From April 19-21, hundreds of global industry leaders and star researchers — the forces fueling a new communications revolution — converged at MetroTech Center for the invitation-only Fourth Annual Brooklyn 5G Summit, co-hosted by Nokia and NYU WIRELESS.
It isn’t hyperbole to refer to what’s happening in fifth-generation (5G) wireless communications as a revolution — and one that is actually very close at hand — according to Kenneth C. Budka of Nokia Bell Labs. Budka, who is one of the driving forces behind the global adoption of commercial wireless broadband technologies for public safety communications, gave a keynote address. “It took just 25 years — the span of a single human generation — to progress through four generations of wireless,” he explained. “And 5G has the power to transform human existence over the next human generation.”
Industrial revolutions have in common two things, Budka, whose company is an industrial affiliate of NYU WIRELESS, explained: the interconnectedness and interdependence of new systems and technologies and the capacity to profoundly transform the economy and society. That’s been true since early steam engines ushered in the first Industrial Revolution; the development of analog and digital signal processing led to a period of scientific and technical revolution; and web, cloud computing, and mobile allowed for the Information Age.
The next frontier? The Automation of Everything, as Budka and his colleagues have termed it, a dramatic transformation that will be limited “only by the laws of physics.”
Presenters shared wireless advances enabling self-driving cars to communicate seamlessly in order to avoid accidents; smart buildings to make the most efficient possible use of energy; autonomous robots to move freely around factory floors; and the digital divide to be bridged thanks to cost-efficient delivery of fiber optic-speed Wi-Fi and wireless service to underserved rural areas and dramatically improved urban reception.
Among the many highlights of the Summit were talks on 5G New Radio (NR), a wireless standard intended to become a foundation for the next mobile networks; massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which can be used to exponentially increase the capacity of a wireless connection without requiring more spectrum; 5G network architecture and proof-of-concept systems; and much more. Speakers included such important figures as Durga Malladi, the SVP of Qualcomm, another of the Center’s industrial affiliates; Seizo Onoe, the CTO of NTT DoCoMo; Senior Fellow Ken Stewart from industrial affiliate Intel; and Henning Schulzrinne, the former CTO of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Participants praised the work being done at NYU WIRELESS, as well as its director Sundeep Rangan, and founding director Theodore “Ted” Rappaport. Rappaport, one of the world’s top experts on millimeter-wave (mmWave) radio propagation, is widely credited with revolutionizing the industry with his seminal 2013 paper, “Millimeter Wave Mobile Communications for 5G Cellular: It Will Work.”
Rappaport’s expertise was a key element in the FCC’s 2016 passage of the Spectrum Frontiers Proposal (SFP), which doubled the amount of mmWave unlicensed spectrum to 14 GHz and created four times the amount of flexible, mobile-use spectrum licensed previously. NYU WIRELESS was also one of only two academic institutions in the nation working with the FCC this year to help test, debug, and provide feedback on a new web-based licensing system aimed at allowing innovators to rapidly acquire specific experimental licenses and thus focus more on conducting vital research.
Thanks in some part to NYU WIRELESS’s work, industry leaders at the Summit seemed optimistic they would meet a December 2017 deadline for finalizing specifications for the 5G standard. There is a widespread “feeling that it can get done,” according to presenter Dave Wolter, AT&T’s assistant VP for Radio Technology and Architecture. (AT&T is also among the Center’s industrial affiliates; these key partners provide support of infrastructure, student internships, and fellowship opportunities and in turn receive broad access to research and talent.)
There was no lack of technical discussion about how 3GPP working groups would help speed the rollout of 5G in coming months, but there was also plenty to fire the imagination of even non-technologists. For example, Executive Vice President HongBeom Jeon of KT, Korea’s largest telecom company, outlined plans for the world’s first 5G-enabled Olympic Games, which are scheduled to take place in PyeongChang in February 2018. Spectators at the event will experience 5G with technologies like “Sync View,” which will allow fans to see 360-degree virtual-reality video from their favorite athlete’s perspective, thanks to wearable sensors and cameras on the competitors’ gear.
Exhibits in the NYU Tandon gymnasium allowed attendees to explore demos of V2X sensor solutions — designed with automotive manufacturers, the automotive aftermarket, smart cities, and pedestrians in mind — that could make transportation predictive, safer and more efficient; judge the performance of a gigabits-per-second-capable PHAZRTM 5G QuadplexTM transceiver system, operating at millimeter-wave and sub-6 GHz frequencies; watch a dual-mode flexible millimeter-wave channel sounder capable of true propagation delay measurements over many hundreds of meters with no cable connection ; and much more. (Harking back to a different, but no less exciting, era, on display was also a vintage Enigma Machine, used by British code breakers to decipher German messages during World War II.)
Budka predicted that 5G would lift all economic boats — not just those of mobile carriers and others in the wireless sector. “By 2025 we could be seeing an impact of up to $11 trillion,” he explained. “And, yes, that’s trillion with a ‘t.’”