Technologies for 5G

5G – Mobile Communications and Beyond

The first 5G mobile networks should become available from around 2020. As the successor to the LTE standard, 5G offers a better, brighter future for mobile communications. But it will also enable the global standardization of wireless communication systems. The need for standardization is being driven by a number of trends, including Industry 4.0, connected mobility and the Internet of Things (IoT). Central to them all is intelligent connectivity between objects for machine-to-machine communication and for automated control.

As an application-oriented research institute, Fraunhofer IIS is helping to shape the future of connectivity today. It is developing 5G technologies that meet the requirements of mobile communications and the needs of cutting-edge data transmission between objects, e.g. in manufacturing and for road vehicles.

The technical challenges

Key criteria of the new 5G standard include: ultra-short latency of under a millisecond, exceptional transmission speeds of 10 Gbit/s or higher, worldwide availability, robust connections, and drastically reduced power consumption – combined with advanced positioning capabilities.

The exact requirements for wireless data connections vary according to the application. For example, minimal latency and outstanding robustness are vital for automation systems in manufacturing and on the road. By contrast, energy efficiency plays a more important role in the transmission of telemetry data from smart meters. And object positioning – including smartphone users as well as machines, vehicles and sensor nodes – entails a variety of locating methods. Specifically, the user or device can be pinpointed directly via their cellular network signal, or via satellite, WiFi or Bluetooth-based systems.

As the global communications network is currently still in the developmental stage, the future 5G standard will offer a wealth of solutions to address a wide variety of needs.

5G technologies for diverse applications

Completely new transmission and network technologies are needed for 5G, and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS is playing a key role in their development. To this end, Fraunhofer IIS leverages its extensive expertise in wireless communications and positioning to create solutions tailored to customers’ unique imperatives and for diverse applications.

Mobile broadband

In order for data to be transmitted from the core network to the base station, and from base station to remote radio heads, mobile networks require high-bandwidth backhaul and fronthaul. Here, Fraunhofer IIS offers a baseband solution for transmission rates of 10 Gbit/s, with an RF bandwidth of 2 GHz – specially designed for frequencies in the 70/80 GHz spectrum (E-band millimeter wave).

Private media users also stand to benefit from the new data transmission concepts offered by 5G. In future, mm-wave relay networks will improve wireless coverage inside buildings and vehicles. Fraunhofer IIS has developed SUDAS especially for this purpose. The concept uses distributed relay nodes as a virtual multiple antenna array system, which increases the available indoor data rate. With the LTE broadcast mode eMBMS (Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services), (live) videos, software updates or cacheable multimedia data can be efficiently transmitted to several users simultaneously. This way of distributing content takes the load off mobile networks, freeing up capacity for other applications. For this reason, Fraunhofer IIS is further developing the technical basis for integrating mobile broadband and broadcast in 5G.

In addition, Fraunhofer IIS is working on exceptionally accurate and reliable object positioning methods. These are suitable for diverse purposes – for example, to locate an emergency caller as soon as possible, and to hasten their rescue. Highly precise positioning information could also be leveraged to improve how mobile networks work. For example, it could be used to enhance the handoff process in new, highly heterogeneous networks – so users moving at high speeds (e.g. in a car or train) are handed over from cell to cell without a loss of signal.

Industry 4.0

Digitalization is also changing industrial production. The effect of combining industrial and communications technologies is to promote flexibility and self-organization. Autonomous objects, wireless communication and real-time sensors allow new forms of decentralized control and ad-hoc design of processes. To be able to use control loops even in high-speed production steps and spread over several devices, methods are required that transmit data instantaneously and with extremely high reliability (Critical IoT). In a variety of projects, Fraunhofer IIS is developing methods aimed at a latency of less than a millisecond, to make data transmission compatible with commonly deployed fieldbus technologies. These real-time communication systems are the essential basis for the Tactile Internet. Fraunhofer IIS offers diverse positioning technologies in order to make the vision of autonomous, yet simultaneously transparent manufacturing a reality. These can be intelligently combined for applications such as asset tracking and smart factory robotics.

In addition to latency-optimized transmission technology for the Critical IoT, Fraunhofer IIS is developing solutions for connecting non-time-critical IoT applications that require lower bandwidth but numerous radio nodes (Massive IoT). The basic idea behind the Internet of Things (IoT) is to connect all devices with the Web, thus linking the real and virtual worlds by using sensors and actuators.  Often, the volume of data required for specific tasks is very small. However, the devices will transmit data for many years powered by the same battery. With such a low-power wide area network (LPWAN) in mind, Fraunhofer IIS’s wireless IoT network MIOTY harnesses a highly energy-efficient transmission method. This will be incorporated into future telemetry systems. Moreover, Fraunhofer IIS has positioning technologies that ensure the simple and precise positioning of embedded radio modules – for the reliable identification of the location of monitored objects.

Connected mobility

To realize the vision of connected mobility, cars will have to become communication centers on wheels. These vehicles will interact with each other (car2car) to warn of hazards, for example. They will also interact with road infrastructure (car2X), e.g. for information on the current speed limit. In addition, they connect to the Internet for the latest traffic news for their route. To enable these types of applications, wireless technologies with highly accurate positioning methods are key. These support autonomous driving, and improve traffic flow.

In addition, Fraunhofer IIS is actively researching and developing broadband technologies – so vehicles remain seamlessly connected with the outside world at high data rates, and also have exceptionally fast connectivity inside the vehicle. Fraunhofer IIS is also creating solutions for hybrid connectivity, and technologies that efficiently distribute up-to-date information to large numbers of users.

Satellite integration in 5G

One of the aims of 5G is to improve and extend global mobile network coverage. To do this, satellites are linked up to the terrestrial mobile network (backhauling). Thereby mobile base stations on the ground get interconnected via these satellites. A DVB-S2X modem enables mobile backhauling via satellite by processing signals received from the satellite so that they can be fed back into the terrestrial network. The DVB-S2X demodulator used at Fraunhofer IIS achieves payload data rates of up to 1 Gbit/s within up to 500 MHz bandwidth. Satellites equipped with new on-board processors such as the Fraunhofer On-Board Processor (FOBP) can also be configured in such a way that they function as 5G mobile base stations providing remote geographical locations, aircraft and ships with a broadband internet connection.

By researching into other concepts and adjusting the radio interface between satellite and terrestrial infrastructure, Fraunhofer IIS is aiding the integration of satellite communication into 5G networks. The challenges it faces are the transmission of radio signals over long distances without delays and the development of flexible solutions that are adjustable to the various transmission channel characteristics of the satellite. Fraunhofer IIS has in-depth knowledge of mobile and satellite communications technology and specializes in finding and implementing new approaches that combine terrestrial and satellite-based communications in hybrid systems.

Technologies and testing facilities for 5G

Indoor mm-wave relay networks for 5G

Shared UE-side distributed antenna system (SUDAS) for improved indoor coverage and vehicular connectivity

Positioning in 5G

High-precision positioning technologies