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With around 200 operators having commercial 5G deployed, and almost 300 operators investing in this technology, the commercialization of 5G networks is accelerating globally. Over 1 billion 5G connections are expected by 2023, making 5G communications a key to personal consumption experience upgrades and digital industrial transformation.

Diving into the technicalities of the latest mobile generation, 3GPP agreed last December 2021 on the priorities of the 5G update, officially known as 5G Advanced. The first specifications of 5G Advanced, which will be contained in Release 18, are aimed for approval at the end of Q1 2024 and then improved during the rest of the decade, continuing later on with 6G.

5G Advanced starts the second phase of the 5G decade by bringing a new wave of wireless technology innovation, transforming architecture, and enhancing functions. Leading telecom vendors Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, and Qualcomm have been vocal in their perspectives towards 5G Advanced.

For Huawei, the 5G Advanced evolution is technologically presented as a comprehensive integration of ICT, industrial field network, and data technologies. Hence, 5G Advanced networks are critical for an inclusive infrastructure that brings interconnectedness between people, machines, materials, and methods. More so, combining 5G network with big data, AI, and other emerging technologies can achieve more accurate digital extraction and build data models based on rich algorithms and business features.

Relatively, Nokia sees 5G Advanced as a way to enhance network capabilities in four dimensions: experience, expansion, extension, and operational excellence. Digital experiences will become truly immersive while the role of the network beyond communications is emphasized with high-precision location, presence, and timing technologies. 5G Advanced will also help bridge the digital divide by maximizing what mobile connectivity provides.

Additionally, Ericsson pointed out that one key component of 5G Advanced is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) based on machine learning (ML) techniques as AI/ML is expected to trigger a paradigm shift in future wireless networks. These automated solutions will be used to introduce intelligent network management and solve multi-dimensional optimization issues with respect to real-time and non-real-time network operations.

On the other hand, Qualcomm presented the new set of exciting projects that aims to deliver a balanced 5G Advanced evolution. These include delivering enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) experiences and extending 5G for new use cases; driving new value in commercialization efforts and fully realizing 5G’s potential; and bringing new levels of performance through 5G’s end-to-end system.

Taking all of these into consideration, mobile communication is always in a state of innovation and development, with the first phase of 5G standards commercially deployed and would be evolving from 2022 and beyond. Among all the new developments 5G Advanced entails, let’s zoom in on some of its fascinating capabilities.

5G Advanced capabilities

5G Advanced aims to expand end-to-end system with wireless machine learning across radio access networks (RAN), devices, and air interfaces by implementing network architecture, AI/ML procedure, and data management enhancements, alongside supporting new and expanded use cases.

The path toward 5G Advanced begins with Release 17. Significant enhancements to several RAN functionalities that are already deployed in live new radio (NR) networks are made such as beamforming, multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), dynamic spectrum sharing, user equipment power savings, positioning, ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), NR coverage, non-terrestrial networks (NTN), non-public networks (NPN), and edge computing.

Moreover, the concept of cloud-native, edge network, and network-as-a-service (NaaS) are also integrated alongside 5G Advanced to continue enhancing network capabilities and eventually move toward a cloud computing-based network integration. Thus, 5G Advanced networks are vital to have the characteristics of AI, convergence, and enablement (ACE).

As 5G develops, it is necessary to improve the capabilities and quality of services at all levels by introducing intelligent assistance. In parallel with this, the convergence of different access modes and networks is a development trend of 5G Advanced, allowing the connectivity between the air and ground and accommodating the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Wi-Fi, fixed networks, and other multi-protocol services. Accordingly, the application of NaaS can be facilitated better with deterministic networking, customization, high reliability, global control and management, and self-evolution, among other capabilities. This will enable the next phase of 5G to provide industries with customized networks that are proactive, flexible, and resource isolated. 

Faster, better, and farther — these describe 5G, in general, as it opens up new fields of application in different industries, may it be for automotive, manufacturing, fintech, or healthcare. What other wireless technologies fell short of in the past is now enabled with 5G. While many 5G applications are expected to directly impact how businesses run, its ability to improve accessibility and reach of mobile broadband as well as boost society’s safety, health and security are more invaluable benefits.

Soon to be unfolded to many, 5G Advanced networks will support more diversified, more certain, and more open communication services based on end-to-end quality measurement and guarantee, equipped with time synchronization, location services, etc.

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