5G: The network of networks

5G: The network of networks

Kalpak Gude, president of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance talks to Capacity about the future of 5G, explains what WiGig and the next-generation internet is, and how the DSA hopes to solve the spectrum crisis.

To Kalpak Gude “5G really is just a network of networks” and it was at the 12th Annual European Spectrum Management Conference in Brussels this year, that Gude, the president of the Dynamic Spectrum Alliance (DSA), first introduced this idea of the next-generation internet.

The Dynamic Spectrum Alliance is a global organisation that comprises of multinational companies to small-and-medium-sized businesses that advocate for laws and regulations that will lead to the most efficient use of spectrum.

According to Gude, “when people talk about 5G they talk about lots of different things and lots of different capabilities, but it starts with performance that will enable connectivity everywhere because coverage is key".

But while the idea of this next-generation internet that enables connectivity everywhere sounds great, I had to know how feasible Gude thought this would be. “You’re going to need different performance capabilities to solve different parts of the problem," replies Gude. “You’re not going to be able to say we want extremely low latency for every single application that’s out there and build a network based on that kind of a metric – because frankly that would be largely impossible. But some applications are going to require low latency without question while at the same time not burden that traffic on applications that don’t need it.”

Gude says the emergence of IoT (the internet of things) technology will play a crucial role in the future of network performance, explaining: “IoT is going to be a big part of future network requirements but most of IoT is very likely to be fixed and will have various requirements in terms of throughput.

“Those parts of the network that are fixed, will almost certainly drive towards a Wifi approach. The cost structure and requirements associated with that will drive it to that kind of a network, rather than a licensed typical carrier kind of a network - it just doesn’t make sense to put it on a carrier network.”

But the overarching message from Gude throughout our conversation is that the traditional viewpoint that things should be licensed wherever possible needs to be overhauled. He says: “I don’t believe from a technological perspective or a commercial perspective, that this model is a model that is likely to be successful going forward. I think the technology of the future, is enabling sharing of unlicensed spectrum, which will be a lot more cost effective to deliver these services.”

One area in particular Gude thinks this is applicable to is small cells, he says that “trying to build and manage a small cell network using the old licencing structure is very cost prohibitive to do” and is an “incredibly wasteful use of spectrum".

But he is quick to defend his words clarifying: “this is not an attack on carriers, I think carriers will benefit significantly from the shared use of unlicensed spectrum because their spectrum costs are likely to come down significantly. They will not have the same level of control in access to spectrum and of the market in way that they have been. But I think certain services will require that kind of licensed capability that only the carriers of today can provide.”

As for this term WiGig, which also featured in his presentation at the European Spectrum Management Conference, Gude says that it’s “all part of, the next-generation of internet.” He goes on to explain that when people speak about WiGig they are “referring to that indoor type of device connectivity”. One common example of WiGig is virtual reality but with added benefits. In a WiGig environment, “it allows Gigabits of throughput in a way that current Wifi and technology doesn’t. It forms part of that next generation that broader network of networks, where you have the throughput you need for the capability you’re looking for".

Forming part of Gude’s talk at the conference, was the topic of the reported four billion people in the world who are without internet access - an issue Gude believes we already have the ability to solve.

“I think the different types of technology that are being studied and developed at this stage all need to be thrown at the problem. For example TVWS (TV White Space) is the ideal technology to solve part of that problem. Low-density areas that are not extremely rural are best met with a TVWS kind of technology using unlicensed spectrum.”

He continues, explaining: “When you start to look at extremely rural areas, you are going to see geo-satellite technology to solve that type of connectivity problem. So it will be a collection of technology that will need to thrown at the problem and those technologies are absolutely being developed and deployed now.”

So how is the DSA helping with these issues? “We’re solving the spectrum problem,” says Gude. “All of these different solutions require greater access to spectrum. So how do you enable that going forward? They’re not making any more spectrum out there so we have to figure out how to use the spectrum we already have more efficiently. The reality is most spectrum is unused and underutilised most of the time in most places. So the question is, how do we get a greater utilisation of that spectrum, in a way that still enables incumbents, to use the spectrum in a way that they are using it today?”

So what’s the challenge in reaching that goal? “I think its regulation, more than anything else,” he says. “For obvious reasons incumbents are very sceptical and concerned about how to share and how it all works and does it work well? That’s something that needs to be proven not only to incumbents but also to the regulators.”

However, Gude is still hopeful of the future, adding: “But I think we are moving rapidly to an environment where its going to be harder and harder to argue that it hasn’t been proven to work. The CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) Alliance which will be deployed next year is an example of that technology and then there will be broader acceptance of it."

The DSA has been known to work closely with our very own Ofcom, advising the UK regulator on its own spectrum auction that is currently underway. I asked Gude his thoughts on how he thought the process was going, to which he replied: “I think Ofcom continues to be an innovator and leader in Europe in terms of thinking about these types of issues. From our perspective we always hope that they would move faster and that they embrace dynamic sharing in a more robust fashion. But the practical reality is as you move from one licensing model to another, its does take time, its does take a certain level of proof and development of market.”

But ever the optimist he seems hopeful of the future Ofcom has laid out for us in the UK surrounding spectrum, saying “we continue to receive receptive and supportive statements from Ofcom about their long-term vision for spectrum management. And that they are open to an approach that embraces dynamic sharing because they see the same problems that we do".

Interestingly he ended with a point on Brexit, underpinning the ripple affect it is having across all sectors, Gude said that he hopes that “others in Europe Brexit or no Brexit will continue to look at Ofcom as a leader in the spectrum environment".

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