5G Past, Present, and Future Part 1
On this episode, part 1 of 2, Darren talks to Leeland Brown, Technical Director of 5G at Intel Federal, about 5G past, present, and future.
Leeland has been in the telco industry for 20 years. Right out of college, he was recruited to work for the US Department of Defense after they were impressed with his work on applying Bluetooth multiplexing within an automobile, reducing wiring harnessing size. Instead of working with cars as he originally planned, he ended up working with the Department of Defense developing advanced wireless technologies for soldiers.
At that time, cellular technology was in the transition from 2G to 3G. It was not called WiFi at that point, but wireless LAN, and there was a nascent technology called Bluetooth that they were trying to use to provide the soldiers the ability to gather information within the battle space.
Leeland left the Department of Defense three years later in order to do hands-on work with the technology to gain better understanding. He began working for Sprint and stayed in the telco industry for 13 years designing technology for wireless networks before joining Intel in 2017 to work on 5G.
Until the mid-90s there was little cellular usage. “Brick” phones from the 80s were huge because of the battery size, and they were expensive. They evolved into “Bag” phones in the early 90s, which were better, but you could only hope they would work to make a phone call.
As 2G came into play, new features based on customer wants were developed such as text transmission and games. The device could do some low rate data transmission with TDMA technologies, time division multiple access, and GSN, for example. In the mid-90s, companies like Sprint came on the scene, and cell phone usage became more broadly used. In the early 2000s, there was a significant transition with the customer expectation that internet should be available on phones as it was on laptops.
3G brought nominal broadband capabilities where you could use the internet somewhat, but the primary capability was transmitting images. The name “3G” was coined at this time, and this is when the 3GPP body of standards came into play.
In 2008, telcos began looking at deployment of infrastructure that wasn’t based on large cell towers, but a more distributed system of a hub of baseband units with antennas front hauled via fiber to telephone poles. This began the transition to true broadband, from 3G to 4G.
This technology should get credit for the economic boom of 2010 to 2020 because with 4G in hand, companies like Amazon and Netflix evolved and flourished.
5G frees services from a monolithic RAN “jail” and opens the field because 5G provides open source architectures with a software-defined base. Software stacks can now be developed and integrated into a whole software solution. Since it is not tied to a monolithic architecture, 5G can provide services and standalone private networks.
This massive flexibility is going to allow telcos and their carriers to enhance services and offer various new capabilities, including bringing access to edge compute.
What’s coming next? Leeland sees a movement away from “G,” as it doesn’t give enough credit to the evolution of the technology as there are no real partitions anymore in terms of who can deploy networks. The technology and use cases are broad.
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