Author: Rose Behar
It’s a sunny June day in Burnaby, British Columbia, and several men in suits are standing clustered on the roof of an office building, speaking in excited tones and looking reverently at a nondescript antenna near the edge.
The antenna, though unassuming, holds a great deal of historical significance in the world of 5G research and development.
It’s Huawei and Telus’ first multi-point deployment of 5G wireless tech based on the emerging global standard — meaning it comes closer than ever before to approximating a real-world situation, distributing the connection over multiple points rather than just sender-to-receiver.
During a demonstration of the antenna’s capabilities the next day, four different sites — one providing 4K streaming content, another powering a Vntana hologram, a third enabling multiplayer VR and a fourth showcasing a smart home — were receiving simultaneous, stable multi-gigabit per second connections.
…[Rob] Backhouse [vice-president of wireless technical sales and solutions at Huawei Canada] believes that 5G will bring about the decoupling of hardware and software, allowing carriers the ability to use common off-the-shelf hardware as a base layer and run proprietary software on top, which in turn makes for faster and less expensive deployments.
He also notes that techniques like self-organizing networks (SON) help reduce costs by offering greater automation.
“The network will become smarter, it will be able to self-configure and it’ll be able to heal itself — if network elements have outages, it’ll shift services across,” says Backhouse, though he notes that it will take time for carriers to experiment with the technology and retrain staff.
From a carrier point of view, Bureau believes 5G will be a work in progress for quite a while.
“The deployments of 5G are not going to happen all at once. If you look at previous generations, LTE was rolled out over several years and then LTE-Advanced got rolled out over several years, so it’s likely going to be the same for 5G,” said Bureau.