5G Advanced features include accurate timing, AI support

The next major chapter in 5G development focuses on the arrival of 5G Advanced.

In fact, 5G Advanced is another name for the upcoming Release 18 of the 5G cellular specification and its future releases. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Revelation the concept of 5G Advanced in 2021 with the proposed Release 18 package. The previous specification, Release 17, introduced improvements for beam steering and improved mobile broadband. Release 18 and the upcoming Release 19 build on those specifications and aim to better support AI, extended reality (XR) and energy efficiency.

The 5G standard began in late 2017 with the delivery of non-standalone new radio (NR) specifications for the technology. The initial phase of 5G deployment is well underway in the US, with carriers deploying fixed and mobile 5G networks in thousands of metropolitan areas.

Now that 5G technology has reached the majority of the population, the arrival of 5G Advanced specification is next on the list. 3GPP said the standard was “significantly improved to improve efficiency, as well as increase capabilities.”

New features of 5G Advanced

5G Advanced will have “advanced capabilities from new services, intense connectivity and security,” said Nokia Bell Labs in a white paper on the future standard and future cellular development.

Below are some of the uses and features of 5G Advanced.

Improved massive MIMO

5G Advanced provides improved multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) performance for 5G network operations. MIMO is an antenna array technology that uses multiple transmitter and receiver antennas to increase data transfer speeds. Massive MIMO is a multiuser upgrade that increases the number of transmitter and receiver components.

Bell Labs expects that 5G Advanced, as well as future standards, will require base stations that support between 64 and 512 transceivers, which are antenna elements that both transmit and receive data for additional uplinks. and downlink capacity per base station. For business users, this means updated 5G Advanced systems that better support high-throughput data users on a network and improve cellular network connectivity within the home. This is especially true for industrial wireless sensors that are often located in basement facilities.

Users will have to deploy new infrastructure and devices to get this speed in the future on the edge of the network.

Perfect timing

Precise millisecond timing is essential for many industrial sectors, such as banking, industrial IoT and smart energy grid technologies. 5G Advanced guards against degradation or loss of satellite signals by providing time references directly from the network, Nokia wrote.

Upgrades starting with 3GPP Release 17 also affect business users. The nonterrestrial network update will enable compatible devices to connect to 5G satellites. Another major update is lower data rates for wearables and IoT devices.

Reduced capability

Release 17 introduces a reduced capability (RedCap) as part of its specification. RedCap refers to 5G NR and describes how 5G-enabled devices use less bandwidth to operate. Wearable or IoT devices using RedCap can operate on a 20 MHz channel, rather than the 100 MHz channel commonly used in 5G NR.

Qualcomm said that Release 18 scales back the required bandwidth for RedCap devices, while maintaining compatibility with existing 5G NR and RedCap devices.

Augmented reality on mobile

Business use cases for XR — a subset of augmented reality (AR) — are growing at a steady rate. Examples are as follows:

  • AR mobile device headsets are used to train and onboard new employees.
  • Navigate technical engineers to the equipment they need to work on.
  • Remote collaboration in virtual spaces.

XR requires high-resolution images — up to 4K 60 frames per second — to stream in real time within indoor locations. Therefore, the improved low-latency performance, simultaneous user connectivity, indoor reliability and traffic prioritization benefits provided by 5G Advanced will reduce the barrier to true XR-immersive experiences in several market verticals.

5G Advanced and AI

5G Advanced uses AI and machine learning (ML) to enable intelligent network management and improve performance in complex, multiantenna systems. According to Ericsson, this support further expands XR use cases with a combination of AR and ML.

A major goal of 5G Advanced is to get more energy efficient networks. Implementing AI and ML network updates makes this possible, Ericsson said. 3GPP says it is specifying a base station power efficiency consumption model as part of the Release 18 specification. It also aims to identify power reduction methods for the standard.

Better positioning

With the Release 18 specification, business users have the advantage of improved location positioning. Nokia says 5G Advanced will “improve cellular positioning accuracy to below 10 cm by using beamforming as well as time-based methods to determine location.” These advances enable machinery to operate with centimeter accuracy indoors without access to a GPS satellite signal.

Timeline of 5G Advanced development

The operator is progressing

It’s still early days for 5G Advanced, but carriers are gearing up for the next phase of 5G.

“Release 18 will support many system improvements and support for vertical services — from XR experiences to artificial intelligence and network engine techniques,” said Brian Daly, assistant vice president president of standards and industry alliances at AT&T Labs. “However, these details will not be completed until early 2024.”

Daly said he expects to see Release 18 features in products within 18 to 24 months after development. Therefore, expect that commercial upgrades to 5G Advanced will likely not begin until late 2025 or early 2026. With improved data rates, location, time and road coverage, however, users in business must pay attention to the latest stage of 5G and think about how to use the new capabilities to their full extent.

Editor’s note: This article was originally written by Dan Jones and updated by Andrew Froehlich to reflect changes in technology.

Andrew Froehlich is the founder of InfraMomentum, an IT business research and analyst firm, and president of West Gate Networks, an IT consulting firm. He has been involved in business IT for over 20 years.

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