Creating New Made In Japan Value Through 5G

Mr. Takaharu Nakamura, Deputy Chairman, Technical Committee

Among the four committees of the 5GMF, the technical committee is responsible for research of wireless access technologies. The committee’s chairman, Osaka University Professor Seiichi Sampei, who is a leading researcher of mobile communications engineering, has been guiding us by saying “We must go beyond the existing framework of technological development in order to elaborate and dispatch Japan originated value taking advantage of our own way of engineering”. With this message in mind, experts of mobile communications have to together and been cooperating in the committee targeting ‘5G’.

Regarding the technological development of 5G, I see a fundamental difference from the ones for mobile communication systems in the past days. Since mobile phones and smart phones have already penetrated into the market deeply and widely, we should clearly declare what is the value of 5G and what it could bring to the market if propose ‘5G’as the successor of the cumbersome systems. As a matter of fact, the development stories up to 4G system were straightforward and simple that high speed data transmission capability was sufficient enough to justify the value of the communication systems, while for ‘5G’, however, the first and the fundamental question we must answer is “What can be accomplished with such high speeds?” This could be a new and knotty question to answer especially for these engineers who have been solely familiar with transmission technologies. We are now confronting the fact that before start to solve technical issues in front of us, we should ask ourselves what could be the achievement expected when we reach the goal beyond the horizon.

In the process of elaborating the 5GMF White Paper, published at the end of May, 2016, we started from long debates on actual reasoning behind the technical subjects and tried to shape up the value from the stand point of communities outside the telecommunications industry. Prof. Sampei, as the committee chairman, who gave us a highly suggestive guiding principle repeated “inherent heterogeneous networks will be the key to make 5G in real”. I should admit that if you say less than three ideas out of ten we discussed could come true, you would be very optimistic. Even if it is the situation at the moment, I am sure we will do our best to make all of them to happen and try to avoid wasting our valuable resources in vain. Furthermore I also believe we should go forward towards ‘5G’ despite these challenges and look for the actual values of ‘5G’ to benefit the global ecosystem and as the consequence of these activities, I would expect we will get our valuable social properties that could support our enriched and matured social activities as well as industries in the coming decades.

When it comes to the technology development itself, there will be a lot of technical elements that should be taken into account. As an example, offering a fast yet highly stable transmission speeds would contain enormous technical challenges. Besides that when we try to provide a lower transmission latency with reduced cost and power consumption, we foresee several technical aspects which requires certain efforts to resolve them. We are considering utilizing higher frequency spectrum as well. We should conquer all of these wide range of technical field as a whole. Simply prolonging the project period nor spending much budged would not help the situation. Building up the project to reach the goal in time and launching useful and practical system at the right timing should be the point. With that understanding, we are reviewing the situation carefully in order to progress the project in an efficient and reasonable way.

In terms of actual technical enablers, there seem several aspects which need to be considered. These include improvements of spectral efficiency using non-orthogonal multiplexing, antenna beam forming or massive MIMO in higher spectrum, massive IoT systems that handle a huge number of IoT devices, providing end to end low latency transmission that can manage autonomous driving of vehicles or remote controlling systems, or configuring highly secured and resilient networks. Considering widely dispersed and diverse use scenes of the system, you should not expect any single all-purpose technology that could serve all of these scenarios. Technology-wise, a great number of simple or unattractive solutions could be gathered and combined to solve a wide range of technological issues, thanks to their versatility. Rather than to seek an unlikely single all-purpose technology as a ‘5G’ network, practical approach would be to prepare a set of off-the-shelf technologies and depending on the use scenario required, one of them shall be selected and provided in a flexible and swift manner.

Up to now, the 5GMF, as well as other global organizations involved with 5G, have been at the stage of, so to say, talking about their dreams. In another words, we have been expanding our front lines to the point where all the expected values are provided. Taking into consideration our goal to launch our system by year of 2020, we also need to keep a realistic plan of our research programme. Even when we could enlarge either or all of the maximum data transfer speed, system capacity or number of devices in a system by factor of thousand-fold for instance, it would be meaningless if its power consumption of the system is increased by the same amount. In this regard, it is the crucial moment to think about how to overcome these fundamental technical challenges.

Individual technical challenges could be resolved by every effort to be carried out by researchers in vendors or communication operators either in Japan or abroad though, gathering all of these solutions into a unified system would be a separate and a tough challenge. The 2020 Olympics and Paralympics held in Tokyo would be a good or ultimate business opportunity in Japan. In order to exploit the opportunity, it is important to make ready the system in time. Prioritizing some of the aspects of the expected features in a pragmatic manner would be the way rather than to try to elaborate every element of them. The 5GMF would be a good place in which a consensus on these ideas both inside and outside of Japan could be reached. Propagating the consensus and technical solutions globally via the 5GMF as a firm foothold, will help widen and strengthen the activities of each engineer working in sites in Japan.

In the end, however, we cannot solely rely upon the efforts of the telecommunications industry if 5G is to be able to bring new value to every stakeholder. We need to hear the opinions from the various fields that will use telecommunications as well. As the starting point, we can introduce new 5G technologies to there and make them use, and then get feedbacks as impressions or requests from these potential users. Including an answer to our fundamental but unresolved question of “what could be done by ‘5G’ and what could be not?”, we will see all the values of ‘5G’ by carrying out the above mentioned activities and that can be the basis of providing the new ‘made in Japan value’.