IEEE Talks 5G: Three Questions for Ashutosh Dutta

Ashutosh Dutta croppedDecember 2016

Ashutosh Dutta is co-chair of the IEEE Future Directions 5G Initiative and the IEEE Communications Society’s Industry Outreach Director. In the private sector, Dutta serves as Lead Member of Technical Staff(LMTS) at AT&T. In this interview, Dutta provides insight into the 5G Initiative’s work and the challenges presented by the development of 5G-related technologies.

Question: Would you provide an overview of the IEEE’s 5G Initiative and its current activities?

Dutta: Certainly. About four years ago, various IEEE societies began exploring the topic of 5G. The IEEE Communications Society, ComSoc, recognized that to realize 5G’s potential all these groups should work together. And we needed to build a community that would include industry and policy makers along with academics.

As 5G is fundamentally a communication network technology, ComSoc took a leading role in the Initiative. But because 5G touches so many technical areas, the Initiative is currently driven by twelve specific IEEE technical societies – though the topic eventually will involve additional societies. We have a 5G Steering Committee composed of leaders from IEEE Future Directions as well as the technical societies and organizational units involved.

As ComSoc’s Industry Outreach Director, I’ve focused on creating a series of 5G Summits around the world to bring industry into the fold with policy makers and academics. We began in Princeton, New Jersey, in May 2015 and, since then, we’ve held summits in IEEE regions and chapters in Canada, India, Denmark, Germany, China, Austin, and Seattle and will soon in Portugal and Kuwait. We will continue to hold these 5G summits all over the world during 2017. We want to foster innovation at the local and regional levels while also gaining an understanding of local, culturally related 5G issues and perceptions. And, of course, we’ll all need to develop a global consensus on how to discuss the technologies in play, standards for interoperability, and so on.

As part of IEEE 5G initiative, we have created and are at work on a 5G Roadmap project that identifies specific goals and divides the technology development into various working groups. As of December 2016 we have been holding face-to-face meetings to get our 5G Working Groups started on specific technology challenges, such as standardization building blocks, cybersecurity, mobile edge cloud, millimeter wave, MIMO, and others. Most recently, we had a 5G roadmap workshop meeting during IEEE Globecom 2016 that was attended by a large number of attendees from various societies and regions. And we have working groups devoted to the roadmap, standards, industry engagement, education, publications, and other efforts important to 5G development. The working groups will produce topically focused conferences and workshops and they will develop tutorials, webinars, publications, and other educational resources to share the work we’re all doing. We’ll also be creating an open 5G test bed to get industry involved on a practical basis. The IEEE 5G initiative is also closely collaborating with other IEEE initiatives such as SDN/NFV and IoT to complement the efforts

Question: What is the role of policy makers in 5G development?

Dutta: The policy side is a key piece of the puzzle in 5G development. Every country has a regulatory structure in place for mobile telephony and we must understand all their concerns. This is a global effort, so we cannot limit involvement to regulators or legislators in one market or a single country. To develop and deploy 5G technologies globally it must work – and there must be a business model – in China, in Europe, in India, in the United States. So we need regulators’ and policy makers’ viewpoints on every market. We need to know not only if 5G is technically feasible, but how will policy makers encourage, support, or regulate this technology? We hope to keep policy makers informed about the technology options and as we develop the technology, we need to understand and address their concerns as well. For instance, what are the spectrum and spectrum-sharing issues in various countries? How will 5G behave if it must ride on a variety of disparate bands of spectrum?

Question: Do you think the build-out of 5G infrastructure could take radically different paths in developed and developing countries, one with legacy infrastructure and one a potentially “greenfield” situation? Each market could present its own challenges, especially if the goal is to avoid a global, digital divide.

Dutta: We certainly want to be all-inclusive in terms of providing all of humanity with this technology. That is IEEE’s mission It’s possible that developing countries could leap-frog ahead with 5G without having had 3G or 4G. During the IEEE 5G initiative kickoff meeting in Princeton a panelist from TSDSI (Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India) discussed the notion of “frugal 5G,” which might enable the provision of service to everyone from a corner in a village. Now, whether the big global brands swoop in and offer 5G to local carriers or innovation arises locally remains to be seen. One of the angles we’ll be exploring is the business case for 5G in different countries and how it can be implemented equitably.