The top 10 stories on FierceWireless Tech this year spanned new radio tech, the growing importance of software, challenges with network slicing and progress on 5G Voice. The next generation of wireless technology 6G made more than one appearance on the 2021 list, while Nokia blasted to the top with plans to establish a 4G LTE network on the moon.
Ericsson claimed a world-first this October in a proof-of-concept with PowerLight Technologies that used laser beam technology to power a 5G base station completely wirelessly, without any electric grid connection or on-site power generation. An optical beam was able to transmit hundreds of watts of power over hundreds of meters over the air.
As the U.S. awaited news about who got what in the C-band auction, Ericsson announced new radios designed to accelerate operators’ mid-band deployments for 5G around the world. The radios were designed from the ground up to work primarily on operators’ existing sites, whether that be rooftops or towers, according to Sibel Tombaz, head of 5G Highband and Active Antenna Systems at Ericsson.
Ericsson’s chief executive said in July that vendor will have open RAN products when the technology is ready for the market, but doesn’t see that on the immediate horizon. In the meantime, it’s staying focused on dedicated gear that can be deployed for 5G now.
The telecom industry has been trumpeting 5G network slicing for a couple of years now, saying carriers will be able to make money by selling “slices” of their networks to different enterprises for their exclusive use. But then, along came the private wireless network craze. Network slicing is a complicated technology that must work across the core, RAN, edge and transport networks. While private wireless is less complex.
During a virtual media round table in April Nokia’s Nishant Batra discussed 5G, the edge cloud, and business models for network slicing. Network as a Service is part of the picture for ensuring software can be deployed in a fast-paced way that focuses on use cases enterprises care about.
So you thought a new 5G network would mean new voice technology to match those crazy fast data speeds? Not necessarily – at least, not yet. T-Mobile is pursuing new voice services for its 5G network – but in August wasn’t saying much about it, while Verizon and AT&T appear to be sticking with LTE for the foreseeable future.
6G hasn’t been formally defined yet, and still remains somewhat of an open playground. Part of the reason that the wireless industry and others are starting discussions about 6G has to do with the typical 10-year technology cycle around new generations of 3GPP-based wireless standards. By the end of the year the standards body had selected projects for the next 5G spec and teed up 5G ‘Advanced.’
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) took aim at 6G with the launch of its single largest public-private partnership program, enlisting nine cloud, tech and telecom heavyweights to help academics develop the technologies that will define next generation networks.
During a virtual session at the CCA Mobile show T-Mobile’s Ulf Ewaldsson noted that in the cable space there is a “de-coupling” of broadband from television services. Many consumers are choosing over-the-top video rather than cable, and they’re open to choosing a separate broadband provider, too. And this gives FWA a chance to swoop in.
4G LTE networks are well established here on Earth, but what does it take to translate cellular technology for applications on the lunar surface? The top FierceWireless Tech story of 2021 details Nokia’s moon ambitions, with efforts to establish 4G LTE network on the lunar surface as part of a NASA mission.