30 April 2015 12:14

A Lancaster University professor is at the forefront of promising technology techniques to speed up the development of fifth generation (5G) wireless communications.

Professor Zhiguo Ding, from the School of Computing and Communications, together with colleagues from China’s Southwest Jiaotong University, has completed a global review of 5G progress including the challenges that lie ahead and the implementation.

But, say the review team, greater breakthroughs in wireless communication technology are on the way as research and development work continues to meet the commercial goal of 5G for all by 2020.

They also expect new network architecture and techniques will emerge to promote current cellular systems too.

The research paper ‘Key techniques for 5G wireless communications: network architecture, physical layer, and MAC layer perspectives’ introduces potential techniques for future 5G systems. However, the review team state these are only a small portion of what would be used in 5G systems, but they shed light on a promising technology-developing trend.

The review team’s research presents an overview of potential network architecture and highlights several promising techniques which could be employed in future 5G systems by analysing 5G requirements and current research.

These techniques include:

  • Non-orthogonal multiple access (NOMA) - a shift from conventional telecommunication systems relying on interference free assumptions
  • Massive multiple input and multiple output (MIMO) - offers excess degrees of freedom due to the use of hundreds of antennas at a single base station, an important breakthrough due to recent advances in semiconductor technologies
  • Cooperative communications, network coding and full duplex (FD) - important physical layer solutions to spectrum crunch, a global phenomenon that mobile communications are always hungry for more bandwidth resource
  • Millimetre wave communications - a promising enabling technology for future cellular networks since it operates in the 10-300GHz band, in which more spectrum can be used for telecommunications
  • Device-to-device (D2D) communications and cognitive radio (CR) - important for merging telecommunication networks with mobile internet, internet of things, etc.

“5G is much more than just faster data speeds on mobile devices,” says Professor Ding. “It also opens the door to a lot of different consumer and industrial applications and uses — some of which seem unbelievable now because they’re so futuristic. For example, 5G has been envisioned as the key to provide seamless communications among autonomous cars, healthcare monitoring devices, interactive gaming gadgets, etc.”

5G should provide:

  • Faster data download speeds from one gigabit per second (Gbps) to 10Gbps
  • Faster data sending times between devices from 50 milliseconds to one millisecond
  • A more ‘connected world’: The Internet of Things (wearables, smart home appliances, connected cars) will need a network that can accommodate billions of connected devices
  • Longer battery power

Although current 4G systems could be loaded with many more services and data than previous systems, there is still a dramatic gap between people’s practical requirements and what can be offered by 4G technologies.

Consequently, research and development for fifth generation (5G) systems have been started and the race is on in the bid to seize leadership. Huge amounts are being invested from both academia and industry, in the UK, Europe and worldwide.

Currently, both the research community and industrial companies are working together to identify the fundamental limits of enabling technologies to be used for 5G  and the standardization for 5G is to be started from 2016, together with the allocation of spectrum to be used by 5G. Some pre-commercial trials have been carried out and the worldwide deployment of 5G is expected to start from 2020.

Professor Zhiguo Ding has held academic posts at Queen’s University Belfast, Imperial College and Newcastle University. Since October 2014, he has been at Lancaster University’s School of Computing and Communications as a Chair in Signal Processing and is an academic visitor at Princeton University.