Jim Jefferies, president, IEEE

The benefits of next-generation wireless technologies, including 5G, go beyond faster data delivery and service reliability. These technologies, particularly 5G, promise a paradigm shift in the world of connectivity. Currently, various operators and industry groups are chalking out strategies and readying the roadmap for 5G deployment. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is helping the industry globally to demystify the role and scope of 5G. Due to the broad envisioned 5G applicability, nearly all standards and projects within IEEE 802 have a role in supporting the development of this technology and enabling 5G class of services and user experience. In an interview with tele.net, Jim Jefferies, president, IEEE, talks about the evolving global 5G roadmap, the key challenges and the way forward. Excerpts…

How is the 5G ecosystem developing across the globe? What role is the IEEE playing?

Given the complexities involved in 5G, successful implementation of this technology will require deep expertise in areas such as semiconductor physics, massive MIMO (multiple input, multiple output), software-defined networks, shared spectrum access, wireless backhaul, and security applications, to name a few. The IEEE throu­gh its research and technical depth across its societies, the IEEE Future Net­works initiative (an IEEE Future Direc­tions’ initiative to address the challenges of next-generation wireless technologies), along with expertise in standards development through the IEEE Standards Asso­ciation, will play a key role in driving 5G globally. The IEEE is also focusing on re­gion-specific use cases and applications, including specific requirements for the success of 5G deployments in India.

The Indian government wants to ensure that its 5G roadmap is in sync with global timelines. What steps should the government take to achieve this?

The government should provide support for establishing test beds for 5G deployment. It is one thing to talk about how the technology will be deployed, and quite another to actually deploy it. Test beds will be critical for ensuring successful commercial deployment of the technology. It is also important to do some early thinking about the adoption of standards rather than allow individual carriers to move in­de­pendently. Through test beds and standards, the industry can control the direction in which things will move in the future.

Could you tell us about the IEEE’s 5G World Forum?

Through this forum, we are trying to bring together all the elements of 5G de­ve­lopment. The technology focus, at present, is more research based. At the 5G World Forum, we plan to discuss technology trade-offs. (The 5G World Forum is scheduled to be held from September 30 to October 2, 2019 in Dresden, Germany.)

What are the key infrastructure requirements for full-scale 5G development?

There are likely to be several gaps in the development and deployment of 5G. The first issue is the radio connection itself. It will be important to see how such frequencies can be handled and how to work with new antennas. Secondly, managing the complexities around structures like massive MIMO, which allows thousands of things to be connected at the same time, will be an issue. Further, there will be many changes in the network itself; Edge computing will be a lot closer to the end-user. So, there will be several components, all of which will have to be woven to­ge­ther. At the IEEE, we hope that the 5G working group, once it is formed, will take up discussions such as are all pieces of technology in sync, are they compatible, and are the standards firm enough to encourage operators and companies to make big investments. A strong foundation for the road­­map is critical to attract investments.

“The government should provide support for establishing test beds for 5G deployment which will be critical for ensuring successful commercial deployment of the technology.”

What are the regulatory roadblocks in the development and deployment of new-age technologies?

I think there is a need for full commitment. A series of investments is required – at the device level, the system level and the economy level – so that operators and other stakeholders can hope to get revenues from the network.

Also, 5G is not purely about hardware. It is not like 4G towers are being razed to deploy 5G towers. It is all about developing new network technologies and re­thinking network capabilities. More­over,  it will be better to pick some key areas early on from a regulatory point of view. Otherwise, there is always a risk that operators and vendors will move to the simplest areas first, as opposed to the best ones. Regulators can make a list of priorities for roll-out, as this will help equipment and device manufacturers and developers move in the right direction.