​Ericsson mines Swedish academia, Scania, and Volvo for 5G smarts

Ericsson taps Swedish academia and industry to dig up use cases that might make 5G compelling for operators to invest in.

Ericsson is teaming up with Swedish academics and heavy industry to develop new technology products and services based on emerging 5G standards.

5G mobile broadband specifications are yet to be ratified but that hasn't stopped numerous vendors laying claim to 5G speed records, showcasing the potential for the technology once it's been standardised.

The latest such demo came courtesy of Nokia and Japanese telco NTT DoCoMo this week, with the pair breaching 2Gbps at an indoor trial that used the Finnish company's millimetre wave technology in the 70GHz band.

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Meanwhile, South Korea's KT, China Mobile, and NTT DoCoMo agreed to jointly promote 5G and develop 5G technology for the Asian market, reportedly in the hope of gaining an edge over US and European network providers.

While it seems settled that 5G will be needed to address the onslaught of connected objects - from cars to home appliances and industrial machinery - a recent report by the mobile industry association the GSMA outlined the numerous challenges that remain for the standard, including that it's "currently unclear what the opportunity or 'weakness' that 5G should address is".

One of the biggest challenges is that the world still needs to develop solid use cases that are specific to 5G, which in turn will define how likely it is that operators can monetise fifth-generation networks.

Some of the services the GSMA identified which could be enabled by 5G include autonomous driving, augmented reality, virtual reality, and tactile internet, while fringe cases for 5G might include multi-person video calling and wireless cloud-based offices. Meanwhile, M2M, often lumped together with the Internet of Things, is entirely serviceable via legacy networks and so can't really be considered a potential 5G use case.

That's where Ericsson hopes its new "5G for Sweden" initiative can help move the needle in getting 5G off the ground.

The project's goals aren't too specific, but the company aims to corral talent from Swedish academia and two of Sweden's largest industrial firms, heavy equipment makers Scania, and Volvo Construction Equipment. The primary goal is to develop industry-specific applications that would become viable use cases for 5G.

One such example would be remote operations for mining and utility sectors, so for scenarios that pose a high risk to human workers, which are the type of applications that require low-latency, high availability mobile networks envisioned for 5G.

"We would like to make these applications around the technology we have today and then evolve them into 5G. A lot of these use cases can be realised to a certain extent already today because 4G is a pretty good technology. But 4G will also evolve these into 5G. Having this a starting point we would also begin to understand the requirements we need to fulfil for it be a complete generic solution for these industries," Torbjörn Lundahl, program manager for Ericsson's Swedish National Research Program, told ZDNet.

Considerations would include battery lifetime, latency, bandwidth and network capacity.

Broadly, the program will initiate research that can be applied across industries, alongside projects at universities and research institutes, as well as several industry pilots of possible 5G solutions, according to Ericsson.

Academic and research partners include the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Chalmers University of Technology, Lund University, The Institute of Technology, Linköping University, and Swedish ICT - Part of RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden).

Ericsson said that it and Scania will "address future transport solutions" through the KTH's Integrated Transport Research Lab.

Sweden's "innovation agency" Vinnova will also be co-funding projects that form part of Ericsson's initiative.

"By co-funding concrete pilot projects, we see major opportunities for industries to show real examples of the digital revolution that 5G offers, which has the potential to change everything from production processes to business opportunities," Charlotte Brogren, director general at Vinnova, said.

The agency last year agreed to tip SEK 5.5m (€600m) into a three-year 5G research trial with Volvo, which Ericsson is also involved in. The project is exploring the development of 5G components to enable vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to road infrastructure communications.

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