The Centre for Wireless Communications has been busy at the start of the year: around a hundred kilogrammes of electronics must be shipped to the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. When assembled as a rack stack, the electronics will turn into a 5G base station which is planned to be used for the first intercontinental public 5G network trial in the world.
The equipment will be followed by the 5G Olympics team which consists of members from CWC and cooperation partner Nokia. The international 5GChampion project consortium is working in the background. The trial itself is also literally international: it will create a 5G connection between South Korea and Finland.
The locations are more specifically the indoor venue at Gangneung Olympic Park and the main library and Kastelli community centre in Oulu, but with the help of virtual reality headsets people can travel to the other side of the world, about 7000 kilometers. “Residents in Oulu can enjoy the atmosphere of the Olympic Games via live streaming while the Koreans will get a chance to take a look at Finland,” says 5GChampion Project Manager Giuseppe Destino from CWC.
An augmented reality application is also on display in which a hologram of the Olympic Park is combined with real time information and videos from the Olympics. Interactivity is represented by a self-adjustable view of the northern lights at Kastelli community centre.
“With the help of virtual and augmented reality applications we try to present 5G in layman's terms,” Destino says and defines the technical content of the presentation:
"Enhanced broadband for 'data-hungry' applications combined with agile connectivity (over two continents) for low-latency (time-critical) services."
In fact, a wider mobile broadband and extremely small delay are key property requirements for 5G. The third cornerstone of 5G is also reflected in the presentation, the mass connection of devices and sensors (measuring sensors) to the network and the Internet of Things, IoT, which is created as a result.
In 5G, data is transferred as narrow antenna-specific cones
In other words, data is transferred in all directions, between places, users and devices, and at unparalleled speed. Professor Ari Pouttu from CWC highlights the underlying technological achievements:
“First of all, we showcase the 5G waveform, a way of data transmission. In addition, we use high radio frequencies, up to 27 gigahertz − ten times higher than the frequencies used by current mobile phones. Multiple-antenna technique is also applied which directs energy as narrow cones, described as pencil beams. A base station contains 64 antennas, and a separate data transmission channel can be built for each of them. Up until now, there has been one antenna on both ends between a transmitter and a receiver and the signal has been transferred in all directions.”
All of these are prerequisites for 5G. The 5G waveform enables greater capacity and shorter delay. The implementation of higher frequencies enables additional space for data and reduces energy consumption due to increased amount of data: transmission power is lower on higher frequencies. Pencil beams and multiple antennas play an important role not only in increasing capacity but also on how to control interference encountered on high frequencies.
These are also samples of research carried out by the University of Oulu and CWC. “Our competence lies in how bits are transmitted,” Pouttu says and points out that it is not often possible to pinpoint the source of achievements when research is based on cooperation.
The same applies to the final extent of achievements. For now, the amount of necessary equipment is around a hundred kilogrammes but that will change. “It will be a couple of years before engineers can fit it into a mobile phone.”
Or to the side of home appliances, electricity meters, virtual reality headsets… 5G's greatest promise and difference to previous generations is the above-mentioned Internet of Things in which devices exchange information with one another and turn our living environment into an intelligent, self-adjusting and directing environment. This is based not only on 5G data transmission capacity but also on the requirement for extreme reliability and small delay (otherwise being on board a self-driving vehicle would be too exciting).
In a narrow sense, IoT is already enabled by 4G's Narrowband IoT transformation. IoT readiness is inbuilt in 5G. But will the world be revolutionised? There are not yet any 5G devices in the market and base stations (including the one used in PyeongChang) are only prototypes.
“5G is at the beginning of its life cycle. It will be a while before 5G mobile phones will be commonly available to everyone,” Giuseppe Destino states. Ari Pouttu takes the thought further.
“As engineers, we do not know what will be a killer application which will be created on top of the platform we have produced. We cannot know what 5G will revolutionise.”
Researchers already turn their attention to 6G
Everything depends on the market. Pouttu sees an interesting opportunity in the market: IoT and high 5G radio frequencies require an increasing number of base stations, which are more commonly used indoors as well.
“How are indoor networks built? It is not sensible that each operator brings their own base stations to the site. There could be micro operators who lease a local network to major operators. At the same time, new location-specific services could emerge, such as indoor positioning or an announcement channel inside a shopping centre.”
While we wait for applications from service providers and equipment manufacturers, CWC continues with basic research but not only with regard further development of 5G: when each generation has reached its standardisation phase, researchers have already turned their attention towards the next generation.
The first 5G standard will be available in spring 2018. “We are now starting to uncover the outlines for 6G,” Pouttu says. In January, an in-depth 6G expertise project 6Genesis carried out at the University of Oulu progressed to the final phase of the Academy of Finland's flagship programme's funding application process. The excitement is thus also building up for others than the 5G Olympics team that has made some last minute adjustments to the base station.
“The most important and high-risk part of the project is developing a pre-5G radio that operates on 27 GHz frequency,” Destino says. “We have succeeded in planning, we are progressing at great speed in software development and we are facing challenges in integration as expected.”
“The trial at the Olympics is very exciting; it is unique, without precedents.”
Text: Jarno Mällinen
Top image: Ari Pouttu and Giuseppe Destino along with their project teams have developed a unique trial for the Olympics: a wider broadband and a fast intercontinental connection which are suitable for data-heavy applications and time-dependent small delay services. Photo Mikko Törmänen.
5G Team Oulu heading to PeyongChang Olympic games
5G Team Oulu getting ready for the Olympics. The white antennas besides the team are part of the intercontinental 5G network trial.
Nokia Bell Labs and University of Oulu Joint Center for Future Connectivity will participate in forthcoming winter Olympic games in South-Korea via demonstrations of 5G services as a part of EU funded 5GChampion project. 5GChampion was selected as the only 5G piloting project from EU funded research to be present at the Games. The project has developed in co-operation with the South-Korean consortium 5G radio enabled VR/AR, multimedia, Iot as well as location based services in real 5G testnetworks. The novel mmWave radios used in demonstrations have been developed in Oulu by the Joint Center utilizing the latest radio technologies. “The collaboration between our researchers and Nokia engineers in this hectic and ambitious project has made this Joint Center established one year ago. The joint team has been working fantastically and gives us excellent grounds for joint challenges in future.” says the Joint Center Director Academy Professor Matti Latva-aho. The Oulu driven demonstration will be presented for public at Gangneoung IoT Steet during Feb 20 - 22 together with other 5G technology demonstrations.
Last updated: 16.2.2018