Ten Experts “Get Real” With 5G in 2022

year g700198462 640…But don’t always agree

25 February 2022


5G deployment is well underway – or so ‘they’ tell us.

The ‘conventional wisdom’ around 5G has been that it would take root at the enterprise level and drive business innovation first, then touch consumers though secondary applications and services (although not everyone agrees with that, as you’ll see below). 5G has been a lightning rod; it’s been over-hyped, met with resistance from the public, come up against spectrum availability and use issues, and slowed down by a pandemic of global proportions and resulting supply chain issues. No wonder 5G still does not feel “real” to many businesses and business owners.

Is 2022 the year when that will change? “Yes!”, say the experts. And, “not so fast” say others.

Could the convergence of 5G with other emerging technologies, such as AI, ML, and AR/VR usher in the next industrial revolution – Industry 5.0 - and be the game-changer that brings applications and use cases in healthcare, manufacturing, and agriculture and mining? It will do that and make strides in connecting the unconnected say most. But, not in agriculture, says another. Will 5G will aid the utility sector, or tax the electric grid? Yes!

We turned to experts from industry, government, and academia around the globe, who volunteer with IEEE Future Networks for their insights and perspectives on what about 5G might become “real” in the year ahead. And, although they aren’t all singing in unison, each of their predictions is based on a solid foundation of professional expertise and experience. Here is what they said:


Getting Real with 5G Deployment

DavidWitkowskiDavid Witkowski

IEEE Senior Member
IEEE MTT-S Life Member
Co-Chair, Deployment Working Group, INGR (International Network Generations Roadmap)
Founder & CEO, Oku Solutions LLC

2022 will be the year that 5G enters the market in force, with new 5G radio access networks and 5G network cores coming online—it’s the combination of these two that enables delivery of true 5G service in a configuration known as 5G Standalone or 5G-SA. 

We’ve seen some limited deployment of 5G-SA, including T-Mobile’s low-band and reclaimed mid-band networks, and Verizon’s Ultra-Wideband millimeter-wave network. Low-band networks provide wide-area coverage with limited throughput, and millimeter-wave networks provide high throughput but very limited range. Mid-band 5G delivers the best balance between coverage and throughput.

Carriers have added 5G to their existing mid-band networks, but these use the old 4G cores in a configuration known as 5G Non-standalone or 5G-NSA, and without a 5G core throughput is limited. Starting in 2022, 5G in mid-band will use 5G network cores. 2022 is also the year when carriers will complete the shutdown of their 3G networks, freeing up additional spectrum for 5G-SA networks. 

That said, 5G could face deployment challenges in 2022 and beyond. Public anxiety about 5G, which is relatively new technology and therefore sometimes perceived as threatening, is showing up at the local government level in the form of opposition and appeals. In early 2022, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to delay the launch of 5G in the C-band generated an international media firestorm. And some new features intended for 5G still need to go through the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) candidate release process before carriers and device makers can adopt them.

Nevertheless, we’ve faced similar challenges with previous generations of cellular technology, and I have confidence that 2022 will be the year when 5G becomes real for many people.


The Real Deployment Challenge is Cost, Directly Impacted by Energy Usage

Francesco Carobolante profileFrancesco Carobolante

Energy Efficiency Working Group, INGR
Principal, IoTissimo LLC

As highlighted in the Energy Efficiency chapter of the 2021 edition of the IEEE INGR (International Network Generations Roadmap), the viability of the services enabled by 5G and Beyond (5G&B) is directly tied to energy efficiency, which needs to be addressed across the whole ecosystem due to up-time requirements and reliability of the network. While the main development efforts at the system level have focused on spectral efficiency through the use of massive MIMO, the real challenge in the deployment of 5G&B technology is cost, which is directly impacted by energy usage – not just for CAPEX (equipment and installation), but also for OPEX (maintenance and energy cost).

