Even technology firms like Ericsson showcased automobiles at CES. On the sidelines of the show, SDxCentral talked with Ericsson Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Ulf Ewaldsson about 5G standards and development and how 5G will likely impact every industry — from cars to entertainment.
Ericsson is a member of the 5G Automotive Association, and I noticed the group just announced more members. How do cars fit with 5G?
Ewaldsson: Cars will soon be software-centric products. I met with the CEO of a carmaker recently who said that by 2040 they will not sell any cars anymore. Instead, they will sell transportation.
This is just one example of how industries are being disrupted by mobile.
If you are power company or a car provider you are probably rethinking your whole business because of the impact of mobility and cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT). If you don’t embrace that as a larger multinational today, you will not make it.
Will large multinational companies deploy 5G or just buy connectivity from an operator?
Ewaldsson: There is going to be a more distinct separation between the services and the cloud. You asked about car makers and the 5G Automotive Association. We launched that association based upon the idea of a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO).
An automotive maker would rather think: OK, why go to one service provider? Why not create our own platform and then buy the network piece from all of them? They might want to buy service from three or four networks. Why not have the best coverage and pay per bit?
We are going to see more model development over the next few years. If we look at 5G now, I see three phases of the business: First, there is basic connectivity. That is coming now. We are building base stations.
Second, we will see transformation of core networks triggered by this access. I believe in 2019 and 2020 we will see a big focus on making a high-performance core. Now we have a radio with almost no latency. We have fantastic bandwidth capability so the differentiation will sit in the core.
Third, we will see huge innovation of business models. New relationships are forming. Collaboration is occurring between operators, and we’ll start seeing partnerships between operators.
Operators talk about 5G allowing them to deliver mission-critical apps and quality of service. How will that happen?
Ewaldsson: It’s all software. For now, companies like 20th Century Fox are investing in southbound network capabilities to help with delivery of their content. But over time I don’t think they will be dependent upon one operator relationship. Those things are going to separate.
Operators are talking about upstream traffic and the upstream data channel being important. In the past, all the video was coming downstream.
Traffic has started to turn. The peak of downlink dominance was about a year ago. Traffic is starting to increase on the uplink. The reason is the enormous amount of video uploads. Anything that has to do with media is big. People are sending video clips to each other.
There seems to be a growing divide between operators that are releasing their own 5G specifications like Verizon and Korea Telecom, and AT&T, which has said it will use the 3GPP 5G recommendations. Are there going to be non-standardized 5G networks?
Ewaldsson: I have actually seen a lot more cooperation among the wireless community when it comes to standards than I have seen before.
We were able to push for the hardware layer of the 5G standards. All the vendors agreed on standards, and the Layer 1 (hardware) is all decided in 5G. So everyone can now make chips. That milestone was important because you need a longer lead time to make hardware.
Now, Round 2 and Round 3 are software layers, and we have standardization groups working on the 5G software layers. We are on track for 3GPP-based 5G in the second half of 2018. This is very important because this is what the market needs for the launch.
As part of your partnership with Cisco, you just announced Evolved WiFi. Will Evolved WiFi be part of 5G?
Ewaldsson: The whole point of Evolved WiFi is that we need to embrace unlicensed spectrum. We know that the majority of traffic that is wireless is on WiFi so we have to evolve WiFi to fit 5G.
Obviously, if you are going to do something, it’s better to have two bigger players agree and start the movement. We are open to open standards that can evolve into something successful. We don’t want competing standards that are not compatible. We have the same goal.
We do have an eye toward evolving this to 5G and make 5G part of the WiFi world.