5G isn’t just about new stratospheric spectrum beyond 6GHz, there’s also a Fantastic future planned for sub-6GHz mobile

When 5G first appears in commercial networks around 2020, it will be limited to operations in today’s current licensed mobile spectrum bands. All talk of using the incredibly high frequencies of 6GHz and beyond will have to wait another five years or more, to allow the new technology to be developed and more importantly to harmonise the availability of the new spectrum bands.

For now, we’re looking at sub-6GHz, and whether or not a single air interface will be adequate to meet the diverse use case needs of 5G. No surprises, then, that a consortium of operators, vendors and research facilities are collaborating to develop such an air interface.

That’s the good news. The bad news is the acronym they have come up with, which painfully extracts a memorable word from the rather long-winded technical description. Fantastic-5G is the name of the new project, and it stands for Flexible Air iNTerfAce for Scalable service delivery wiThin wIreless Communication networks of the 5th Generation (key letters capitalised so you can locate the acronym, otherwise you wouldn’t stand a chance).

Fantastic-5G promises to focus on boosting capacity, increasing flexibility and improving the energy efficiency of the next generation mobile network, and the ultimate aim of the two-year project is to develop a new multi-service air interface that operates below 6GHz frequency for 5G networks, and is:

  • Highly flexible, to support different types of data traffic
  • Scalable, to support an ever-growing number of networked devices
  • Versatile, to support diverse device types and traffic/transmission characteristics
  • Energy- and resource-efficient, to better use the available spectrum
  • Future-proofed, enabling easy upgrades to future software releases

The project has already received €8m of funding by the European Commission under the EU´s “Horizon 2020” initiative aiming to advance digital Europe. This represents a big slice of Horizon 2020’s €80bn total funding budget that covers a 7 year period from 2014 to 2020, and is one of several research projects in the area of 5G research that it is supporting. Industry partners include:

  • Orange, Telecom Italia
  • Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei, Intel, Nokia, Samsung, Sequans Communications, Wings ICT Solutions
  • Aalborg University, Politecnico di Bari, Institut Mines-Telecom/Telecom Bretagne, University of Bremen
  • Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya, CEA-Leti, Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institut

“Fantastic-5G is of key importance, as the multi-service air interface concepts being developed in the project will be evaluated and validated by the partners,” explained Frank Schaich from Alcatel-Lucent´s Bell Labs, who is leading the project. “This helps to build up consensus and to facilitate the standardization process of 5G.”

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