wi-Fi carries the majority of all internet traffic now, with 3 billion Wi-Fi devices being deployed this year alone. Last year, over 60 percent of all mobile data traffic was offloaded from cellular networks onto Wi-Fi. Internet of Things devices, which will reach over 11 billion this year, rely on Wi-Fi more than any other connectivity technology. It is a ubiquitous element of our modern economy – e-commerce, medical services, transportation and finance, among other sectors, are all dependent on Wi-Fi connectivity.
Wi-Fi added more than $525 billion in economic value to the U.S. economy just in 2017, according to one estimate. In the coming years, Wi-Fi is expected to grow further, offering increased reliability, lightning-fast gigabit speeds, and seamless secure connectivity. The cable industry – including my organization, CableLabs – is working hard to improve Wi-Fi and other unlicensed technologies for consumers in support of the 5G vision.
There is now a specific opportunity to give this innovation a boost through spectrum, in particular, the 5 gigahertz frequency band. Parts of the 5 gigahertz band are already used by Wi-Fi, and it is home to many new wireless innovations. But to fully enable these latest technologies, the spectrum available for unlicensed services in this frequency range must be expanded upward, into the 5.9 gigahertz range. When this happens, industry can and will rapidly put this spectrum in the hands of consumers.
The 5.9 gigahertz band is our country’s best near-term unlicensed spectrum opportunity for several reasons. First, it offers sufficient bandwidth to support wireless innovation through a wide range of technologies and services. Second, since it is an outgrowth of already heavily-used frequencies, it is easily adopted by wireless equipment – a rare opportunity in spectrum allocation, where it usually takes years to get new bandwidth into the hands of consumers. Third, the band is largely unused and has been for the past 20 years. No other spectrum opportunity has fewer existing services to consider.
Having spectrum available that promotes innovation and connectivity is critical to our connected future. Making the unlicensed 5.9 gigahertz frequency band available for new wireless services now would represent one significant step forward in the global race to 5G.
Interested in learning more? Take a look at our Inform[ED] Insights by clicking below.
5G For All: The Need for Standardized 5G Technologies in the Unlicensed Bands
Wherever you turn in the wireless ecosystem today, 5G is the buzzword and the popular kid on the block… well, at least in some blocks. 3GPP, a third generation partnership project that defines specifications for GSM networks and radio access technologies, is working on developing the 5G standards at an accelerated pace, thus emphasizing the importance of 5G in the evolution of mobile networks. But, what is missing in the picture, is an equal emphasis and urgency in developing standardized 5G solutions for the unlicensed bands.
According to the FCC:
Unlicensed Spectrum: “In spectrum that is designated as "unlicensed" or "licensed-exempt," users can operate without an FCC license but must use certified radio equipment and must comply with the technical requirements, including power limits, of the FCC's Part 15 Rules. Users of the license-exempt bands do not have exclusive use of the spectrum and are subject to interference.”
Licensed Spectrum: “Licensed spectrum allows for exclusive, and in some cases non-exclusive, use of particular frequencies or channels in particular locations. Some licensed frequency bands were made available on a site-by-site basis, meaning that licensees have exclusive use of the specified spectrum bands in a particular point location with a radius around that location.”
The unlicensed spectrum has a history of delivering connectivity to the masses at unparalleled scales and economies. Taking Wi-Fi as a proxy for the unlicensed spectrum, by 2020, it is expected that the total shipment of Wi-Fi devices will have a user base of nearly 12 billion devices and the total shipments of Wi-Fi devices will surpass a whopping 28 billion. (Note: world population is forecasted to be 7.7 billion in 2020!).
One of the fundamental drivers of the success of Wi-Fi is its use of unlicensed spectrum because the innovation enables the availability of Wi-Fi for everyone with a significantly lower cost and complexity of deploying a wireless network. Additionally, unlicensed spectrum plays a critical role in the success of licensed spectrum technologies. In 2016, 60% of mobile traffic was offloaded to the unlicensed spectrum. This means that mobile networks had to increase capacity by 250% if offloading to unlicensed spectrum was not viable. However, the user experience when switching between mobile networks and Wi-Fi has not been ideal due to a lack of interoperability.
3GPP is now looking at enabling 5G technologies in the unlicensed bands; specifically, 3.5 GHz, 5 GHz and 60 GHz. The study led by Qualcomm was approved in March of 2017, with the results expected to be handed off to 3GPP in June of 2018 for review. While this is exciting news for fans of unlicensed spectrum, it comes at a slower pace than its licensed spectrum counterpart. It is expected that 3GPP will finalize the licensed spectrum Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G enhanced mobile broadband specifications by March of 2018, thus enabling 5G network deployments in early 2019.
Although the schedule is not ideal, it is a step in the right direction. The popularity of the unlicensed spectrum (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) has driven high levels of congestion. With the continuous increase in user demand, spectrum depletion is a real risk. Fortunately, the 60 GHz spectrum offers a huge swath of underutilized spectrum that is ripe for deploying 5G standalone networks within it. The 60 GHz band has 14 GHz of available spectrum (57 GHz – 71 GHz), which on its own is larger than all the licensed spectrum that is being considered for 5G networks, including licensed spectrum for 2G/3G/4G mobile networks!
