5G will take mobile networks to the next level

The new, even faster and more reliable network enables new IoT applications and supports the development of the services and infrastructure of the rapidly digitalizing society. Compared with 4G, the new network can serve even a larger number of users and offer higher transmission bandwidth with lower energy consumption.

Olli Liinamaa, Project Manager of 5G test network, operated in cooperation with the University of Oulu and Nokia, says that a foretaste of the speed and functionality of 5G networks can be experienced from the home couch.

“It looks like the first application area of the 5G networks will be the home broadbands.”

Finland is in pole position

Matti Latva-Aho, Professor of Telecommunications Technology at University of Oulu, emphasizes that the development of 5G network is a long-term effort. Latva-aho says that the overall development is a result of previous knowledge, improvement of the existing mobile networks and development of new solutions.

“Wireless connectivity has been at the core of the development for over thirty years, and during the past decade the focus has been on superefficient broadband development leading to 5G. Although the development has been previously Nokia-driven, there is currently a large ecosystem around IoT which has enriched and broadened the scope of collaboration and sped up development towards new innovative products.”

The 5G test network Finland, where over 60 organizations work together, also includes three of the world’s largest mobile network manufacturers Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei.

“According to the information available for us, this is a very unique possibility. As both the development and the utilization of the network take place in the same spot, the latest solutions can be quickly transferred from testing networks to commercial use,” says Klemettinen.

According to Jose Costa-Requena, Research Manager at Aalto University, compared with other countries, the Finnish 5G network ecosystem is more advanced and comprehensive.

“In other countries, the development of 5G network components only extends to individual components, whereas in Finland the entire network is being developed. Academia is integrating research and development from different industrial partners to avoid working in silos and instead cooperating towards common goal which is keeping Finland at cutting edge of mobile communications.”

Finland is at the forefront of 5G networks also in Professor Latva-Aho’s rankings. Nevertheless, the Professor adds that there is no resting on one’s laurels.

“If Finland wants to maintain its place at the head, it is important for both public and private players to make the required investments. Finland could easily act as a pioneer in the field by launching a micro-operator concept in major cities during 2018.”

Micro-operators are small and local operators that provide online services in well-defined areas, such as shopping malls, factories and stadiums.

Major step in the evolution

5G is the next major step in the evolution of mobile networks. Tekes is supporting the development with their 5th Gear program, which started in 2014 and ends in 2019. The Program Manager, Mika Klemettinen, thinks the most radical reform of 5G network is the shift from supporting the inter-human communication to support the inter-machine communication.

“Together with intelligent data analysis and A.I., 5G and related IoT technologies build a new layer for digital platform economy. This layer can then be utilized in building new digital solutions and services regardless of the industry,” Klemettinen claims.

“Moreover, the amount of content that can be transferred online is increasing at a rapid pace. The new network solutions also enable favourable growth environment for new application areas, such as Intelligent Transport Systems and industrial applications.”

A taste of the future

“The 5G standard should be ready in 2020, and that is also when the spread of the new networks will start,” says Atso Hekkala who works as the Project Coordinator of 5G Test Network at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Hekkala adds that the first limited 5G networks might already be in use next year.

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