This is true not only in urban environments, where local regulations constrain size and heat dissipation, but also in other locations: while edge computing increases energy demand, new safety concerns for the applications being promoted are forcing regulators to require extended power back-up capability. To overcome these initial headwinds, the industry is now focused on reducing costs through the use of highly integrated electronics, which will lead to a broader deployment.

One of the key capabilities that 5G brings forward is the ability to connect an enormous number of IoT elements, now forecasted in the trillions, thus enabling broad sensing and control applications, especially in industrial, robotics, agriculture and mobility sectors. Yet, the energy required to power them is often a challenge, since it is too expensive to wire them, and not sustainable to service them with batteries. Wireless power transfer is being touted as a solution to this issue, but it can currently only be utilized in limited scale, when other solutions are not viable, due to the poor efficiency of such an approach (around 1% for typical distances required). Advanced energy harvesting techniques are being developed, which are intrinsically more sustainable and scalable to the large number of devices being envisioned.


Energy Efficiency Takes the Front Seat to Start Working for the People

BZ Headshot USE SMALL 7 12 16 1Brian Zahnstecher

Co-chair, Energy Efficiency Working Group, INGR
Principal, PowerRox

In 2022, we hope to observe a paradigm shift from recognition of the need for driving energy efficiency into a more pragmatic reality in which major stakeholders start to put far more resources into actions than words. The work of IEEE Future Networks has greatly facilitated by articulating concepts, terminology, and metrics (i.e. – Power Value Chain, Power Cost Factor, 5G Derate Factor, etc.) to enable a focus on global efficiency for the many stakeholders driving the development of hardware and network deployments in convergence with the utility grids that power them. The exciting advancements in the areas of distributed energy resources (DER), such as renewable microgrids, and grid-scale energy storage, all converging around autonomous energy grid management systems, bring us closer to a utopian, end-to-end network that self-optimizes from the micro to the macro levels.

We are also at another very fascinating crossroads in that union of communication systems and DERs driving the mitigation of the digital divide to grey the lines between pure economic gain and socioeconomic impact. The mutual benefits of investing in those on the less-connected end of the digital divide have been demonstrated, albeit at a smaller scale, but are certainly a promising step in the right direction. Powering previously disenfranchised or underdeveloped communities not only adds active cellular subscriptions and social media users but can optimize the utilization of energy while improving QoL (that is right, Quality of Life, not just Quality of Service or Experience, otherwise known as QoS/QoE). Everyone is a winner!


5G Becomes ‘Business as Usual’ in the Utility Sector

James Irvine profileJames Irvine

Co-chair, Community Development Working Group, IEEE Future Networks
University of Strathclyde/Power Networks Demonstration Centre

2022 is a year where 5G will start to move from the realms of the possible into providing real ‘business as usual’ benefits to utility networks. As national deployments ramp up around the world, vendors start to provide private 5G solutions, and spectrum issues are eased through initiative like spectrum sharing and efforts such as the 450 MHz Alliance. Hence, 5G starts to become a viable solution to providing more ‘smarts’ in the distribution network at reasonable costs. Conservative minds in a very traditional industry – ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ - are also being focused by plans to turn off 2G and 3G networks over the next few years.

However, while the technology is there, there are still issues to be addressed, and key amongst these is resilience. Utility networks are used to five nines reliability, and mobile networks aren’t there yet. Power autonomy within the communications network is essential and must be improved. Where there is reasonable backup at the moment, it tends to be for earlier generation voice networks which are going away. Utilities expect communications to continue to work for up to seven days when mains power is lost, but experience from recent storms suggest 10-14 days might be required. Typical 4G sites last 30 minutes without mains power

A second major resilience issue is of the supply chain. There has been consolidation of the equipment supply chain, and use of 5G in Critical National Infrastructure has spurred governments to start defining who is able to provide equipment for certain applications. Combined with a trend to have greater vendor lock-in as the standards become more complex, the result is a squeeze that may still delay deployment.


