How the Industry Fared in 2017
India is the second largest telecom market in the world and in 2017, we have seen a steady increase in the tele-density moving from 83.4 in 2016 to 92.6 in 2017 (tele-density is the number of telephone connections for every hundred individuals living within an area). In 2017, we have also seen the average cost per MB of data reduce significantly and we expect this trend to continue. The reduction in cost of per unit data has driven the telecom vendors to accelerate the adoption of optical fiber for back-end network infrastructure with the aim to reduce overall cost of operation. Service providers like Airtel and BSNL have also announced collaboration with telecom equipment manufacturers such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Huawei to sketch out a strategic roadmap for network evolution to the 5G technology standard. The government also recently announced that it would set up a high-level forum with the objective to evaluate and approve roadmaps and action plans for 5G in India by 2020. Leading researchers around the world have also announced that they have seen promising results with the 5G prototypes, for example, researchers from the University of Bristol extended to Massive MIMO prototypes to achieve unprecedented spectrum efficiency milestones. In summary, we have the cost per MB reduce drastically in 2017 and we have seen a major push from various stakeholders in the telecommunications industry to aid the commercialization and adoption of the next-generation or 5G networks.
Where the Industry Segment is Headed in 2018?
Moving into 2018, and as we draw closer to the first draft of 5G specifications from 3GPP, we expect to see more measurements being made by researchers and telecom giants alike to evaluate possible deployment frequencies for these next-generation networks. These channel sounding measurements are crucial to model and estimate the network performance under various scenarios and varying system parameters to gain better understanding of the challenges and design tradeoffs. Researchers and telecommunications equipment manufacturers are also collaborating to put promising prototypes to test in the over-the-air (OTA) scenarios to evaluate possibilities of replicating these technologies across various parts of the ecosystem and to drive the commercialization cycle of 5G. Test and measurement solutions will be key in the commercialization cycle. Test systems must expand beyond the physical layer to quickly and cost-efficiently test these new multiantennae technologies with controllable/steerable beams. Additionally, these systems must address the new mmWave-capable devices with extremely wide bandwidths. These test solutions must not only be able to test the important parameters of a device but also be cost-effective for 5G to reach its potential and achieve widespread adoption. With these characteristics, 5G requires a different approach to test for wireless devices and systems. For example, a system-level OTA test might become a standard in the 5G ecosystem. The OTA test presents several challenges but perhaps the most daunting pertains to the environment in which the test equipment and the device under test must coexist. Air is an unpredictable medium, and the channel itself varies over time and environmental conditions. Wireless test engineers must isolate the channel in the OTA scenario and control the device on a per beam basis to effectively test the device. As we rapidly move through the process of fine-tuning and tweaking prototypes to better suit large-scale deployment, the only path to success is via a platform-based approach with software at the core. The software-centric platform-based approach will reduce time to results and will also allow for prototypes to evolve as the software changes. With software, researchers also have the feasibility to extend these prototypes beyond the physical layer and to upper layers and to the network thereby further decreasing time to adoption.