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GSMA Experts See Focus Shifting to 5G-Advanced

6G isn’t the next step after 5G, but similar to 4G there will be an interim stage -- 5G advanced -- speakers said during a GSMA webinar Thursday. GSMA also released a white paper on 5G-advanced. Experts forecast increased use of new technologies like integration of sensing and communication (ISAC) and unified time frequency-division duplexing (UDD). Upcoming 3rd Generation Partnership Project Release-18 will be “the inaugural release” for 5G-advanced, GSMA said.

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5G has provided the foundations of the framework and improved some of the capacities, the speed, the coverage,” said Barbara Pareglio, GSMA executive director-advanced air mobility. 5G-advanced “will refine all of the capabilities that already exist in 5G, but bring it to the next level,” she said.

China Mobile Research Institute started to look at 5G-advanced a year ago, said Nan Hu, vice director-Department of Wireless and Terminal Technology Research. One focus is cross-layer technology, he said. Extended reality (XR) “is the bridge between the cyberspace and the real world” and will “empower” networks, he said. Network capacity is the “bottleneck” preventing more widespread use of XR, he said. “How to handle this is cross-layer,” which involves sharing information among layers for efficient use of network resources, he said. Cross-layer technology can expand a network's capacity times five “and will be the key to support the XR traffic widely in our network,” he said.

5G-advanced will also mean more use of ISAC, which is a “hot topic” for both 5G and 6G, Hu said. “We all see the need for the integration of the sensing and communications together” in areas like autonomous driving, he said. ISAC will lead to more efficient use of spectrum and “seamless and ubiquitous sensing coverage,” with lower costs, he said.

Another technology that will play a big role is UDD, Hu said. UDD will allow switching between uplink and downlink on a band and “fundamentally change the paradigm for spectrum utilization,” he said: “The key technology for UDD is how to suppress interference, including self-interference and also crossing interference,” he said.

5G-advanced will mean the ability to “offer more services than what we have done so far with 5G,” said Benoit Graves, head-3GPP radio access network standardization at Orange. There will be “operational benefits as well, both in terms of energy efficiency and intelligence on the network, to run with more automation,” he said.

Most of Europe is moving to use of the 6 GHz band on a licensed basis, Graves said. “It’s a very significant chunk of spectrum for deployment,” he said. Orange needs more spectrum for uplinks, especially for business-to-business use and instant upload, he said: “For example, a train arriving in a train station with lots of data around the journey needs to upload this very quickly.”

XR is already supported on Orange networks, “but we can do better in terms of managing situations with low coverage or lower capacity,” Graves said: “To do this, we need some awareness from the network point of view to know that this is XR and the specific characteristics in terms of latency and throughput requirements.” Another focus of 5G-advanced is satellite communications, he said. “Satellite really has a potential to provide the solution for areas were we have no solution so far” including the desert or very rural areas “where we have no terrestrial option that has been reasonably possible to deploy,” he said.

Release 18 “will develop a detailed network power compensation methodology,” said Olof Liberg, head of the Ericsson 3GPP RAN standards team. That will help carriers identify where they can make their networks more efficient, he said. “Perhaps even more important, in the long run, it will help us develop features that provide sustainable gains,” he said.

5G-advanced will also make networks smarter through more use of AI, Liberg said. In Release 18 “the focus is on energy efficiency, load balancing and mobility management,” he said. It will provide “richer data collection” from existing networks, he said: “We could ask the device to report its expected velocity and direction, perhaps even trajectory, and the network can then proactively prepare.”

5G-Advanced will provide all kinds of smart connectivity, including services that focus on uplink communication and connect people moving at high velocities, such as those on trains and on planes,” the GSMA paper said. “5G-Advanced will also efficiently support highly immersive and interactive applications, which will be widely deployed in the entertainment, training and education sectors.” 5G-advanced “will further strengthen support for low cost, low power-devices, such as industrial wireless sensors, smart watches and smart eyewear, together with bandwidths below 5 MHz” and will “support time-sensitive networks, timing-as-a-service, precise network-based positioning and enhance positioning based on the Global Navigation Satellite System,” GSMA said.