2022 is the Year of Private 5G Networks; More Energy Efficient as Time Goes by

Emil Bjornson ProfileEmil Björnson

IEEE Fellow
Working Group on Energy Efficiency, INGR
Professor of Wireless Communication, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Despite the hype around the emerging 5G enterprise market and its potential of reaching $700 billion by 2030, the initial focus of 5G is on the consumer market. Its data traffic grows by 40% per year and has been the main driver for evolving the network infrastructure in past decades. The Massive MIMO technology that is at the heart of 5G base stations changes the game when it comes to network dimensioning. The traffic capacity of a base station used to be a fixed resource to be divided between the customers. However, with a paradigm shift in network dimensioning, 5G capacity grows with the number of simultaneously active customers. It is like having a party where the cake grows with the number of guests, so that everyone gets (almost) an entire cake!

This paradigm shift is enabled by the highly directional transmissions from 5G base stations, which are adapted to each customer’s physical location. Current 5G networks are rather empty in the sense of only serving 1-2 users per millisecond, but they are fully capable of managing 5-10 users at the time, each being assigned the entire spectral bandwidth. The implication is that 5G networks will become increasingly cost and energy efficient as time goes by. We will get more bits per second while spending nearly the same power on the infrastructure side.

The spare capacity in 5G networks is also the enabler for new enterprise services. 2022 is the year when private 5G networks will appear, created through virtualization in the telecom operators’ 5G networks, so that enterprises can outsource connectivity delivery and start to gain access to premium wireless services for demanding use cases.


5G in 2022 … Another Year of More Pain Than Gain

WaterhouseRod Waterhouse

IEEE Future Networks, Tech Focus Editor-in-Chief
CTO, Octane Wireless

Sorry for sounding so melodramatic but all the signs are indicating 2022 will be another year of slowly catching up to over-the-top hype created several years ago. What we will see this year is more and more engineering development and roll out of lower spectrum (less than 6 GHz) 5G equipment and the pushing off the more ‘paradigm shift’ technologies into the ‘beyond’ 5G space. This in and of itself is not a bad thing, for it shows maturity of a system. An appropriate analogy from the recent Australian Tennis Open, would be that it’s time to work on your foot work, court coverage, and high percentage defensive shots rather than your overhead smashes, cross court winners, and aces down the tee. 

Things to watch this year in the 5G world is the rural coverage fight; there seems to be a lot of players in this area, and I believe we will see a few either drop out or consolidate. For example, I haven’t heard too much on High-altitude Platforms recently; a great technology but maybe looking for an application? Smart agriculture is another compelling topic especially given the climate interest, although a lot of the goals of this may be achievable with WiFi (or equivalent) and, so, smart agriculture may not be considered a 5G application in the future.


5G Deployment and Security

Ashutosh Dutta 2019Ashutosh Dutta, Ph.D.

Fellow of the IEEE
Co-Chair IEEE Future Networks Initiative
Chief 5G Strategist, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab

In 2021, deployment of 5G technologies has largely been constrained due to factors including the prevailing pandemic, lack of interoperability and testing among vendor products, limited availability of open-source implementation, the absence of compelling use cases due to lack of accessibility to advanced testbeds, and lack of a compelling emerging application that would help drive the evolution of the network, and, finally, spectrum interference. As well, perceived security threats for 5G networks at various parts of the network including supply chain security have slowed down widespread deployment of 5G networks as operators weigh the risks associated with security threats and delay their deployment until proper security mitigation techniques are developed to take care of the risk. Thus, the gap between standardization and deployment has also widened.

While 5G deployment is still in its infancy, the research community has already started conducting research for the next generation, 6G being the next cellular evolution. Various SDOs and standards bodies around the world including 3GPP, ITU, IEEE Future Networks, the Next G Alliance, TSDSI, 6G Flagship projects, the Horizons project, and various other initiatives in Europe, China, Japan, and Australia have started delving into research to fill the gaps of 5G and augment 5G technologies.

