Ericsson has developed software for the deployment of public and private 5G networks with low latency and in a consistent way, which makes it very suitable for critical applications that cannot allow delays in the transmission of data. Commercial availability is scheduled for next quarter and tests are already underway with some customers, according to the Swedish company. This development confirms the trend of manufacturers and operators for it to be the software, and not so much the hardware of the equipment, which improves the performance of telecommunications networks, as 5G technology evolves and the needs and demands of customers increase. .
In the two and a half long years since the first commercial 5G networks were installed in South Korea, the United States and Switzerland in April 1999, the considerable advances promised by the new mobile communications standard in terms of speed, reliability , security and low latency have been rather scarce, a clear sign that fine-tuning the 5G infrastructure is a much more complex and difficult issue than originally anticipated.
Since the beginning of 5G it was said that the management of the new networks should be mostly automated, because the complexity would reach such a point that a human could not control it by himself but rather machines should do it, as it has been. Now it is seen that it is not only a matter of managing telecommunications networks in an automated way but also of improving supervision systems so that there are no traffic jams or bottlenecks or interferences in information flows.
Time-Critical Communication combines the 3GPP URLLC standard to achieve from 1 ms to 50 ms on the one hand and a reliability from 99% to 99.999%, with the different intermediate points, depending on the application and desired characteristics
In short, transmission equipment, based on all kinds of physical components, mainly electronic, are very important for telecommunications infrastructures to function. But the determining factor for this performance to be the best possible is, it seems, a matter of the software. The advantage is that the software can be updated much easier than the hardware, but it also has to be very refined from the beginning, because otherwise it can add problems to the operation of the networks.
One of the problems of the relatively slow development of 5G infrastructures is that they began to be introduced before the R16 specification and Stand Alone (SA) networks were fixed and wanted to win a year with the so-called Non-Stand Alone (NSA), with the use of 5G networks over 4G backbones. Even now, when 2021 ends, the vast majority of 5G SA networks are in the testing phase and it will not be until the middle of next year that 5G networks really begin to be deployed.
Release 16 of 3GPP, which establishes the first 5G specifications, was not completed until the end of last year, a year later than planned, in part due to the pandemic, but Release 17, which was to fix all 5G development, It has also been delayed and the latest information indicates that it will not be complete until the fall of next year. The roadmap presented today by the Gartner consultancy for the evolution of the different 5G standards indicates that the R16 specification will be deployed from next January and the R17 from autumn 2023. The 5G, R18 or 5G update Advanced as recently designated, is forecast for spring 2024, which means that 5G Advanced networks will not start rolling out until well into 2025, as seen in the consultancy’s chart below.
Source: Gartner IT/Xpo 2021 EMEA (18 november 2021)
This notable delay in the approval of the 5G specifications, together with the greater difficulties than those foreseen for the deployment of the new networks and, especially, in obtaining new income that helps to recover the investments made, promotes discouragement. For this reason, equipment manufacturers are striving to develop software that allows them to take better advantage of the infrastructures that are already available, be they 4G or 5G, as is the case with Ericsson.
Low latency, that is, a practically instantaneous transmission of the signal, is one of the most interesting characteristics of 5G, because it allows new possibilities to multiple environments, especially in all critical communications but also in other more playful ones, such as online games. In the vehicles and fully automated systems of the factories, practically instantaneous communication is in many cases essential to achieve their full potential. Of course, also in autonomous vehicles on the streets, although it is a more long-term scenario.
5G experiences in real time
The set of software tools that Ericsson has released offers, according to the Swedish company, a constant low latency and high reliability in 5G networks. The Critical IoT software product can “easily break into public and private networks, in any 5G frequency band.”
The solution, it is emphasized, will contribute to improving the user experience in use cases such as cloud games or augmented and virtual reality, and will also allow new use cases in the fields of remote control, mobility automation and industrial control. This enhanced capabilities will be achieved with Ericsson’s comprehensive Time-Critical Communication solution, through its Critical IoT product.
This solution, says Ericsson, is deployable in the form of a software update in public and private 5G networks, in large and regional areas and in any 5G frequency band. “Following the deployment of 5G networks around the world, the solution will allow communications service providers to further improve the user experience in applications that require immediacy.” With Time-Critical Communication, “5G is being taken to another level by providing Ericsson customers with the tools they need to expand their offering to the consumer, business and public sector; and effectively monetize 5G further, ”said Per Narvinger, head of Ericsson’s network product area.
Several companies are testing the Ericsson product, such as ABB, Rockwell and Audi in industrial environments and operators such as DT or Telia, with commercial availability expected during the next quarter
Time-Critical Communication combines the reliable and low latency communication standard specified by 3GPP, known by the acronym URLLC, with innovations from Ericsson to mitigate the main causes of latency. This software product offers constant low end-to-end latency (50 ms to 1 ms) and guarantee levels of 99.9% to 99.999% to realize use cases where speed is critical to great effect. scale, specifies the Swedish company in its statement.
Depending on the specific latency you want and the desired reliability, it can be achieved from a millisecond to a few tens of milliseconds on the one hand and a reliability that goes from 99% to 99.999%, with the different intermediate points, depending on the application . Common use cases include real-time consumer or professional communications (such as AR or VR), industrial control, remote control, or automation of mobile vehicles and robots.
Ericsson has identified six main causes of higher latency or service interruption for mobile communications: congestion, radio environment, mobility, standards and protocols, power savings, and network topology, as described. See the graphic below, excerpted from an Ericsson paper on Time-Critical Communication.
To maximize low latency and reliability results, Ericsson recommends starting by solving the most common causes of delays, such as congestion, the radio environment, or delays related to communication protocols. Next, it’s about minimizing mobility-related disruptions and then striking a balance between sometimes conflicting variables, such as resource efficiency, energy efficiency, positioning, latency, or reliability. And finally, achieve extremely low latencies in select applications. The first three steps are considered crucial by Ericsson to achieve the best results. It is a gradual process, however, that takes several years: in the graph below, the improvement extends from next year to 2026, with a gradual increase in capacity based on traffic growth.
Ericsson has already tested the software with German operator Deutsche Telekom and Australian Telstra in 3D virtual reality and real-time augmented reality gaming environments. Also in very specific environments that require low latency, on the order of five milliseconds, such as robots that communicate within a factory, or assembly lines that need to communicate with a time span of between eight and 16 milliseconds. Or make Digital Twins from products to changing solutions. Among the industrial companies that are testing the Ericsson product are BT and Hyperbat, Einride and Telia, Boliden, ABB, Audi, Rockwell or Fraunhofer IPT.