Keysight Technologies is now an independent company trading on the NYSE | Learn more


Contact an Expert

White Paper : Current Activity in 5G

5G Whilte Paper Image

Even as LTE and LTE Advanced (4th Generation cellular systems) are being deployed, work is already starting on their successor: 5G. This paper describes the needs that demand continued development of mobile and fixed-line communications systems, and explains some background on who is involved and what is currently happening in bringing 5G from theory to reality.

Current situation

If we’re all to use our mobile devices to work and play anywhere, we want access to streaming services and all our own “stuff”, instantly, on devices as small as a smartphone or as large as the screen in an auditorium – properly formatted for the size of the screen, of course. We’re already socially networked, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. We want to be able to share versions of our stuff – photos, video, data, whatever – with friends, colleagues, and customers – wherever they may be.

In the same way, we don’t want to buy software applications we don’t need. Instead, we want to rent the applications we need to process our data for just as long as we need them. This is the vision of true “cloud computing”, as opposed to just cloud storage, and its reality depends almost entirely on high-speed connectivity.

This need for high-speed connectivity is a common denominator as we look ahead to fifth-generation or 5G networks. Achieving 24/7 access to, and sharing of, all our “stuff” requires that we continue on our current path: going far beyond simple voice and data services, and moving to a future state of “everything everywhere and always connected”.

Going beyond just Voice

For most of the 20th century, network operators used the work of Danish mathematician and engineer A.K. Erlang (1878-1929) as the basis for network planning: the central idea was predicting the number of simultaneous users a landline telecommunications network would have to support. As long as the networks were used mainly for voice calls, the same broad principles applied to mobile networks, with the added flexibility of using a smaller cell size in geographic “hot spots” where more users could be expected and cell capacity could be exceeded.

Today, as the provisioning and take-up of data services, and the types of connected devices, on both fixed-line and mobile networks continues to rocket, the rules of network provisioning need to be re-written. Data services are by their nature discontinuous. Moving to packet- rather than circuit-based service delivery allows more users to share the same resource even though the overhead associated with directing the data becomes more complex. As fixed-line network infrastructures have moved from copper to the virtually-limitless capacity of fiber, this packet delivery overhead has not been an issue.

For individual subscribers, three main delivery mechanisms for general use have emerged: Data Over Cable Service Infrastructure Specifications (DOCSIS) modems using existing cable TV infrastructure, Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) modems using the fixed-line telephone network, and third and fourth generation cellular networks with higher cell capacities (aka “mobile broadband”).

Successive advances in mobile network technology and system specifications have provided higher cell capacity and consequent improvements in single-user data rate. The increases in data rate have come courtesy of increased computing power, and increased modulation density made possible by better components, particularly in the area of digital receivers. Along with the latest mobile network specifications, there is a concurrent move to the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) – the simplified all-packet network architecture designed specifically to improve data throughput and latency, and to better match the air interface part of the mobile network to the architecture of the network’s backhaul and of fixed-line networks. In fixed-line networks, higher speeds for data-intensive services come via the extension of fiber optic cable into local distribution. Copper has become the “last yards”, rather than “last mile” medium, as fiber-to-the-curb (sometimes “fiber-to-the-cabinet”) and even fiber-to-the-home networks provide the high-speed broadband connectivity that’s required for high-definition video streaming and like services.

These improvements have produced a “chicken and egg” conundrum for mobile network operators: the more data capacity they make available, the more complex and data-hungry applications are developed for smartphones and tablets, and the more sophisticated the demands of end-users become. The latest of these demands is “seamless connectivity” – the ability to move an application amongst devices: for instance, tablet to smartphone to home entertainment center – without interruption of the content. To provide this capability requires access to, and control of, the content over multiple networks: WiFi hotspot, cellular and landline. (It’s not just a technical challenge –associated billing needs a plethora of roaming agreements as well.)

What’s next

In all this, there is one certainty that must be considered: wireless spectrum is limited. In the long run, this must mean only those connections which MUST be mobile should be wireless. As much service delivery as possible must be routed through fixed (fiber) networks to as close as possible to the point of consumption. We’re already seeing the rise of television and radio services delivered over the internet, with more choice of material and timing than terrestrial or satellite broadcast can match. And in mobile networks, today’s WiFi offload becomes the starting point for the norm of tomorrow, freeing up cellular system capacity to give mobile users the best possible service.

In the mobile world, capacity gains come essentially from three variables: more spectrum, better efficiency and better frequency re-use through progressively smaller cell size. The fourth generation networks currently being built use more frequency bands than previous generations and can use broader channel bandwidths. The work on EPC does recognise, and seek to limit, the packet delivery overhead in wireless networks, since signalling absorbs (finite) network capacity. However, with mobile data consumption currently forecast to almost double year-on-year for the next five years, the network operators maintain they will struggle to meet long-term demand without even more spectrum. Freeing up frequency bands currently used for other systems will become a major priority.

