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5G starts its journey towards IMT-2020


© flickr/CC-licence/Corey Leopold

The ITU has today announced that it has now defined the overall goals, process and timeline for the development of 5G mobile systems. The ITU-R Working Party 5D met in San Diego to agree on the way forward both within the ITU itself and how it liaises with governments and the broader mobile industry. Interestingly, there is no mention of any direct collaboration with the major vertical market groups, which will be driving the demand for 5G services.

The meeting also agreed that the work should be conducted under the “IMT-2020” banner, as an extension of the ITU’s existing family of global standards (IMT-2000 and IMT-Advanced), although this will not become a consumer facing brand name.

“The buzz in the industry on future steps in mobile technology – 5G – has seen a sharp increase, with attention now focused on enabling a seamlessly connected society in the 2020 timeframe and beyond that brings together people along with things, data, applications, transport systems and cities in a smart networked communications environment,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao. “ITU will continue its partnership with the global mobile industry and governmental bodies to bring IMT-2020 to realisation.”

There is no question of the ITU’s relevance and role here, and the organisation has an important contribution to make to ensuring global 5G standardisation. But with the rapid growth of open source elsewhere in the telecoms sector (look no further than NFV for instance, which will play a pivotal part in 5G network design), you can guarantee that there will be far more industry groups getting involved in the 5G process, including groups that have yet to be created. ETSI will also be a key player here, through its partnership in the 3GPP, and its work will dovetail into that of the ITU’s, but “the old guard” needs to remind today’s far broader ecosystem of its credentials and importance.

The next step for the ITU is to establish detailed technical performance requirements for the radio systems to support 5G, taking into account the wide range of new use cases with their specific needs, and then to specify the evaluation criteria candidate air interface technologies (or just the one; there are still too many uncertainties).

The ITU-R Radiocommunication Assembly meets in October, and is expected to formally adopt the term IMT-2020, which rather emphasises the slow pace of traditional international policy standardisation work in today’s far more dynamic internet-based industry.

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