Analog Devices is a semiconductor company that specializes in data conversion, signal processing and power management technology. They help their customers design radio architectures for 5G full-spectrum systems. We spoke with Joe Barry, VP Wireless Communications, about 5G and the challenges that the new network will represent for industry.
DirectIndustry magazine: What are the biggest problems that need to be solved when it comes to 5G?
Joe Barry: For 5G, the big challenge is on the radio side and the equipment that is needed to build the network, which is different from the equipment we used to build 4G. 5G is 16 times the content of 4G. With 5G and the massive MIMO radios, you have 64 radio channels, whereas in 4G, you only have 4 channels. So you have a multiplication of a factor of 16. The 5G spectrum also has a wider bandwidth than 4G. So when the bandwidth increases, the power consumption increases. These factors multiply the cost of 5G radios. So if there is no disruptive innovation, it will not be possible to build a cost-effective 5G radio.
So we’ve transformed the footprint in terms of the radios to be able to build a 5G network. We dramatically reduced the power consumption and the cost while at the same time expanding the radio bandwidth that can be handled in the overall radio. We are still investing in new technologies and new radio solutions to decrease the cost even more.
DirectIndustry magazine: Where have you deployed 5G networks and what were the challenges you faced?
Joe Barry: We worked closely with equipment vendors to build 5G networks in Korea. We collaborated with Samsung to allow the first 5G commercial radios to be deployed in the field anywhere in the world. We are also contributing significantly in China and in Japan. We’ve also helped with initial deployment in Europe and in the US. The US has some spectrum challenges that are slightly different from Europe and Asia. I think that the recent announcement that Sprint and TMobile are merging will energize the American market. Sprint is the only operator that has a decent TDD spectrum, which is necessary in order to deploy 5G massive MIMO radios, and T Mobile has a very effective 5G mmwave spectrum. The combination of the two will have a very good min-band and high-band spectrum. We should watch the American market very carefully.
DirectIndustry magazine: How does the Huawei case impact 5G deployment?
Joe Barry: If you look at China’s telecom market, Huawei and ZTE had 70-75% of market share in China over the 3G and 4G cycles while Nokia and Ericsson were given the rest. The risk is that if the ban on Huawei becomes more widespread in Europe, the Chinese could retaliate and exclude Ericsson and Nokia from the Chinese market.
What is interesting is that there are at the moment ongoing initiatives that are sponsored heavily by the operators, for example 5G vRAN initiative to standardize all aspects of the infrastructure. If you’re an operator and you want to build a network, you cannot mix the equipment because the solutions are proprietary and not compatible between each other. So some operators want to change that. They encourage this disruption because they feel that the level of innovation and the speed of innovation required for 5G in order to build these new business opportunities are for the moment too slow.
DirectIndustry magazine: What other differences can you see between 4G and 5G?
Joe Barry: 4G is a B2C business model while 5G is a B2B business model. 5G has had a lot of focus from industry because it will bring additional revenue streams and new verticals that will generate additional revenue. The segment that is going to attract the most attention is the build up of industrial networks. According to reports, 5G solutions could add up to 1.5 trillion dollars to global GDP in 2020. Over half of that GDP expansion will come from manufacturing, retail, transportation, healthcare, energy, construction, agriculture and lastly media and entertainment.