As the 5G ecosystem continues to expand, there is an urgent need to start preparing the networks for the upcoming network evolution of 5.5G so the telcos continue to provide exceptional customer experience and are able to introduce pathbreaking use cases. There is a growing consensus in the industry that 5.5G is a crucial step to improving network capabilities to provide different kinds of digital services.
More than 230 5G networks have already been deployed and now serve more than one billion users and devices. However, the growing number of users coupled with the popularity of immersive experiences and the emergence of new use cases, like Metaverse, mean that the 5G networks will soon be insufficient to cater to the exponential growth. Therefore, the adoption of 5.5G is critical for the industry to prepare for the upcoming tsunami.
“The year 2023 will be crucial to the development of 5.5G. This year will see the introduction of the 3GPP Release 18 standards. Further, the device ecosystem is also fast maturing and the spectrum is also prepared for ultra-large bandwidth. With such developments, the commercial deployment of 5.5G is likely to start from 2024,” says Gan Bin, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Wireless Solutions at Huawei. He was speaking at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress 2023, the largest telecom event on the planet.
The 5.5G technology is emerging as the technology of choice to help telcos cater to the growing demands of the network. The industry’s vision is that 5.5G will be able to provide a downlink speed of 10Gbps and will be able to connect 100 billion connections. Further, the number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices is likely to grow exponentially. 5.5G is a crucial milestone for the telcos to improve network capacity before 6G becomes a reality in 2030.
5.5G enables telcos to deliver ubiquitous gigabit-per-second performance. It utilizes Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) to improve customer experience and autonomously optimize resources, thus helping telcos bring down expenses and energy consumption.
Moving confidently towards the 5.5G era
“Ubiquitous 10Gbps experience is now closer to becoming a reality. Large bandwidth spectrum mmWave and the 6GHz spectrum can be used by the service providers for 5.5G,” elaborated Gan Bin. A significant development is the release of mmWave Chipset. MediaTek chipset offers a downlink of 7.67 Gbps and an uplink speed of 3.76 Gbps. On the other hand, Qualcomm Snapdragon’s chip for 5.5G offers 10 Gbps speed with 10CC carrier aggregation on mmWave and 5CC carrier aggregation on sub-6GHz. Apart from that, more than 25 countries, including South Korea, Thailand, Italy and Qatar, among others, have already allocated mmWave spectrum.
Further, innovations and technological breakthroughs like Extremely Large Antenna Array (ELAA) are helping the industry rapidly move towards 5.5G. The new ELAA-upgraded MetaAAU is lightweight and provides improved coverage with enhanced energy efficiency. He further mentioned that Huawei recently tested ELAA in the combination of 800MHz in mmWave and 200MHz in the sub-6GHz spectrum. The test recorded a peak throughput of 10 Gbps.
The 6GHz spectrum band is crucial to deploy 5.5G and is helping the industry accelerate its journey to 5.5G. 3GPP has already licensed 6425-7125 MHz bands for 6GHz and it is expected to be identified as IMT band in WRC-23. Further, 5.5G is supported by two regions through the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations and Arab Spectrum Management Group (ASMG). 5.5G is also supported by Asia Pacific Telecommunity (APT), African Telecommunications Union (ATU) and Regional Commonwealth in the Field of Communications (RCC). These are indications that the telecom industry is realizing the growing relevance of 5.5G and will quickly adopt it to gain new capabilities.
The increased adopted of 5G use cases in industry verticals like healthcare, manufacturing, mining, steel, oil and port has made the demand for Gbps uplink common and regular. The use of IoT is only going to increase in the coming few years, underscoring the need for 5.5G.
All this indicates that the industry is set to fast-track to 5.5G to ensure that they are always able to provide the best-possible experience to the customers and are able to maximize the revenue potential from the emerging market opportunities.