Innovators and inventors ‘haven’t yet begun to imagine’ everything 5G will enable

Speaking at the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s HetNet Expo in West Palm Beach, Fla., AT&T Vice President of RAN and Device Design Gordon Mansfield asked attendees to, “Put your imagination caps on for just a minute,” and consider what will be made possible through the commercialization of 5G mobile networks.

“Imagine that we have intelligent traffic switching that can adapt signaling to real-time traffic conditions and reduce congestion. Or let’s imagine that we have intelligent navigation. It can not only direct you to the address, but to an open parking spot within the vicinity of that address. Or imagine augmented reality glasses that describe relevant information about the environment that’s around you–maybe it’s a nearby bus stop, maybe it’s a restaurant rating, maybe it’s a taxi rating, or historic markers, maybe it’s something as simple as the weather forecast.”

He continued: “My favorite is…imagine a day when you can live stream your child’s soccer game to your family so they can enjoy it in real time.” Or if a loved on falls ill, 911 dispatches an ambulance service integrated with a hospital system enabling patients to receive doctor-provided care while en route. 

“The fact of the matter is,” Mansfield said, “all of those cases that I just imagined, we’re not stretching the imagination that far.”

But that vision comes with a note of caution. “There’s a lot of people that think 5G is this magical, singular event. The fact is that 5G is a lot of different components that all have to come together.” He mentioned core virtualization, RAN densification, change in network topology, advancement of data transport between cell sites and core, and placement of content near the network edge to lower latency. “All of those things have to happen. It’s not a singular event. It’s not a single day. It’s an evolution.”

And that evolution has already started with deployment of LTE-Advanced networks equipped with multi-channel carrier aggregation covering licensed and unlicensed spectrum, 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM.

Mansfield also mentioned, recalling the release of the iPhone in 2007, that traffic on AT&T’s network has increased about 250,000% in the last decade. “Now we start looking beyond that. It’s no longer just about smartphones. It’s about connecting all the other things. While today most of the traffic is driven by video, tomorrow you not have the increase in video, 4K video, you start to have the internet of things, augmented and virtual reality, smart homes and cities, autonomous vehicles…It’s important that the continued development of our LTE-Advanced network remains pressing along because it does, in fact, lay the foundation for the evolution to 5G.”


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