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5G paves the way for next-gen IoT

Posted: 01 Dec 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:5G  IoT  OFDM  GFDM  Qualcomm 

The path towards 5G may be nascent, but it is something is surely gaining ground. Gerhard Fettweis, Vodafone chair professor at TU Dresden, Germany, believes he has the air interface for 5G, the next generation of cellular networks. He believes that Generalised Frequency Division Multiplexing (GFDM) could enable what he calls the Tactile Internet, a future for the Internet of Things (IoT) that is attracting support from companies including Huawei, Intel, National Instruments, Vodafone and Xilinx.

All sides agree 5G will need a new air interface to meet its ambitious goals, one not backward compatible with today's 4G LTE. A half dozen major proposals have already emerged and more are expected before the 3GPP issues the first major 5G standard with its Release 15 in 2018.

Most of the proposals are variations on today's OFDM techniques that play to the strengths of their proponents. Some experts say the battle over air interfaces is not as significant as work defining brand new techniques for massive antenna arrays and support for frequencies above 6GHz.

Nevertheless, companies and research institutes are beginning to take sides among a set of air interfaces they believe sport the greatest benefits for the industry and themselves. The differences between them involve subtle trade-offs in wireless communications techniques.

Arogyaswami Paulraj

Paulraj: Road to 5G is like a 'beauty contest'

"It's a bit of a beauty contest and eventually elements of multiple proposals might get adopted, but there isn't much to play with because there are fundamental laws of physics and we can't optimise for all the elements," said Arogyaswami Paulraj, a veteran researcher and entrepreneur, Stanford University.

John Smee, a senior director of engineering for 5G at Qualcomm Research agrees. The various proposals tweak knobs for windowing and filtering OFDM signals, he said.

Nevertheless, Qualcomm recently laid out its own proposal. Its Unified OFDM interface takes a hybrid approach using multiple techniques. It supports a number of symbols that is a power of two to better suit semiconductor design. Qualcomm advocates a separate 5G approach for the resource-constrained IoT.

Fettweis described Qualcomm's Unified interface as a variation on time/frequency code slicing concepts researchers have worked on for many years. He suggested the approach may not be the most energy efficient, creating relatively power hungry analogue parts such as ADC and RF chips.

5G air interfaces

Qualcomm laid out its views on 5G air interfaces in a recent white paper.

Mapping the air interface landscape


GFDM aims to take a hybrid approach to multicarrier support.

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