Doc Bernds FutureLab

Trends in Communication

Since innovations with Algorithmic Intelligence for a connected world always include communication technology as an essential component, the current trends play a significant role for us and for the Xyna software of our associated company GIP Exyr GmbH. On January 1, 2021, the IEEE CNT Editorial Board published seven communication trends for 2021.

We have summarized what we consider to be the key statements below. Among them, the academically very popular but industrially not yet tackled intelligent reflective surfaces (IRS) made of artificial materials are the biggest bet for the future. IRS, as a paradigm-shifting technology, is expected to lead to a dreamland of intelligent wireless environments where wireless systems not only adapt to their habitats and take countermeasures against harmful effects, but actually control those habitats and their effects. The Board is right to ask critical questions about this. 

For our work, especially for our Future Energy area, the trends and developments in the areas of Open Radio Access Network, Edge Computing, Satellite Networks, as well as the importance of 4G, 5G and in the future 6G as an alternative to Wifi are relevant. In addition to these points, the network slicing in 5G, which will be launched on the market in 2022, is of particular interest to us and our cooperation partner GIP Exyr GmbH. Because this enables to realize industrial and application specific virtual overlay networks with the 5G network.  

Seven Communications Technology Trends for 2021
A note from the IEEE CTN Editorial Board:

  • We Will All Be Disappointed in 5G Because 6G Will Look So Much Shinier
    “All of a sudden, mmWave bandwidths seem narrow and we hunger for terahertz frequencies, massive MIMO seems pointless when we can instead deploy intelligent reflecting surfaces that need no active RF chains, and anything not controlled by a data-driven learning algorithm seems to be a relic from a bygone era.”

  • 2021 Is Open Radio Access Network`s (ORAN) Breakout Year
    Jio and Rakuten had both pursued an IT approach to developing greenfield cellular networks, showing that such an approach can be feasible and indeed successful. The ORAN committee started publishing interfaces and specifications at a breakneck speed in 2020 and new suppliers started to appear with ORAN-focused products. This January, Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom, Orange and Telefonica announced a partnership to support the rollout of ORAN in Europe. So, 2021 is shaping up to be the year when ORAN must show it has the capability to dominate 5G in the longer term. Everyone will be watching closely and adjusting their plans accordingly.”

  • We Will Be Amazed by What 5G Can Do and It Won’t Be Because of Massive MIMO
    “The German government has also aligned its new spectrum auctions with a goal of allowing enterprises to own their own cellular infrastructure. Underlying all of this is the belief that factories, large private spaces (malls, sports stadiums, etc) will start to provide differentiating and boutique services using new capabilities explicitly built into 5G. The use of 4G in unlicensed bands is already available and allowing local spectral ownership will reinforce the Quality of Service capabilities.”

  • AI in Communications Becomes Just Another Thing
    “It turns out that AI is only useful if you have massive amounts of data to train on (who knew?) and this limits its usefulness in communications where everything is in motion and bandwidth and power are limited. We predict that, in 2021 and onwards, it will become a useful tool in the communication engineer’s bag of tools, like Tensors.”

  • Finally, Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces (IRS) Will Become a Popular Acronym in the US
    “A year ago, we commented on how metamaterials, in their many forms and shapes, were going mainstream. This turned out to be an understatement. The new subdiscipline spawned by these artificially constructed materials, and chiefly by the so-called Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces, ranked second to none in terms of paper submissions to communication journals and conferences in 2020. However, despite this runaway academic enthusiasm, industry is, for now at least, mostly watching from the sidelines. It may thus be premature to hail IRSs as a paradigm-shifting technology, even if the possibilities are certainly both intriguing and alluring at this stage, with a dotted line that leads to a dreamland of smart radio environments where wireless systems do not merely adapt to their habitats and take countermeasures against deleterious effects, but actually control such habitats and their effects. Put differently, a world in which the environment is part of the wireless system itself, as opposed to an external –often hostile– player. How much of the environment must be rendered controllable for that to make a difference? Can such degree of control be attained? Is an IRS really better than a good old relay? Many questions, and still few answers, so we don’t expect the volume of papers to abate anytime soon.”

  • Satellites Go up, Balloons Come Down, and a Whole New Field of Network Engineering Emerges
    “Overall, 2021 will be a year of dynamic development for broadband satellite internet. It will test the business potential of hopeful constellation operators as well as the potential response of geostationary satellite operators.”

  • 2021 Will Be the Year We All Live on the Edge
    “Multi-access edge computing (MEC), formerly known as mobile edge computing, aims at optimizing the performance for ultra-low latency and high bandwidth services by providing networking, computing and services at the edge of the network. Key drivers of MEC include the massive deployments of IoT and the combination with next generation 5G networks. With MEC, service providers are looking forward to monetizing their network services by introducing new applications and services for their customers. The adoption of MEC architecture started a couple of years back, with the development of standards, APIs, and protocols by organizations such as European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). We’re expecting to see more MEC-based applications and services this year, and hoping for new and improved user experiences.”