Issues and challenges for 5G: An interview with Michel Corriou, Director of Networks & Security at b<>com

From February 27 to March 2, b<>com's teams are presenting their latest networks innovations at the Mobile World Congress. We took this opportunity to ask Michel Corriou, Director of Networks & Security at b<>com, about the issues surrounding this new generation of networks.

What are the current issues facing 5G?

5G needs to fulfill certain needs, which may be at cross-purposes with one another. On one hand, as a follow-up to 4G, 5G must improve very-high-speed mobile multimedia services while also covering the needs of the Internet of Things (with connected objects that exchange several messages a day, while having a battery life longer than 10 years) and critical communications (with major security challenges).  Another one of the goals is to minimize latency in order to handle several real-time use cases, like touchscreen Internet, connected vehicles, and augmented reality. This goal can only be achieved by combining different improvements, both in the radio access segment and in the core network.  Finally, 5G will need to substantially improve quality of service, not just by raising the maximum speed, but also by ensuring that this speed is more consistent throughout the cell, particularly in its border areas.

What technological challenges surround this new generation of networks?

For radio, we are going to have to deal with new waveforms, adapting existing waveforms, new frequencies (millimetric frequencies above 30 and 60 GHz), the solid multi-antenna on the base station side, and multi radio access technology (Wi-Fi, LTE, etc.). Although at b<>com we believe it is necessary to have hardware accelerators, particularly for the physical layer, we will see the radio access network move more into software and the cloud; the very border between the core network and the radio access network will become blurrier.

For the core network, after a step of virtualization, new generations of networks will lead to more network functions going into the cloud, with distributed architectures and multi-tenancy (several operators on a single shared infrastructure). The scope of each network function is currently undergoing standardization, with the goal being to move towards "micro-services" with multiple instantiations, as close as possible to the user in order to address latency issues, for example. The new architecture also introduces the concept of "slicing" or how to create slices of virtualized networks with a specific quality of service and level of security, and probably also some price charged by the operator.

Why has b<>com chosen to take a position on these issues?

b<>com prioritizes its work for its investor-members, who have a large presence in telecom. For example, they include Orange, Nokia, Mistubishi Electric, and smaller companies like Astellia, Kerlink, and Ekinops. Additionally, future generations of mobile services and the Internet of Things are obvious avenues of research. b<>com has opted to focus on certain key 5G technologies like SDN, cloudification, and the convergence of radio access networks. Through the involvement of our investor-members, we are at the crossroads of issues raised by academic research and needs expressed by industry.

Our researchers are now working on technological bricks (software and hardware components that can be transferred into industrial products or solutions), test platforms (5G and IoT), and are involved in several H2020 European projects.

b<>com is at the Mobile World Congress Hall 8.0, Booth F17 and is presenting a multi-tech IoT receiver as well as a WiFi/LTE convergent gateway.