As the wireless world prepares for 5G, many aspects of the next generation of wireless networks remain uncertain. However, there is consensus around one major change. The boundaries between licensed and unlicensed spectrum will break down. 5G will be bigger than one new radio, but will provide a migration path for all the current wireless technologies, including WiFi, LTE and low power machine-to-machine (M2M) connections.
Already, the coexistence and increasing interworking between licensed and unlicensed spectrum technologies has driven considerable change, and will continue to do so on the road to 5G – which for some players will lead to trials as early as 2017, while for others, will be a decade or more away.
The introduction set out a picture of the wireless world, in which many types of spectrum and network increasingly work together to create a seamless pool of capacity for service providers, enterprises and consumers to use. That may still be a dream as yet, but important steps are being taken towards it, and these see Wi-Fi playing a significant role in the heterogeneous network (HetNet).
In the HetNet, multiple connectivity protocols and spectrum bands are managed from a common core network, IMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem) or network management system. In a virtualized network, they may be handled by a centralized controller implemented in software on a server or the cloud. Trends like densification, carrier-class QoS, gigabit speeds and so on will not be specific to one technology but will be achieved by collaboration between several technologies.
The rise of the HetNet can be clearly seen in the increasing levels of coexistence between Wi-FI and cellular, and other wireless networks, in real world deployments. Using the techniques outlined in the introduction, many service providers expect to be delivering services over multiple networks by 2020 or before. Sometimes they will physically own and deploy all the networks, but in many cases they will share some elements of their HetNets, accessing some of the links via roaming or MVNO agreements, or via a neutral host platform.
This coexistence is particularly strongly illustrated when it comes to IoT services. Because these will be very diverse in their network requirements, many providers will want to take advantage of the different capabilities of various protocols to support optimal QoS and economics.
Join us at the Wireless Global Congress in San Jose November 14-17, 2016, to learn more about the WBA’ vision in this four day event, featuring a two day conference programme and two days of membership meetings and invitation-only sessions.