We have addressed the business case for 5G technologies in the unlicensed band, but what’s in it for the end user? The ability to make high-speed low latency wireless networks widely available has the potential to significantly disrupt what’s possible in our everyday lives, such as in education, healthcare, transportation, commerce, the way we work, entertainment, and most importantly, the way people connect with each other. Additionally, the availability of high-speed low latency wireless networks enables a new platform for innovation, on which applications we have yet to think of will be developed. The possibilities are endless and limited only by our imagination. As an example, take a look at our short video The Near Future: A Better Place here.
Harnessing the capabilities of 5G technologies and coupling it with unlicensed spectrum so that users can enjoy a seamless wireless experience across licensed and unlicensed bands is one of those truly rare instances where 1 + 1 = 3. What we cannot afford is to not drive standardized 5G technologies in the unlicensed band at a fast pace, because we would miss out on what the coupling of 5G and unlicensed spectrum has to offer.
You can find out more about what CableLabs is doing in this space by reading our Inform[ED] Insight on 5G here. Subscribe to our blog to find out more about 5G in the future.
Network Operator Perspectives on NFV priorities for 5G
Today, twenty-three network operators published a white paper to guide the industry on priorities for NFV to deliver the industry vision for 5G systems: "Network Operator Perspectives on NFV priorities for 5G". The network operator co-authors include Bell Canada, BT, CableLabs, CenturyLink, China Mobile, China Unicom, Colt, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT, NTT, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Portugal Telecom, Rogers, SK Telecom, Sprint, STC, Swisscom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, and Vodafone. As managing editor for this white paper, I worked closely with colleagues from these leading organizations to document some key consensus requirements that we want the 5G standards community to take into account in their upcoming specification work.
We believe the evolved 5G network will be characterized by agile resilient converged fixed/mobile networks based on NFV and SDN technologies and capable of supporting network functions and applications encompassing many different networks and services domains. The breadth of foreseen 5G use cases and environments implies high scalability, ultra-low latency and ability to support a massive number of concurrent sessions, as well as ultra-high reliability and security. To achieve these ambitious goals, Network Slicing, Cloud-native design principles, End-to-end Service Management, Edge Computing, RAN Cloudification, Multi-site/domain Services, NFV License Management, Security, Reliability, and Scalability are important enablers as outlined in some detail in this paper.
In an era of increasingly stretched resources, it is vitally important for standards development organizations and open source communities to avoid re-invention and wasteful duplication of effort. Hence, an important message is to encourage reference to the extensive body of foundational NFV specification work already published by the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group over the past four years as the basis for 5G.
As managing editor, I believe this white paper should be used as guidance for the wider industry on how NFV should be used to realize 5G use cases.
What is CableLabs Doing in this Space?
The cable network will provide an ideal foundation for 5G because it is ubiquitous and already supports millions of Wi-Fi nodes in places where the majority of wireless data is consumed. It has high capacity for both Access and Backhaul. It is highly reliable and has low intrinsic latency because it is based on optical fiber which penetrates deep into the access network feeding wideband coaxial cables reaching all the way to the end-user premises. Moreover, it is a multi-node remotely powered access topology ideally suited to support the connection of the large number of small cells close to homes and businesses that will be needed for 5G.
A multi-faceted CableLabs R&D program is addressing the key technologies required for 5G around NFV and SDN that we are executing on behalf of our cable operator stakeholders. For example, CableLabs is progressing an intensive study of virtualized provisioning of the cable access network to enable programmability, our NFV/SDN reference platform is based on OPNFV and we are looking ahead to support 5G using an end-to-end virtualized architecture that includes low latency edge compute nodes located at the cable head-end. In addition, we are seeking to accelerate NFV/SDN interoperability through CableLabs’ Kyrio subsidiary which has built an interoperability lab where vendors can work together with operators to toward their NFV and SDN solutions.
By Tetsuya Nakamura, Principal Architect, Strategy & Innovation, CableLabs
Liberty Global and CableLabs Join MulteFire Alliance
Today, CableLabs is taking a significant step to drive the development of next-generation wireless technology. We are excited to announce that, along with our member Liberty Global, we are joining the MulteFire Alliance, an open consortium dedicated to making mobile technologies more widely available for use in shared, unlicensed spectrum.
MulteFire is based on 3GPP License Assisted Access LTE (LAA-LTE), which uses listen-before-talk etiquette to share spectrum in a manner similar to Wi-Fi. But unlike LAA, MulteFire will place control signaling entirely in the unlicensed band, breaking the reliance on licensed spectrum and mobile networks. This is a capability that we and others have proposed several times in 3GPP, as yet without successful adoption in that body. Our hope is that pursuing this technology in the Alliance will enable its rapid integration to global standards.
We see this step as the basis for renewed collaboration on next-generation wireless technology, which will become ever more important as we move toward 5G. Reliable coexistence, full transparency, and deep engagement with partners have long been central to our work on technologies that use unlicensed, shared spectrum. These same principles will continue to apply as we work with the MulteFire Alliance, 3GPP, the Wi-Fi Alliance, IEEE, and other groups going forward.
Below is the full copy of the joint press release that was issued today: