October 6, 2016

Real-time communication: Why the Internet has to become tactile

The fourth industrial revolution is already underway in production, the heart of the German economy: Industry 4.0 will result in highly flexible series production, making it possible to satisfy even the most individual customer requirements at low costs. But an still higher-performance telecommunications infrastructure than before will be needed if Germany is to build on its present good starting position.

High speed is an essential prerequisite for real-time communication, itself the foundation of the Internet of Things (IoT). This goal presents industry and developers with enormous challenges, because more and more devices, machines and everyday objects are beginning to communicate with one another: The amount of data generated worldwide doubles every two years.

5G – More than just a new communications standard

But how will we manage to process this rapidly growing flood of information? "This will require filtering and analyzing data at the source, letting systems react rapidly," says Professor Slawomir Stanczak, Department Head of the Wireless Communications and Networks department at Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI. Ultra-short latency times of under a millisecond, data transmission rates 100 times greater than in today's LTE networks, peak transmission rates of more than ten gigabits per second, robust wireless connections with drastically reduced consumption of electricity: These are the requirements placed on the new mobile communications standard 5G, the key to future topics such as IoT, automated driving, and relevant progress in health care provision through telemedicine, smart homes for health-impaired individuals and the energy revolution based on smart grids. Simply thinking in terms of a new mobile communications standard is not enough, observes Professor Thomas Magedanz, Director of the Software-Based Networks business unit at Fraunhofer Institute for Open Communication Systems FOKUS: "The matter at hand is creation of a universal network for device communication, involving the consolidation of previous mobile communications standards, WLAN, satellite and terrestrial networks." Put concisely, "5G is the ultimate convergence platform," emphasizes Magedanz, an expert on switching node architectures.

This calls for the creation of a new software architecture as the basis of an adaptive core network that will provide highly agile infrastructures and will thus be able to serve as the basis for new business models. Magedanz envisions an "evolutionary development". The decisive factor for technologies such as automated driving, he continues, is that the reaction times involved have to be faster than human reaction times. Nevertheless: "Speed isn't everything, though. Secure, extremely reliable connections that can hold their own in comparison with cable-based systems are essential as well," adds Stanczak, an expert in network information theory.