The vision for the year 2020 that’s presented in the studies for fifth generation mobile networks “5G” is one of “everything everywhere and always connected”. It assumes devices can operate on frequencies from a few hundred megahertz to (in some cases) eighty gigahertz. Indoor cell sizes may be as small as a single room. It employs pico- and femto-cells to maximize frequency reuse at RF. ITU’s definition of 4G has an expectation of 1 Gbps single-user data rate. The goal for 5G is not necessarily to increase this, but to have a high-capacity network capable of delivering this rate to a much bigger user community; in other words to provider higher aggregate capacity for more simultaneous users. None of the studies have specific details of the core network that joins everything together, but they assume the seamless connectivity mentioned earlier will be a given. 

Some studies also focus on the advances in battery technology needed to support new mobile devices, ranging from simple sensors with a battery life of years, to multi-day time between charges for always-connected smartphones and tablets. 

To support vastly increased numbers of devices and performance requirements, the latest 5G studies postulate the key network attributes that will be required: an integrated wireline/wireless network, where the wireless part comprises a dense network of small cells with capacity enhanced through high-order spatial multiplexing (MIMO), cell data rates of the order of 10 GB/s and round-trip latency of 1 ms. Most studies now assume multiple air interfaces, which will include operation at microwave or millimetre frequencies. With these attributes, the combined network will support everything from simple M2M devices to immersive virtual reality streaming, with monitoring and control of literally billions of sensors and multiple simultaneous streaming services, and will support the massive data collection and distribution needs of the “Internet of Things”. With the massive infrastructure costs involved, it’s difficult to see individual operators affording the investment separately; shared, jointly-managed resources have been predicted as being much more likely.

The official process of 5G standardization should be launched in 2015-2016 time frame, to be kicked off at ITU-R WRC-15. The International Telecommunication Union holds an international conference every three to four years, known as the World Radiocommunication Conference, to sort out international radio frequency issues, including standards for mobile networks. The next WRC is scheduled to be held in Geneva in 2015. The 5G standard is expected to be one of the topics of discussion for international delegates.

The players in 5G


Hari Balakrishnan and Dina Katabi co-directors

Also known more formally as the MIT Center for Wireless Networks and Mobile Computing, this new organization pulls together more than a dozen MIT professors and their research groups to work on next-generation wireless networks and mobile computing.

The work done at the center is designed to make an impact on technology users: Wireless@MIT boasts a "strong industrial partnership" with Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Telefonica, Amazon, STMicroelectronics, and MediaTek -- and says it aims to influence standards and products.

Research at Wireless@MIT is currently focused on four areas: spectrum and connectivity, mobile applications, security and privacy, and low-power systems.

Latest (Oct 2013): Their work has been recognised with two awards to Professor Katabi: she has been named one of the 2013 MacArthur Fellows, and has also won the ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for her contributions to the theory and practice of network congestion control and bandwidth allocation.

European Union

Under “A Digital Agenda for Europe” the EU has already launched eight projects to begin exploring the technological options available leading to the future generation of "wired" (optical) and "wireless" communications, adding up to over €50m for research on 5G technologies deployable by 2020. Overall EU investments from 2007 to 2013 amounted to more than €600m in research on future networks, half of which was allocated to wireless technologies contributing to development of 4G and beyond.

Their expectation is that next-generation communication systems will be the first instance of a truly converged network where "wired" and "wireless" communications will use the same infrastructure. This future ubiquitous, ultra-high bandwidth communication infrastructure will drive the future networked society.

EU funding for this initiative is coordinated under the auspices of the Seventh Framework Programme for research and development (FP7).

METIS – Mobile and Wireless Communications Enablers for the Twenty-twenty (2020) Information Society  

METIS is an EU-funded, Ericsson-led, consortium of 29 organizations with a €27m budget and more coming from the European Commission is aimed at replicating Europe’s worldwide success with GSM and subsequent technologies. It will "develop a system concept that delivers the necessary efficiency, versatility and scalability... investigate key technology components supporting the system, and...evaluate and demonstrate key functionalities." The majority of participants are universities and mobile network operators, with industry partners including Alcatel-Lucent, BMW, Huawei, Nokia, and Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN).Based on today’s and projected user demands and on the already known challenges such as very high data rates, dense crowds of users, low latency, low energy, low cost and a massive number of devices, METIS has outlined the following 5G scenarios that reflect the future challenges and will serve as guidance for further work:

  • “Amazingly fast”, focusing on high data-rates for future mobile broadband users
  • “Great service in a crowd”, focusing on mobile broadband access even in very crowded areas and conditions
  • “Ubiquitous things communicating”, focusing on efficient handling of a very large number of devices with widely varying requirements
  • “Best experience follows you”, focusing on delivering high levels of user experience to mobile end users
  • “Super real-time and reliable connections”, focusing on new applications and use cases with stringent requirements on latency and reliability

