5G - the next chapter

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Vendors, researchers, analysts - in the world of Telecom nearly everybody seems to talk about "5G". Deutsche Telekom is one of the driving forces of this coming worldwide standard. Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Deutsche Telekom, talks about the background.

Mr. Jacobfeuerborn, it seems the 4th mobile communications generation is still far from being exhausted - why do we need the next one already with 5G?

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn: Our society is changing rapidly, and with it also people's needs. Back when we brought in 2G, we improved mobile telephony and made text messaging possible. 3G was the first step towards the mobile Internet, while 4G brought high bit-rate broadband connections, making the whole thing much more convenient. That is where we are today, and the number of people who can benefit from it is growing daily, thanks to the global rollout of the networks. But we are seeing that, in addition to people, more and more things from everyday life are also communicating via these networks. Televisions, cars… the list keeps on growing. 5G will enable us to cover the needs of a society that is both mobile and connected, because that is the direction of travel. Everything will be connected to everything and everyone else, without limits. That is our vision, and to meet these coming challenges, we are creating this new, global communications standard.

You said communications standard, not mobile communications standard?

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn: In fact, 5G will be the world's first communications standard for integrated networks. We got together with 23 other network operators from around the globe in the NGMN Alliance (Next Generation Mobile Networks) and defined the framework for what this fifth generation should be capable of. To this end, more than two dozen application scenarios were compiled, which effectively set the direction. These scenarios describe the communication needs our customers will have in the future. In order to support as many of these use cases and business models as possible, the design of 5G needs to be very flexible and scalable. In addition, the standard must lead to fundamental improvements in costs and energy efficiency. So, all in all, we are talking more about a standard that maps an entire ecosystem, and while mobile communications play an important role in this, they are only part of an immense whole.

What will change noticeably for customers with this standard?

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn: These days, different technologies are visible on devices - such as LTE or Wi-Fi. With 5G, customers will no longer see this difference. They will always have the best network connection, wherever they may be, without having to think about it. That means, there is no need for customers to search for a hotspot, because their device is already connected to it. Content will be available much more quickly than today and the response times of the infrastructure are better than human response times. One of these scenarios relates to precisely this: Tactile Internet, which enables people to manage machines or cars in real time. Technology like this requires minimum response times between movement and reaction, which means an extremely high-performance infrastructure.

So far, there is merely a White Paper. How will Deutsche Telekom drive forward development?

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn: With 5G:haus, we have brought into being a platform where we are working on the architecture of this new standard with partners, including manufacturers, innovative startups, and research partners. 5G:haus is not a physical building with one fixed location, but rather has multiple locations scattered across Europe. In the process, we are exploiting both the opportunities of our company's European infrastructure, and the benefits of agile development. Thus we can develop new technological solutions in several places at the same time, test them for their suitability for 5G, and in this way drive forward the overall standardization process.

What is the timeframe?

Bruno Jacobfeuerborn: Even though research and development are already well underway, we don't expect the standardization process to be completed or therefore 5G to be available before 2020. But then the way will be clear for new business models which will only be made possible through this new standard. 5G will be the trailblazer, for instance in the healthcare sector, in the field of connected cars, but certainly also in the transportation and logistics industry.