Adversity during the pandemic has also led to the innovation of new use cases and applications that could exploit various 5G technologies and help bridge the Digital Divide. As 2022 unfolds, 5G technologies will not be limited to telecom operators, but will be further exploited to support verticals including first responders, public safety, tactical networks, defense, agriculture, entertainment, eHealth, and smart cities, to name a few. Enterprises will take advantage of 5G enablers, namely Open RAN, Edge Cloud, Software Defined Networking, Network Slicing, Virtualization, Orchestration, and AI/ML to customize their private 5G networks and support variety of applications including Ultra Low Latency, Enhanced Mobile Broadband and Massive Machine Type Communications. Support of heterogeneous access and HETNETS will be a norm than exception. This will lead to the co-existence of private 5G networks and Wi-Fi networks. New techniques will be developed to provide seamless priority services and quality of services as the end user moves between heterogeneous access networks. Operators will continue to take advantage of disaggregation of network functions, virtualization, orchestration, and closed loop automation and will implement Open RAN solutions to make their RAN programmable. The vendor and operator communities will continue to embrace open-source consortiums such as the Linux Foundation, the Open Networking Foundation, OpenAirInterface, O-RAN, OPNFV, and Free5GC among others, giving rise to faster deployment.

While 5G technologies have taken care of many of the security issues in 4G/LTE, there are additional security challenges and opportunities introduced by various 5G enablers that make the network programmable, scalable, and resilient. In order to deploy a secured 5G network, mitigation techniques need to be implemented to address the security issues presented by each of these enablers. Hence, there will be an effort by the security and monitoring companies to develop new tools and controls to mitigate the risks associated with these 5G enablers. These tools will implement AI/ML techniques and federated learning algorithms to devise predictive security solutions for zero trust type networks. Customized security architecture will be designed to support a variety of applications while maintaining a tradeoff between security indicators and key performance indicators. Collaboration among various SDOs, R&D consortiums, government, and academia will act as a catalyst towards research for next generation networks resulting in new standards, roadmaps, testbeds, use cases, and advanced proof-of-concept.


5G Security in 2022 - Cyber Resilience, End-to-End Security, Resilience-by-Design

Eman Hammad ProfileEman Hammad, PhD, SMIEEE

Co-Chair, Security Working Group, INGR
Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University – Commerce@RELLIS>

Following major cyber incidents and disruptions in 2021, systems security and resilience will continue to gain more invested focus from vendors, service providers, and end-users, especially commercial clients. With an ever-evolving and changing threat landscape, priority will be given to ensuring cyber resilience, end-to-end security, and resilience-by-design. This is mainly shaped by future networks and connected systems’ evolution to be more complex, adaptive, dynamic, and autonomous.

Cyber resilience and converged IT/OT/IoT operations will become more mature enabling more intelligent protective and active mitigation operation on different system layers. We will see advancements in enhancing cyber-resilience by integration of trusted closed-loop security automation that’s context-aware and considers the composite state of the system, types of applications, and operational and security KPI requirements.

Future networks rely heavily on ML/AI to enable its operation. While cyber risks and threats of ML/AI algorithms are acknowledged and somewhat better understood, specific recommendations and security controls remain lagging and in research phases. More development will be seen in model verification, reliability, and trust models, in addition to data quality measures.

Focus on end-to-end security architectures will increase in response to recent significant cyber risks and incidents targeting the supply chain. Efforts incorporating trust-based frameworks and platforms to verify and authenticate entities within an end-to-end architecture will gain maturity (attestation, zero-trust, Software Bill of Materials), and we could be seeing example reference security architectures piloted. This would be a necessary step to ensure gaps in supply chain security are managed and mitigated. Moreover, the next-generation evolution of smart grids, intelligent transportations, public safety, and others will require strict KPIs striking critical tradeoffs between security, reliability, and operational performance. URLLC use-case implementations outside of private 5G networks will gain some traction with some integrated security controls.


