Merging connectivity, compute and AI at the edge

Merging connectivity, compute and AI at the edge

The second phase of 5G helps maximize operator investments while setting the stage for 6G

The first phase of 5G is largely complete and already delivering impactful new consumer and enterprise experiences. Looking to the coming years, with the transition from 5G to 5G Advanced and then the next generation of cellular at the end of this decade, Qualcomm’s John Smee, senior vice president of engineering, said, “We are right now at a point of inflection . This is really setting the path towards 6G. Before then, we have to make sure we’re getting the maximum value out of all those 5G investments.”

Speaking during a master class session at the recent Qualcomm 5G Summit in San Diego, Smee expanded on the company’s vision of the 5G-enabled “connected intelligent edge…[and] where does it go next?” He discussed 5G as the intersection of communications and compute, and called out the proliferation of devices with embedded artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities.

In this paradigm, where devices are using 5G to send contextual information to edge clouds for processing and action, “We’re moving towards a more instantaneous world,” Smee said. “That value that’s being created at the edge of the network—it requires low latency communication. It also requires new ways of doing compute…That role of 5G at the edge of the network, combined with AI, is how we achieve scale.”

To watch Smee’s full master class session, “Driving the Technology Evolution for 5G Advanced,” click here.

In terms of the standardization timeline, Qualcomm has been conducting 5G Advanced-related R&D for some time. The 3GPP standardization body—of which Qualcomm is an essential, driving part—approved the Release 18 framework in late 2021. This first 5G Advanced standards package is scheduled for completion in 2024 and commercialization will follow from there.

Smee characterized 5G Advanced as “an opportunity for foundational innovation” across three broad areas: mobile broadband evolution and further vertical expansion; finding the balance between immediate commercial needs and the longer-term 5G vision; and new devices and further network evolution.

That last point speaks to the value of the connected intelligent edge where distributed AI, power-efficient compute, and ubiquitous connectivity come together. “As we look at the connected intelligent edge and we realize how important those devices are going to be, then we need to know that the evolution of the air interface—on the device side and on the network and how they work together—is more important now than ever.”

Other Release 18 technologies Smee hit on include advanced downlink and uplink for massive MIMO, continued work on extended reality (XR), mobile integrated access/backhaul (IAB), smart repeaters, more advanced duplexing techniques, using AI and ML to design networks, making network operations more environmentally sustainable, NR-Light for more lightweight IoT devices, expanding the role of positioning, the role of drones and satellite communications, and more.

“When you put this all together, Release 18…sets off this new era,” he continued. “6G will be cloud-native. It will also be AI-native. That begins with 5G Advanced.”

For a detailed look at Qualcomm’s advanced wireless research, including demonstration videos and interviews with key company leaders, visit this resource library.

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