Beyond convergence: 5G and IoT need wireless-wireline integration

Beyond-convergence-blogTowards fixed-mobile hybrid, smart ubiquitous networks 

Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) in China, Japan and Korea see two fields of study as crucial to telecom and ICT standardization as we approach year 2020. The first is to support 5G mobile-wireless systems and ubiquitous smart technologies with the necessary innovations in network infrastructure, and the second is to ensure that Internet of Things (IoT) technologies meet their potential.

These were the two primary outcomes of my consultation with Chinese, Japanese and Korean CTOs last week in Seoul. This consultation was the first in a series of regional consultations that I have initiated as a means to prepare for our annual CTO meeting, where CTOs meet with the management of ITU’s Standardization Sector (ITU-T) to discuss strategic priorities for our standardization work.

The meeting issued a communiqué focused on network innovations for 5G and cross-industry IoT deployments with an emphasis on smart cities, two subjects of growing relevance to work underway in ITU-T’s standardization expert groups.

The application fields of 5G technologies, in addition to voice and video, range from industrial robotics to intelligent transport systems, remote medical surgery, virtual reality and much more.

When speaking of 5G, we are speaking of a huge leap beyond 4G. Wireless communication in the 5G era should match the speed and reliability achieved by fibre-optic cables. In our IoT-enabled future, hybrid wireless-wireline connectivity will support an increasing variety of destinations on the edges of the network and a very broad spectrum of services. Innovation in standardization is vital across access networks, core networks, virtualized data clusters and masses of smart networked units.

My view is that 5G will be achieved with fixed-mobile hybrid, smart ubiquitous networks. I elaborated this concept in an interview with Guy Daniels of TelecomTV at the recent NGMN Industry Conference & Exhibition in Frankfurt. The full interview is available here.


Companies from China, Japan and Korea are among the thought leaders in the 5G space. CTOs at the consultation were of the opinion that, while technical work on air interfaces and radio access networks is progressing rapidly, the fixed-network elements of 5G demand more attention. CTOs highlighted the need to describe an integrated wireless-wireline architecture, adding that greater emphasis should be given to the capabilities of the fixed networks supporting 5G, capabilities such as control and management functions and end-to-end Quality of Service/Experience.

ITU-T Study Group 13 is meeting in Geneva from 20 April to 1 May and will consider proposals to initiate ITU-T’s study of the fixed-network elements of 5G. SG13 is our standardization expert group responsible for future networks, cloud computing and network aspects of mobile communications, and you can learn more about the group here.

In 2012, ITU established a programme on “International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) for 2020 and beyond (IMT-2020)”, which encourages 5G research and development worldwide. Contributions to SG13 assert that we have reached the opportune moment for ITU-T to initiate its study of the fixed-network elements of IMT-2020.

Chinese, Japanese and Korean CTOs took note of these contributions to SG13, welcoming the establishment of a new open platform for members and non-members of ITU to advance the IMT-2020/5G agenda and to agree a draft timeline for this study in ITU-T. CTOs recommended that ITU-T should pay particular attention to aligning its 5G-relevant timelines and deliverables with related IMT-2020 activities in ITU’s Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) and other key organizations active in the field.

CTOs at the consultation highlighted IoT and smart cities as key drivers of future 5G networks. Smart cities represent a unique opportunity to modernize city infrastructure, with city operations benefiting from the efficiency of smart digital infrastructure.

IoT will enable cities’ systems to interact and learn from one another, creating a “digital nervous system” rich in connections and intelligence, and infinitely adaptable. I agree with the CTOs’ view that IoT technologies will be best positioned to achieve their potential if industry sectors can share the underlying ICT infrastructure. All industry sectors should also be able to make use of the data produced by IoT-enabled systems.

However, CTOs expressed concern that too many standardization efforts and a lack of consolidation of IoT studies have become fundamental challenges to IoT standardization, including with respect to collaboration with various vertical markets. A possible means to overcome these challenges would be for ITU-T to activate collaboration with other IoT-relevant standards bodies such as oneM2M and to increase the visibility of ITU-T’s work in the IoT domain.

CTOs at the consultation were informed that some ITU-T members are discussing the establishment of a new ITU-T Study Group on “IoT for Smart Cities”, building on the findings of the ITU-T Focus Group on Smart Sustainable Cities. This proposed new group would coordinate IoT standardization in ITU-T, serving the IoT requirements of a variety of industry sectors. Chinese, Japanese and Korean CTOs welcomed this proposal, agreeing that IoT developments aimed at smart cities will be central drivers of 5G.


imageChaesub Lee is the Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Standardization Bureau, following his election at the 2014 Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Republic of Korea. He took office on 1st January 2015. He acted as Vice-Chairman of ITU-T Study Group 13 ‘Future Networks and Cloud’ from 2001 until 2008, becoming Chairman of that group in 2009.




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