Industry 5.0: When Human and Robots Collaborate Towards the Next Industrial Revolution

Halima Elbiaze profileHalima Elbiaze

Technical Program Committee Co-Chair, IEEE Future Networks World Forum
Full professor, Computer Science Department, University of Quebec at Montreal, Canada

Industry 5.0 is a human-centric solution where robots collaborate with humans to enable personalizable autonomous manufacturing. Cobots can take repetitive and labor-intensive tasks while humans focus on perception-driven decision making. Together with IoT, digital twin, and AI, 5G and beyond (5GB) technology will play a pivotal role in enabling Industry 5.0. The 5GB radio access network infrastructure is designed to support a massive and dense number of devices as in the Industry 5.0 use-case where millions of sensors, hardware elements, and robots operate. 5GB is finally finding its killer use-case that includes many applications, along with increasing bandwidth requirements, stringent latency constraint and resource-greedy AI capabilities. Many applications of Industry 5.0 are tailored considering sustainability aspects including environmental, economic, and social sustainability such as intelligent healthcare, supply chain management, smart education, and smart agriculture.

Despite the promising ability of Industry 5.0 to transform several industrial segments, there are challenges that need to be tackled to achieve its full potential. For instance, one inherent characteristic of Industry 5.0 ecosystems, that brings a potential challenge in processing and handling, is data heterogeneity and volume. Furthermore, the stringent latency targeted (2 ms network delay and 1 ms jitter) by industrial control systems has been recognized as computationally prohibitive in large-scale networked systems. Thus, resource allocation needs a paradigm shift to a closely coupled control, computing, communication, and caching infrastructure where all devices and tiers cooperate towards some specific goals. Goal-oriented communication has the potential to alleviate the complexities of networked control systems by recognizing that communication is not an end, but rather a means to achieving some goals of the communicating parties.


5G: As Critical to Progress as Electricity or Water

Sujata Tibrewala ProfileSujata Tibrewala

Co-chair, Edge Services Working Group, INGR
Worldwide developer community manager, oneAPI

5G is of one of the most ambitious technology disruptors if implemented well. Its open interfaces are designed to be accessible for inter-platform and cross vendor development, and hence it reduces barriers to entry and opens doors to smaller vendors and regions, which have traditionally remained unconnected. However, all is not roses and there are bottlenecks to its adoption. For example:

  • Use of mm waves and Giga Hz spectrum has not been used before, hence its impact on human health is making people skeptical. 
  • Its requirement to be vendor- and technology-agnostic goes against the interest of major carriers who are also implementers of 5G, since they have historically protected their interests by providing vertically integrated solutions. 

 In conclusion, the state of 5G adoption creates a sense of déjà vu. In the early 2000s, industry built excess network capacity in anticipation of wide-scale e-commerce adoption. We are living in the age of e-commerce eating up brick and mortar stores today, but it lagged the industry prediction by at least 10 years. It is hard to say how long it will take for 5G to become mainstream, but we know it is inevitable, since it will level-set the playing field for everyone on this earth, since today connectivity is as critical to progress as electricity or water.


Looking Farther Ahead

This brief look into the coming year are the insights of the volunteers of IEEE Future Networks who in their day jobs work as telecommunications strategists, consultants, advisors, professors, developers, and more, with specific areas of expertise.

To see even farther down the road, many of these volunteers lead Working Groups contributing to the INGR, a living document creating a predictive model for communication networks looking as much as a decade into the future. Made up of 14 chapters focused on issues across the plane of establishing, deploying, and applying emerging telecoms networking generations, the INGR:

  • Anticipates applications evolving from converged network generations and emerging technologies.
  • Detects inflection points that may arise.
  • Serves as both an investigator and aggregator of challenges and solutions.

The INGR is a resource that serves as a unified understanding of where future communication networks are headed. Updated versions of the INGR are released annually. INGR chapter overviews are available at no cost and for those who sign up for the IEEE Future Networks Technical Community full roadmap chapters may be read in their entirety.