Humans will make only a small portion of 5G users, BinShakar said. Humans will make only a small portion of 5G users, BinShakar said.

In less than two years, the way we experience technology will experience a paradigm shift. That is when networks will start rolling out 5G services.

Preparations are already underway at UAE telco du, which is working towards being one of the first carriers in the region to roll out 5G.

“We have set out a roadmap that will guide our process until 5G is launched and continue until the roll out is complete around 2023” explained Mahmoud Sherif, senior director mobile access network planning at du. “Teams, set up last year, have been working on the various facets of the technology to prepare for the eventual launch.”

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) is expected to issue standards for 5G at the end of this year. Vendors will use these guidelines to manufacture networking equipment and handsets, a process that should take 12-18 months to bring the technology to market.

5G will be deployed in phases starting in 2019, Marwan BinShakar, vice president, access and transport planning at du explained. At the beginning, there will be a relatively limited number of applications which will then rise as the network is fully rolled out in the following five years.  

“5G is not a big bang,” Sherif said. “One cannot wait until the technology is available and then simply switch it on. Preparation has to start well before hand.”

5G represents a major technology shift. Carriers estimate 5G will offer speeds 10 to 100 times faster than current 4G LTE networks. All the previous generations of telecommunications technology upto 4G were almost identical at their foundation. Most of the use cases have been for human communication, BinShakar observed. “Humans will make only a small portion of 5G users. Most connections will be the billions of IoT devices that will come into the network in the coming decade.” 

On the network side, service providers will have to deploy millions of small cell sites as opposed to the thousands of cell towers they currently operate.

5G is referred to as the 3rd paradigm shift in mobile networks after the previous two comprising the voice era of the 80s and 90s, and the 2000s dominated by the mobile broadband era of 3G and 4G. The year 2020 and beyond will encompass the hyper connected world of 5G.

Use cases

There are three main use cases for 5G: extremely high speed of over 1GBPs over telecom networks (enhanced mobile broadband or eMBB), very low latency (ultra-reliable and low latency communication or eRLLC) and very high capacity (massive machine type communication or mMTC). The combination of these three qualities is the key differentiator of 5G vis-à-vis anything before it, said Sherif.   

Video will be one of the key uses of 5G. Online videos will increase 11 times when 5G is launched versus what we have today.

“Video is the new voice,” said Sherif. “There’s going to a massive increase for on-demand video as opposed to the linear television we have today. 4K video is also emergent which will then lead to 8K, increasing demand for frequency.”

This is in addition to virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). To experience VR in high definition requires 1,000 times the speed of a regular YouTube video.  No current wireless network can support that, noted Sherif.

5G will also enable high speed fibre-through-the-air to connect areas such as rural areas where laying of fibre is not feasible.

Connected cars will also depend on 5G in the future. Although these vehicles will start with current 4G, they will have to transition to 5G, which will enable much more effective vehicle-to-X (V2X) communications.  V2X facilitates direct communication between vehicles (vehicle-to-vehicle) and other road users and between permanently installed infrastructure (vehicle-to-infrastructure), such as traffic lights or other traffic management systems.

Other use cases will include smart grids, drones with real time communication between drones and operators as well as in healthcare with remote surgery.

US operators have pledged to launch pre-commercial 5G by the end of the year.  At the Winter Olympics in South Korea next year, the world will witness 5G in action as the Asian country also moves to deploy pre-commercial 5G as part of the games extravaganza. This will enable live video on both TV and wireless devices with zero latency. Fans can also get right into the thick of things with augmented reality through cameras worn by competitors. Korean authorities also plan to install live podium holograms in malls so fans can witness medal presentation in new interactive ways. Authorities will also use real time facial recognition for security.

In the UAE, du launched the high speed and high capacity Massive MIMO earlier this year, allowing the carrier to significantly multiply capacity without requiring more wireless spectrum. This technology will supply some of the building blocks for 5G deployment, said Sherif.