METIS has derived a challenging set of requirements from these scenarios, which can be summarized as:

  • Ten to one hundred times higher typical user data rate where in a dense urban environment the typical user data rate will range from one to ten Gbps
  • One thousand times more mobile data per area (per user) where the volume per area (per user) will be over 100 Gbps/km2 (resp. 500 Gbyte/user/month)
  • Ten to one hundred times more connected devices
  • Ten times longer battery life for low-power massive machine communications where machines such as sensors or pagers will have a battery life of a decade
  • Support of ultra-fast application response times (e.g. for tactile internet) where the end-to-end latency will be less than 5 ms with high reliability
  • A key challenge will be to fulfill the previous requirements under a similar cost and energy dissipation per area as in today’s cellular systems

METIS is co-funded by the European Commission as an Integrated Project under the Seventh Framework Programme for research and development (FP7). It will run for 30 months. 

Technical University of Dresden, Germany 

Gerhard P. Fettweis, Vodafone Chair Professor
MWJ Article Link – A 5G Wireless Communications Vision 

TU-Dresden previously pioneered 3G systems research in association with the Vodafone Chair Mobile Communications Systems, which is dedicated to cutting-edge research in wireless communication technology. Their vision for a next-generation system is user-centric, with required system attributes based on perceived future usage models: “The Internet of Things”. Their vision for 5G is to provide a new unified air interface to cover cellular, short-range and sensor technology that can deliver 10 Gbps, 1 ms latency and simple sensors with 10-year battery life.

Centre for Communication Systems Research (CCSR), University of Surrey, UK

Professor Rahim Tafazolli 

The project began in 2013, and is expected to cost around £35 million ($56 million USD), where about £11.6 million will come from the UK government and the other £24 million will be provided by a group of tech companies, including Samsung, Huawei, Fujitsu Laboratories Europe, Telefonica Europe, and AIRCOM International. An expansion of the program is also being sought with further proposals going to the UK government.

“We are looking at the processors, protocols, algorithms, and techniques...we won't try to optimise the hardware implementation -- that is something the industry will do. We have developed the know-how” – quote from Professor Tafazolli.

Their focus is on providing “sufficient rate to give users the perception of infinite capacity”, through examining:

  • Latency
  • Energy Efficiency
  • Scalability
  • Reliability and Robustness
  • Distribute control between Network and Devices
  • Uniformity between licensed and license-exempt bands (including Broadcast)
  • Dense cell technologies
  • Exploring and understanding new frequency bands

It’s claimed that the new network will be spectrum-efficient and energy-efficient. It will also be faster, with cell speeds bumped up to a capacity of 10Gbps.

CCSR has also a long standing track record in the UK where it was selected by industry as a core member of the UK Virtual Centre of Excellence in Mobile and Personal Communications. CCSR is also deeply involved in many 7th Framework IST projects.

CCSR’s work and research activities, both past and present include the following areas:

  • Air Interface
  • Cognitive Networks and Future Internet
  • Cognitive Radio
  • Radio Access System Optimization
  • Security
  • Knowledge and Data Engineering

Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly)

Professor Theodore (Ted) Rappaport

Professor Rappaport directs two projects based at NYU-Poly: NYU Wireless and WICAT.


Researchers at NYU-Poly have assembled a consortium of government and business support to advance beyond today’s fourth generation (4G) wireless technologies toward 5G cellular networks. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded the team an Accelerating Innovation Research (AIR) grant of $800,000, matched by $1.2 million from corporate backers and the Empire State Development Division of Science, Technology & Innovation (NYSTAR), which supports the project through its longstanding partnership with NYU-Poly’s Center for Advanced Technology in Telecommunications (CATT). They are also seeking multi-year funding commitments from their industry sponsors to support around 100 students involved in the research.

The 5G project will develop smarter and far less expensive wireless infrastructure by means of smaller, lighter antennas with directional beamforming to bounce signals off buildings using the uncrowded millimeter-wave spectrum. It will also help develop smaller, smarter cells with devices that cooperate rather than compete for spectrum.


WICAT is a multi-university R&D center sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under its program of Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers (I/UCRC). Polytechnic Institute of NYU is the lead institution in WICAT, with Prof. Rappaport serving as director. WICAT center sites are also located at Virginia Tech, University of Texas at Austin, Auburn University, and the University of Virginia.

Thrust areas of the WICAT research at Polytechnic Institute of NYU are to increase network capacity and battery life of terminals, enhance network security, and structure applications to run efficiently over wireless networks. The research at Virginia Tech focuses on software-defined radios and military applications; Auburn University focuses on circuit design and automation; the University of Texas deals with ad hoc and sensor networks; and the University of Virginia deals with video recognition, large data problems, and rapidly reconfigurable wireless networks.


