5.5G, also known as 5G-Advanced, represents a significant technological advancement that has the potential to revolutionize and digitize numerous industries. Building upon the foundations of 5G, this next phase of development brings about substantial enhancements to its capabilities.

Countries have displayed strategic foresight and proactively embraced the adoption of 4G and 5G technologies. Now, they find themselves at the dawn of the next evolution in cutting-edge networks, namely 5.5G and F5.5G. These advancements promise unprecedented upgrades in network performance, connectivity, reliability, energy efficiency and intelligence. Regarding the end-user, 5.5G's ultra-broadband capabilities and deterministic latency will empower various sectors, enabling enhanced interactions between humans, vehicles and various devices. This technology opens new possibilities for human-to-human, human-to-vehicle and human-to-thing interactions, fostering improved connectivity and communication across different domains.

The Road to the 5.5G Era

After almost four years since 5G’s initial launch, its networks have made remarkable progress, with over 240 commercial 5G networks deployed worldwide as of December 2022. Looking towards the future, the industry is eagerly anticipating the next step in the evolution of 5G networks, known specifically as 5.5G. This new era is expected to deliver a network experience ten times superior to that of 5G, unlocking numerous business opportunities along the way. Key characteristics of the 5.5G era will include enhanced personal and home user experiences that support immersive, interactive and multi-user collaborative services at speeds ranging from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps. Additionally, the introduction of Passive-IoT technology will enable connectivity for billions of devices, further advancing IoT scenarios. The 5.5G era also promises ten times the determinism, improved energy efficiency and significant increases in network operational efficiency.

Significant progress has been made in the development of 5G over the past four years, leading to the shift towards 5.5G. The standardization of 5.5G is currently underway through versions like 3GPP Release 18 to Release 20, which enhance the technical specifications of 5.5G. The U6G band (6425-7125 MHz) will play a crucial role in achieving 10 Gbps in the 5.5G era, alongside the existing C-band, 2.6 GHz and 2.1 GHz 5G NR frequency bands. The industry has already introduced the first 10 Gbps chip, and commercial devices equipped with this chip are expected to be available in the second half of this year. Furthermore, RedCap technology, with over 50 anticipated commercial devices by the end of 2023, is set to be widely commercialized and find applications in various industries. The development and construction of 5.5G are rapidly progressing, with the entire industry chain actively preparing for its commercialization.

Huawei's Plans for New Advancement

At the GSMA 5G Futures Summit in Shanghai, John Gao, president of 5.5G domain at Huawei Wireless Solution, delivered a keynote speech titled "Striving to Be the 5.5G Pioneer Together," highlighting the readiness of 5.5G for commercial deployment. Huawei, an active participant in the field, has been collaborating with leading operators to promote innovations and test key 5.5G technologies, achieving significant progress in verification. Huawei announced its plan to launch a complete set of commercial 5.5G network equipment in 2024, aiming to accelerate the evolution of 5G and usher in the 5.5G era for the ICT industry. This move comes as 5G deployment has progressed rapidly, generating substantial financial gains. Experts believe that 5.5G will serve as a crucial milestone in this ongoing 5G evolution. Huawei's vision of the "5.5G Era" aims to enhance network performance tenfold while safeguarding operators' previous 5G investments.

Performance Differences Between 5G and 5.5G

In the 5G era, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) emerged as one of the most successful applications. However, with the evolution of 5.5G, FWA is set to undergo a significant upgrade known as FWA 2.0. This upgrade brings forth FWA Pro, FWA Lite (2H & 2B) and FWA Biz. FWA Pro utilizes three-carrier aggregation technology and high-performance terminals, offering the ultimate home broadband experience with up to 1 Gbps. FWA Lite (2H & 2B) utilizes RedCap Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) and serves as a migration tool for low-end 4G home broadband users, relieving congestion in 4G-congested areas. FWA Biz focuses on CCTV deployments, offering significant cost advantages. FWA 2.0 revolutionizes connectivity in the 5.5G era, providing unparalleled speeds, migration capabilities and cost advantages for various applications.

