Into the 5G future: Paul Steinberg talks to CCW


Critical Communications Portfolio editor Philip Mason discusses the potential implications of next generation broadband with Motorola Solutions’ senior vice president of technology

CCW: What will be the benefits of 5G for mission critical communications users?
PS: At a high level, 5G will basically mean three things. Firstly, it represents an increase in capacity giving access to large swathes of spectrum.
The second thing which is being talked about is [low levels of] latency, something which opens the door to what is referred to as ‘mission-critical services’. The PPDR [public protection disaster relief] definition of that is somewhat different from when 3GPP talked about it, which is invariably in relation to augmented and virtual reality, automated vehicles, remote robotics being used in surgery and so on.
The third major component of 5G is to do with increased connectivity between devices, thereby enabling the industrial Internet of Things. That’s important for our users, because it’s a necessary condition to help enable smart cities.
Going back to the question of increased capacity, we’re typically talking about one GHz, but it could be as high as five or six. The flip side is that the signal will have the property of not propagating far. The simplest way to think about it in terms of capacity is like a Wi-Fi network on steroids.
Could you boil down the current business cases for 5G in a mission-critical context?
Focussing on increased capacity first of all, we currently see it as essentially enabling the movement of a lot more video and telemetry. That’s the information which in turn will end up feeding artificial intelligence within emergency services command centres.
The low latency aspect of 5G may take a little longer before it matters to public safety, but it will obviously become more relevant as organisations start to introduce robotics use cases, and use it to control drones. Motorola Solutions is not going to build drones, but weaving video from them into the fabric of incident management is something we are interested in.
That’s step number one when it comes to UAVs. Step number two is making them autonomous, thereby taking pilots out of the equation. An example of how that could be useful would be having the drones embark on a search pattern, or instruct them to fly to a particular point on a map so they become the first responder on the scene.
What advantages will 5G ‘network slicing’ provide for those working in public safety? 
For anyone who doesn’t know, network slicing is essentially the ability to create ‘virtual’ networks on top of a pre-existing physical infrastructure operated by a carrier. In that situation, the user is able to set parameters around the network in real time, including QOS [quality of service], capacity, and even coverage.
With that in mind, I honestly don’t think network slicing really changes the equation that much, at least not in relation to public safety. For instance, in terms of enabling QOS, the problem has been solved by operators already having the ability to virtualise their networks. Clearly that can’t happen ‘dynamically’ at the moment, but network sharing is still very prevalent, as seen in the UK where four large operators are basically accessing two sets of infrastructure.
The grade of service part – for instance, the ability to request priority and pre-emption – is also there right now. A lot of the SA6 [mission critical] services are built on something called the RX interface, which essentially allows an application to reach in and request differentiated service.
Coming back to current use cases involving 5G, you can certainly see lower latency becoming vital in particular situations. For example, a bomb disposal technician could use it to operate a robot via a virtual environment. In this circumstance the response needs to be precise and immediate as it would if the bomb disposal technician’s hands were actually there.
What do you anticipate will be the take-up of 5G from the user community?
A lot of our customers worldwide ask if they should they wait for 5G. You can already move a lot of data over 4G after all – you can do voice over video, you can move telemetry and data, and you can connect devices.
That being said, this is an evolutionary process, with 3GPP – as it always does – enabling a graceful path forward. Ultimately, you’ll see 5G supported in user devices, in parallel with the roll-out of a cost-effective ecosystem. As that, happens public safety can ride that swell – all it needs to do is dial that new capability into its use cases.


Philip Mason
Editor, Critical Communications Portfolio
Tel: +44 (0)20 3874 9216