China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has established a working group called “IMT-2020 (5G) Promotion Group” for 5G research in February 2012. China is seeking participation with Taiwan in the program.

Tokyo Institute of Technology and DOCOMO 

Tokyo Institute of Technology in a joint outdoor experiment conducted recently with NTT DOCOMO, INC. succeeded in a packet transmission uplink rate of approximately 10 Gbps. In the experiment, a 400 MHz bandwidth in the 11 GHz spectrum was transmitted from a mobile station moving at approximately 9 km/h. Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology was used to spatially multiplex different data streams using eight transmitting antennas and 16 receiving antennas on the same frequency.

Qualcomm’s 1000x Data Challenge Presentation

The presentation “1000x Data Challenge” from Qualcomm discusses a three-fold evolution of today’s 4G standards. It proposes study items for 3GPP specification releases 12 and beyond relating to interworking, heterogeneous networks, self-organizing networks and steadily decreasing cell sizes. See  for presentation material and discussions.


Samsung Electronics recently announced it had made a breakthrough in wireless network technology, calling it "5G". In a statement, Samsung said that its researchers "successfully developed the world's first adaptive array transceiver technology operating in the millimeter-wave Ka bands for cellular communications."

The transmissions used in the test were made at the ultra-high 28GHz frequency, which offers far more bandwidth than the frequencies used for 4G networks. High frequencies can carry more data, but have the disadvantage that they generally can be blocked by buildings and lose intensity over longer distances.

Samsung said its adaptive array transceiver technology, using 64 antenna elements, can be a viable solution for overcoming the weaker propagation characteristics of millimeter-wave bands, which are much higher in frequency than conventional wireless spectrum. The company said it "plans to accelerate the research and development of 5G mobile communications technologies, including adaptive array transceiver at the millimeter-wave bands”.

Intel in collaboration with Universities

Intel Corp. has formed a research collaboration with leading universities to explore technologies for next-gen wireless networks. Initially, Intel will invest at least $3 million to support wireless research at more than 10 universities including Stanford, ITT Delhi and Pompeu Fabra. The work focuses on topics including how to improve quality of service via context awareness, wireless device power efficiency and enabling new radio spectrum.


Huawei has signed a five-year deal with Ottawa that would see them invest a total of $80 million and employ over 150 new jobs into a new R&D center working on 5G. It is one of 10 “global centers of technical and financial excellence” that Huawei has committed to setting up worldwide.


Broadcom has begun selling a range of 802.11ac-compatible Wireless LAN chips it markets as “5G WiFi”. Devices using them will be capable of data rates in excess of 1 Gbps, over the same distances as current 802.11a/b/g/n products. They will be incorporated in many new wireless routers, PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Other papers

“5G mobile phone concept”
Author: Janevski, T . Fac. of Electr. Eng. & Inf. Technol., Univ. Sv. Kiril i Metodij, Skopje 
Published in Consumer Communications and Networking Conference, 2009. CCNC 2009. 6th IEEE 

“Evolution of Networks (2G-5G)” 
Jay R. Churi, T. Sudhish Surendran, Ajay Tigdi, Shreyas, Sanket Yewale 
Dept. of Comp. Sc., Padmabhushan Vasantdada Patil Pratishthan’s College of Engineering, Mumbai University, India

Published in International Conference on Advances in Communication and Computing Technologies (ICACACT) 2012 Proceedings published by International Journal of Computer Applications® (IJCA) 8 

Agilent Technologies

Agilent Technologies measurement and application experts are working with industry experts to anticipate the growing complexities of 5G so the industry can accelerate these new technologies.

Agilent provides insight into this research with a full range of simulation and measurement tools. Vector Network Analyzers along allow in-depth design and test of millimeter wave components such as the antenna array elements needed for beam-steering and MIMO. SystemVue is a system-level design automation environment that accelerates design and verification of communications systems at the physical layer, where advanced digital signal processing meets RF. It combines with Agilent measurement products to create an expandable environment for modeling, implementing, and validating next-generation communications systems. It enables a virtual system to be verified from the first day of a project, beginning with simulation models, and gradually incorporating more measurements as the design is translated into working hardware. It can be used in conjunction with Agilent signal sources to create complex arbitrary waveforms to test theoretical channel models in the real world. SystemVue can also be used in conjunction with Agilent 89600 VSA software, a comprehensive set of tools that works with a range of signal analysis products for demodulation and vector signal analysis. Together these measurement, simulation, and signal generation and analysis tools enable the exploration of virtually every facet of the components and signals that will become part of the advanced designs needed for next-generation communications systems.

Visit Agilent’s websites at and and the new 5G website coming soon to see the latest solutions that can be used for 4G and 5G.