Key Technologies for 5G-Advanced Network Intelligence

  • Intelligent Network: Implementing intelligent technology in 5G networks enhances efficiency, reduces costs and improves overall operation. The Network Data Analytics Function (NWDAF) and the Management Data Analytics System (MDAS) enable standardized capabilities, real-time performance and closed-loop control.
  • AI Technologies: Machine Learning enables intelligent processing in 5G networks, while Cognitive Networks enhance network operations with algorithms and big data analytics. Intent-based Networks translate network goals into real-time operations.
  • Future Advancements: Federated Learning facilitates joint learning and training across network functions, and Distributed and Trusted AI Architecture enables collaborative learning between network components and third-party servers. Additionally, the Analytics Framework extends data analysis to management and application domains.

How Will 5G-Advanced Transform Our Industry?

Looking ahead to the future, the networking industry is sure to witness a notable transformation with the introduction of 5G-Advanced, a significant milestone in the decade-long journey of 5G.

While the industry has been actively involved in the development of 5G-Advanced, the focus goes beyond proposing enhancements and initiating collaborations. There has been an evaluation of the potential impact of 5G-Advanced on the industry, customers and end-users who rely on these services.

Furthermore, 5G-Advanced is envisioned not just as a list of new features but as a means for service providers to transform their networks in profound and well-defined ways. Four key dimensions of enhancement in 5G-Advanced have been identified and are referred to as "the four E's": Experience, Expansion, Extension and Operational Excellence:

  • Experience: 5G-Advanced will offer truly immersive digital experiences, allowing users to engage with distant physical environments and other people in exhilarating ways. Extended reality (XR) technologies will enable virtual presence in different settings, making remote collaboration, virtual tourism and tech-powered sports a reality. 5G-Advanced will support features like radio resource optimization, mobility and beam management add-ons, device power savings, edge cloud capabilities and application awareness to deliver this enhanced experience.
  • Expansion: In addition to providing information, 5G-Advanced will excel at answering questions related to location and time. High-precision location, presence and timing technologies will expand the role of the network beyond communications. These innovations will benefit navigation, logistics systems, driverless cars, autonomous robots, industrial automation and other sectors that require precise timing. Service providers will be able to offer timing, synchronization and resiliency as integrated network services.
  • Extension: 5G-Advanced will bridge the digital divide by extending broadband connectivity to underserved areas and industries. It will provide critical connectivity for smart grids, enable monitoring systems and facilitate the deployment of wearable devices with low-cost, low-data-rate connections. By leveraging beamforming techniques, 5G-Advanced will also support the integration of drones into the network and enable the networking of interconnected devices through sidelink technologies.
  • Operational Excellence: 5G-Advanced will continue the evolution of 5G and its mobile features while enhancing mobility and operational performance. Energy efficiency will be a major focus, with AI/ML enabling significant energy savings across the network as a whole. Service providers will experience more robust networks, minimizing downtime, dropped users and inconsistent performance. They will also have improved device management capabilities, enabling real-time identification of groups engaged in communal or collaborative activities and resource allocation for an optimal user experience.

The four E's represent a holistic approach to network development, focusing on desired outcomes rather than a mere collection of features. The goal is to provide customers with tailored combinations of 5G-Advanced enhancements based on their specific service needs. Whether they require basic capabilities or seek to emphasize experiential aspects, extension into new sectors, or operational excellence, the appropriate solution can be delivered.

As work progresses towards turning 5G-Advanced into commercial technology, the focus will continue on the four E's in the months and years to come. Additionally, there is ongoing research in the future beyond 5G-Advanced, with the exploration of the next generation of networks that will further transform the industry.

Overall, the 5.5G era represents a revolutionary leap in connectivity, with the potential to shape the future through immersive interactions, IoT advancements, vehicle connectivity and enhanced home broadband experiences, to name just a few. As the industry progresses towards the commercialization of 5.5G networks, it is clear that significant advancements and new opportunities await in the telecommunications landscape.

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