At Mobile World Congress 2016, Nokia demonstrated its AirScale Radio Access, which is said to be ""5G-ready"". Telecom Review recently sat with Aji Ed, head of Technology, Middle East & Africa, Nokia, who spoke in depth about the relationship between Nokia's AirScale and 5G.
Can you explain the basic principles of AirScale Radio Access and how it is 5G-ready?
At the Mobile World Congress 2016, Nokia launched the next generation, 5G-ready AirScale radio basestation that will enable operators to provide greatly enhanced service experience for their customers. AirScale consists of a broad set of products which includes base stations, small cells, WiFi and radio cloud. AirScale can support a huge capacity of 10Gbps in one baseband module, and it can support four Radio Access Technology (RAT) sharing, LTE-Advanced Pro and radio cloud.
Nokia AirScale can provide an unlimited chain of baseband modules without any extra hardware. This provides hexa resiliency and comes with multi-band radios. All in all, AirScale is ready to provide the required capacity for 5G and address latency challenges.
The future is demanding unprecedented connectivity, with virtual reality, augmented reality and the internet of things all pushing the limits of broadband performance. How will Nokia's AirScale Radio Access alter the way networks are built and provide more efficiency?
The future demands are going to be revolving around three key use cases: massive amounts of connectivity use cases, huge throughput use cases and low latency mission critical use cases. AirScale is designed to support these huge requirements for the future. It can support huge capacity of 10Gbps per baseband unit.
Any number of baseband units can be chained to create massive throughput. AirScale baseband module can support up to 96 LTE cells which is really huge. This is designed to support all radio access technologies (2G/3G/FD-LTE/TD-LTE) at the same time. AirScale can also support low latency use cases with massive amounts of connected devices. From an operator perspective, their future needs are fulfilled with today's investments on AirScale.
How does Nokia AirScale close the gap between telco and IT?
We are in an era where the telco and IT domains are merging. Nokia AirScale solutions can bring radio to the cloud. We leverage the best practices and benefits of cloud technologies while addressing the specific requirements of telco applications of today and tomorrow.
This enables operators to put the right processing power and capacity in place where it matters the most, closer to the source of high traffic in order to deliver extremely low latency and to reduce the costs associated with huge network data payload ingress.
In addition, Nokia AirScale Radio Access claims to support every architecture topology - distributed, centralized and cloud. Can you expand on this?
Yes, that is correct. AirScale is a perfect fit for any radio topology. This can be used in centralized RAN (radio access network) with local or regional baseband hotelling. Base stations can interface with classic or virtualized controllers. AirScale can also be used in distributed RAN across rural and suburban areas.
This is the classical network deployment. In addition, AirScale can also run as cloud RAN. AirScale will run LTE lower layer functions and the rest of the functions will be virtualized. AirScale brings much more flexibility for operators for network deployments.
Can you tell us about some of the benefits we can look forward to when 5G is introduced and how Nokia is working to make sure these predicted benefits come true?
5G is the new generation of radio systems and network architecture that will deliver extreme broadband, ultra-robust, low latency connectivity and massive networking for human beings and the internet of things (IoT).
Enabled by 5G, the programmable world will transform our individual lives, economy and society. It sounds like a bold claim, but the reality is starting to take shape as 5G research has been moving forward rapidly.
5G will be far more than just a new radio technology. It will combine existing radio access technologies (RATs) in both licensed and unlicensed bands, and it will add novel RATs optimized for specific bands and deployments, scenarios and use cases. 5G will also implement a radically new network architecture based on network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN) technologies.
Programmability will be central to achieving the hyper-flexibility that operators will need to support the new communication demands placed on them from a wide array of users, machines, companies from different industries and other organizations such as government municipalities. 5G networks will have to be programmable, software driven and managed holistically to enable a diverse and profitable range of services.
5G is an open door for new possibilities and use cases, many of which are not yet known. Nokia and the wider telecommunications industry are already well on the road to 5G. Nokia has run several proof-of-concepts (POCs) for most of the key elements that will form the future 5G standard and is already preparing 5G for commercial reality. Networks will offer speeds more than 10 Gbps and extremely low latency.
5G will be the platform that enables growth in many industries, ranging from the IT industry to the car, entertainment, agriculture and manufacturing industries. The technology standard will connect the factory of the future and help create a fully automated and flexible production system. It will also be the enabler of a super-efficient infrastructure that saves resources.
We can expect that safety and business-critical applications will increasingly run on the wireless network, which necessitates absolutely stringent, reliable and predictable service levels in terms of capacity, throughput and latency. These levels will far exceed those of today.
What will be the possibilities in the real world?
Consider the healthcare industry in which hospitals can arrange remote robotic surgeries via a customized 5G network that minimizes network latency as if the surgeon were physically present next to the patient. Or how 5G connected healthcare chips could constantly monitor vital signs, prevent health conditions from becoming acute, and constantly adapt medication to meet changing conditions.
Creating a safe transportation infrastructure is another major area where self-driving cars and smart road infrastructures enabled by 5G networks could reduce accidents, saving millions of lives every year.
With sensors enabled by 5G networks, every water pipe could be monitored in real-time and utility providers could create a network that can sense, process and transmit exact locations and severity of a leak and alert proper resources in real time without the need for humans to laboriously collect and analyze the data. Similar 5G-enabled transformations are to be expected in agriculture, finance, retail, education, trade and tourism. The possibilities are truly endless.
Nokia is working with all the standardization bodies, key operators and research universities to create a 5G ecosystem globally. In the Middle East, Nokia is collaborating with many operators to bring 5G benefits to the region.
For example, Nokia and du showed the possibilities of 5G systems for future ultra-broadband and critical machine-type communication for the IoT and smart city applications at the GITEX Technology Week. The 5G radio demonstration featured for the first time in the Middle East live, ultra high speed communications of up to 10 Gbps over the air in the promising mmWave band. The two companies also signed an MoU on a set of common objectives for the development and evolution of 5G and IoT.