Study Explores Technical Requirements, Use Cases and Implications for Ecosystem

Brussels: The GSMA has released a major new report at the GSMA Mobile 360-Europe event being held in Brussels today, outlining its perspectives on the development of 5G. The new GSMA Intelligence report, ‘Understanding 5G: Perspectives on Future Technological Advancements in Mobile’, provides an overview of network technology innovation today and how this is setting the agenda for the 5G future. It outlines the technical requirements of future 5G networks and explores potential use cases as well as the implications for operators and other mobile ecosystem players.

“Already being widely discussed, the arrival of 5G will help deliver a fresh wave of mobile innovation that will further transform the lives of individuals, businesses and societies around the world,” said Anne Bouverot, Director General, GSMA. “Of course, 5G is still to be standardised by the industry and it has not been fully agreed what 5G will look like or what it will enable. However, the GSMA is already collaborating with operators, vendors, governments and other industry organisations in ensuring that the future 5G standard is both technically and economically viable.”

Understanding 5G
The new GSMA report provides clarity on the industry’s evolutionary path towards 5G and addresses many of the misconceptions around 5G. It examines the two main views on 5G that exist today, which are frequently mixed together to form the basis of the 5G definition:

View 1 – The hyper-connected vision:In this view, 5G is seen as a blend of existing technologies (2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi and others) that can deliver greater coverage and availability, higher network density in terms of cells and devices, and the ability to provide the connectivity that enables machine-to-machine (M2M) services and the Internet of Things.

View 2 – Next-generation radio access technology:This perspective outlines 5G in ‘generational’ terms, setting specific targets that new radio interfaces must meet in terms of data rates (faster than 1Gbps downlink) and latency (less than 1ms delay).

These two views identify eight core technical requirements for 5G that set targets for: data rate; latency; network densification (both number of connections and number of cells); coverage; availability; operational expenditure reduction; and the field life of devices. However, only two of these – data rates and latency – relate to a true generational shift, with the remaining six being either economic objectives or aspirations applicable to all network technologies.  

The Evolution From 4G to 5G 
Many of the 5G technical requirements already form part of the network innovations being undertaken by operators today. For example, technologies such as network functions virtualisation (NFV), software-defined networks (SDN), heterogeneous networks (HetNets) and Low Power, Low Throughput networks are being bundled under the title of 5G despite the fact that they are already being brought to market by vendors and deployed by operators.

Meanwhile, there remains considerable opportunity for growth in 4G, which still only accounts for 5 per cent of the world’s mobile connections. 4G penetration as a percentage of connections is already as high as 69 per cent in South Korea, 46 per cent in Japan and 40 per cent in the US, but 4G penetration in the developing world stands at just 2 per cent.  According to the report, mobile operators will invest US$1.7 trillion globally in network infrastructure over the period 2014-2020, much of which will be spent on 4G networks.

Exploring 5G Use Cases
Applications that require at least one of the two key 5G technical requirements (greater than 1 Gbps downlink and sub-1ms latency) can be considered a true 5G use case. Because 5G is at an early stage there may be many use cases that will emerge over the coming years that we cannot anticipate today. However, the report highlights a number of use cases that will offer an optimum experience within the 5G environment:

  • Virtual reality/augmented reality/immersive or tactile internet, such as gaming, wearable tech or health services
  • Autonomous driving/connected cars
  • Wireless cloud-based office/multi-person videoconferencing

Collaborating to Set the 5G Agenda
As the association representing the mobile industry, the GSMA will play a significant role in shaping the strategic, commercial and regulatory development of the 5G ecosystem. This will include areas such as the definition of roaming and interconnect in 5G, and the identification and alignment of suitable spectrum bands. Once a stable definition of 5G is reached, the GSMA will work with its members to identify and develop commercially viable 5G applications

“Our new report aims to reset the discussion on 5G, drawing the distinction between a true generational shift versus the on-going evolution of existing technologies that are already delivering a next-generation mobile experience,” added Bouverot. “The GSMA will support the industry to continue to innovate and grow, working in close collaboration with our members, the wider mobile ecosystem, governments and other industry organisations to deliver a digital future for all.”

The new GSMA Intelligence report, ‘Understanding 5G: Perspectives on Future Technological Advancements in Mobile’ is available to download at  


About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with more than 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai and the Mobile 360 Series conferences.

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

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