20 top telcos banded together to set a common path for the next thirty years. China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, AT&T and many others have now produced the NGMN 5G End-to-End Architecture Framework O.8.1. The 36 pages are a blueprint of how the telcos want the future. They've done an extraordinary job making the concepts clear to anyone knowledgeable in today's wireless.
This is the antithesis of the Internet model, a network of networks connected but operating independently. Implicitly, everything would be under the control of the telcos. They would have standard procedures to work together for international traffic, based on everyone having common QoS control.
The technical quality of the work is admirable, but the conclusions are based on perhaps faulty assumptions. It was produced by a closed group of telcos and their suppliers to meet the needs of a system they would control and profit from. The Bellheads and the Netheads have been battling since the 1970's. The Internet and open standards have pulled ahead over the last two decades. The telcos are trying to gain back control and share the profits of the industries that use the net.
5G E2E could be a foundation document directing literally $trillions of coming investments. It could play a role similar to Semiconductor Roadmap that drove thirty years of Moore's Law progress. The International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) had the participation of almost all the important players. By narrowing the possibilities, they focused research and equipment manufacturers on what the customers wanted. That enabled enormous economies of scale.
I have two 22 hour flights to Hangzhou coming up to digest it more thoroughly. Some first comments.
They strongly endorse 1 ms latency goals to deliver Gerhard Fettweis' tactile Internet. Because that requires the expensive move of computing power to the edge, almost no telco plans that in the first years of 5G deployment. Current network designs use a centralized controller (C-RAN) that slows effective latency to 5-10 ms. 5G E2E supports "functional decomposition of the radio network" that would allow C-RAN today and edge intelligence perhaps a decade from now or later.
Network slicing proposes dedicating a logical portion of the same physical network to a customer. Ford would pay for a higher speed connection. It's essentially an extreme form of network function virtualization. This is a high priority for the telcos who can smell the revenue. Ericsson and other vendors promote this heavily because it requires more expensive equipment. Some engineers like the idea because more complexity provides many jobs for engineers.
Is there enough real demand to justify the large increase of capex and opex to support "slicing." The great hope is connected cars, where telcos want to extract a (very small) toll on every mile driven. They want to put telco controllers on millions of 5G small cells, including all roads. The automakers are fighting back against the "mileage tax" in the name of their customers. They point out that their DSRC can do everything necessary, at 3 ms and without extra cost. DSRC will be built into all American cars shortly as a safety measure.
None of the telcos are committed to the necessary edge computers, nor is anything approaching a standard in sight. All telcos and all automakers must support the system or it breaks. The "telco manage" system has a primary goal maintaining the positions of all cars to optimize performance and safety. I can't imagine how they can do that without almost all cars connected. It's unlikely more than a third of road miles will be covered by 2025, as carriers will build first where the people are, the cities. NGMN is truly looking to the future here, probably 15-20 years out at best.
Quality of service will need to be nearly perfect for all of the above. It's not proven that level is possible, for cash-strapped telcos trying to build as cheaply as possible. Henning Schulzrinne warns that both 3G and 4G promised QoS would solve major problems. It never did and it's not proven 5G will do better.
20 years ago, David Isenberg pointed out that Moore's Law is bringing equipment costs down but not people costs. At some point, it's cheaper to spend a bit more for simpler networks than face the ongoing costs of managing complexity. Xavier Niel's Free brought broadband prices down by half, to a 30 euro triple play. His ultra-efficient all-IP network fit David's model and his costs were much lower than anyone else.
Here's a summary from NGMN. Like ITRS, most of the work is done in sub-groups, some highlighted below.
5G E2E Architecture Framework
The purpose of this document is to provide a high-level framework of architecture principles and requirements that provide guidance and direction for NGMN partners and standards development organisations in the shaping of the 5G suite of interoperable capabilities, enablers, and services. It builds on the architectural concepts and proposals implied by the NGMN 5G White Paper and subsequent deliverables published by NGMN. It is anticipated that this document will have versions, beyond an initial version, to reflect additional forward-looking requirements and/or updates as needed.
The elements of functional virtualisation, shift of computing to the edges of the network, and leveraging of spectrum distribution and flexibility, are among the dominant themes that shape the 5G ecosystem. Optimisation of operational and performance efficiencies, while creating and delivering an exceptional and customisable user experience is of paramount significance.
Some examples of the working groups
Trial and Testing Initiative - Technology Building Blocks
This document is the technical report for the "Test of Technology Building Blocks" work stream of the NGMN 5G Trial and Testing Initiative. It provides the full description for each of the technology building blocks that have been identified as carrying higher priority by NGMN community, and the corresponding test results.
5G Network and Service Management including Orchestration
This document describes requirements for 5G Network and Service Management including Orchestration. The Document includes requirements covering all potential parts of future networks, i.e., fixed-, mobile-, cloud, virtualized technologies from a Network and Service Management including Orchestration perspective.
Annex: NGMN IPR Forum Recommendations to Improve SEP Declarations
With reference to IPR, NGMN is developing recommendations and an implementation strategy supporting a more transparent and predictable IPR eco-system for 5G Standards Essential Patents (SEP) across industries that will support sustainable implementation of 5G technologies and ensure that innovation is stimulated and innovators appropriately rewarded. One of the business objectives is to make 5G accessible for all types of devices from high-end smartphones and tablets down to low-end MTC (Machine Type Communication) devices such as smoke detectors and sensors. In support of this objective, the IP licensing terms and conditions for 5G market should be fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory so as to enable sustainable and successful mass deployment of any 5G service or Product Type including MTC devices to support the Internet of Things (IoT). One of the objectives is to improve the transparency of 5G Standard Essential Patent (SEP) Disclosures.
In order to achieve this objective, NGMN is requesting Standards Developing Organizations working on 5G technologies to consider the recommendations in the enclosed Annex relating to the disclosure and licensing of patents and patent applications (collectively, “Patents”) as potentially essential to a standard. NGMN is continuing to improve the recommendations and may come up with further updates.
Recommendation on Base Station Antenna Standards (V10.0)
This whitepaper addresses the performance criteria of base station antennas, by making recommendations on standards for electrical and mechanical parameters, by providing guidance on measurement and calculation practices in performance validation and production, and by recommending methods for electronic data exchange. It also addresses recommendations on applying existing environmental and reliability standards to BSAs.
NGMN 5G Spectrum White Paper
Since the publication of the original NGMN 5G white paper in February 2015 the international 5G spectrum debate has advanced considerably, including the decisions taken at the WRC-15 on the bands for IMT that will be decided at the WRC-19 conference as well as global progress on 5G system developments and trials.
This white paper builds on the spectrum discussion in the original NGMN 5G White paper published in 2015 and sets out updated information on spectrum requirements and plans in relation to realization of 5G in key markets around the world.