Exponential growth in capacities. Exponential potential

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Capacities: a record of exponential growth

Since 2G in the 1990s, the intrinsic capabilities of the network, centered on the radio interface, have grown exponentially (see Figure 1).

As we move from 4G to 5G, we see capabilities expanding their growth:

  • Maximum data rate (≈ maximum download speed) increases> 60 times
  • Spectral efficiency (≈ information rate on a given bandwidth) increases by 200%
  • Maximum coupling loss (enhanced range ≈) increases by 15 percent
  • Duty cycle (≈ energy consumption) decreases by 95 percent
  • Responsiveness (≈ latency) improves by 75%
  • The traffic demand (≈ data load on the network) increases by 10 times

Figure 1 – Advancement of Intrinsic Capabilities Across Generations:


Figure 1 – Maximum data rate projection, Mbps:


2020-2030 extrapolation based on projected data traffic 2025-26, Ericsson Mobility Visualizer, September 2021.

2020-2030 extrapolation based on projected data traffic 2025-26, Ericsson Mobility Visualizer, September 2021.

Mobile network capabilities, shown in this logarithmic scale by the peak data rate, have progressed rapidly. It’s not just about peak data throughput, we can expect other intrinsic capabilities to continue to advance as traffic demands continue to be met.

It’s easy to overlook the exponential growth in network capacity. Putting the maximum growth in data rate into context, for example, means that where a 6GB movie would take over 1,000 hours to download in the 1990s, that same movie could be downloaded in 2.4 seconds in the 2020s. .

Growing capacity requirements

All abilities have an important role to play, and their individual contributions become more pronounced depending on the scenario. For example, when it comes to safety critical situations, such as wireless industry automation in a factory or road safety functions in autonomous vehicles, timing and therefore responsiveness is paramount. However, if you are exploring remote parts of the world or are indoors, your phone’s coverage bars are more important and you are more grateful for the improved range of the network’s base stations.

With the network capabilities underpinning exponential technologies such as AR / VR, AI, IoT, and various uses, expect intrinsic capabilities to be pushed quickly and hard, spurring development.

So far, 5G networks are up to the task and this is reflected in user behavior. Among consumers, for example, early 5G users spend more time compared to 4G LTE users on rich multimedia content such as virtual reality; technology that truly benefits from the low latency and data rates of 5G. If we want consumers to broadly adopt VR technology and improve beyond current levels of visual immersion, capabilities like latency and data rates will need to continue to expand.

Increase in time spent per week (hr: min) by 5G users on activities compared to 4G LTE users:


Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab report, May 2021.

Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab report, May 2021.

The evolution and advancement of technologies are not lost on policy makers. The US climate envoy recently announced that 50% of the carbon emission reductions needed to reach net zero will come from technology “that we don’t have yet”. If this is true, I think a lot of this technology will have to come from the 5G innovation platform and its capabilities.

To tackle climate change with both known technology and technology we do not yet have, the capabilities of the network need to be improved and extended in various dimensions. In addition, we must continue to develop capacities without knowing exactly which will be the most crucial and what they will lead to. No one foresaw how the capabilities of 4G would lead to the app economy. Therefore, we are building the network on the principles of flexibility and diversity, confident that it will eventually be exploited. Considering the benefits of 5G for business and the implementation of the government’s green and digital agendas, I would suggest that exploitation happens sooner rather than later.

Technological phenomena at the fastest scale

Given its strong performance and potential, the number of 5G subscriptions is expected to reach one billion subscriptions two years earlier than 4G.

In reality, 5G Expected to Reach One Billion Users Faster Than Any Other Tech Phenomenon, including apps above the network such as social media. Not only is 5G evolving rapidly, but we are seeing that in general the network coverage has spread to the point where more people in the world have mobile coverage than universal health services, basic sanitation. and even electricity.

The fact that network capacities can grow exponentially with coverage eclipsing other critical infrastructure and utilities is a testament to the network’s innovation and value.

What’s the next step for intrinsic abilities?

Intrinsic capacities remain firmly at the center of concerns. We want to see ever higher data rates, send a lot of data in bursts, free up the network. Responsiveness and sub-millisecond latency, critical in technologies such as virtual reality, should continue to be reduced. The exponential growth of devices, doubling from 2020 to 2026, along with the need to connect the unconnected, speaks to the need for a large and cost-effective deployment, where higher spectral efficiency and reduced maximum coupling loss must be included.

Ever-improving networks must continue to meet exponential traffic demands without increasing data costs. The balance sheet is solid, with the Global average mobile data price down at -15% CAGR from 2013 to 2019.

As costs need to be kept under control, so too is power consumption, and we’ve shown that a network-level approach can allow data traffic to grow exponentially without increasing power consumption. Duty cycle advances help reduce energy consumption.

Emerging capacities

Beyond intrinsic capabilities, other capabilities are becoming important and extending into the emerging era of 6G. As wireless networks increasingly become essential components of society, resiliency and security capabilities are crucial. The network must be able to provide a service when part of the infrastructure is disabled due to natural disasters or malicious attacks.

In terms of reliability, networks should also be able to take advantage of new confidential computing technologies, improve service availability, and deliver improved identities and security protocols with end-to-end assurance. These networks will need local compute integration capabilities, an infrastructure to rapidly develop and deploy distributed applications and network functions, and data acceleration and compute services can be provided across the board. network with performance guarantees.

Finally, to power society’s full digitization and automation, networks need high-precision positioning capabilities and detailed sensing of their surroundings.

5G: capacity improvements planned

Network capacities are progressing through 3GPP, a collaborative forum for standardization bodies and businesses. The versions of 3GPP include standardized features and specifications for use by developers, and several versions are planned for 5G.

Version 15 is the first 5G New Radio standard, followed by version 16 and both have been completed. Version 16, for example, which was completed in 2020, included improvements in ultra-reliable and low-latency communication, as well as the efficiency of 5G with aspects such as interference mitigation, power consumption. energy, etc.

Going forward, version 17, under development, will include capability improvements and introduce, among other things, new features such as better battery health, better support for security use cases. public and satellite access.

Version 18 is still a long way off, but it wouldn’t be surprising to find improved support for eXtended Reality (XR), AR / VR, mobile relay, connected high-speed railroads, connected drones / UAVs, as well as wireless system performance improvements through AI and machine learning.

End of thought

Intrinsic network capabilities have shown exponential growth for years and have enabled, among other things, mobile internet in the 3G age, the economy of 4G applications and soon the full realization of IoT in 5G . Whether it’s peak data rates, spectral efficiency, maximum coupling loss, duty cycle or responsiveness, we expect intrinsic capabilities to continue to march exponentially along with capabilities. emerging.

In addition, increasing demands and expectations motivate further improvement in capabilities. Many are planned, more will be needed. The demand also means that 5G not only overtakes 4G to reach one billion users, but other technological phenomena.

If you know of an industry that is innovating faster and having more impact than the mobile industry, let me know.

Learn more

Read previous blog posts from Erik Ekudden Group CTO: High performance networks allow us to reinvent the value of digital and CTO

Learn more about 5G.

Read our CTO Technology Trends 2021 report.


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