Next Generation Mobile Networks
The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance is a mobile telecommunications association of mobile operators, vendors, manufacturers and research institutes. It was founded by major mobile operators in 2006 as an open forum to evaluate candidate technologies to develop a common view of solutions for the next evolution of wireless networks. Its objective is to ensure the successful commercial launch of future mobile broadband networks through a roadmap for technology and friendly user trials. Its office is in Frankfurt, Germany.
The NGMN Alliance complements and supports standards organizations by providing a coherent view of what mobile operators require. The alliance's project results have been acknowledged by groups such as the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), TeleManagement Forum (TM Forum) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The Initial phase of the NGMN Alliance involved working groups on technology, spectrum, intellectual property rights (IPR), ecosystem, and trials, to enable the launch of commercial next generation mobile services in 2010. In a white paper first released in March 2006, NGMN summarized a vision for mobile broadband communications and included recommendations as well as requirements. It provided operators´ relative priorities of key system characteristics, system recommendations and detailed requirements for the standards for the next generation of mobile broadband networks, devices and services.
From July 2007 to February 2008, standards and technologies were evaluated for next generation mobile networks. These were 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) and its System Architecture Evolution (SAE), IEEE 802.16e (products known as WiMax), 802.20, and Ultra Mobile Broadband.
In June 2008, the NGMN Alliance announced that, “based on a thorough technology evaluation, the NGMN board concluded that LTE/SAE is the first technology which broadly meets its requirements as defined in the NGMN white paper. The NGMN Alliance therefore approves LTE/SAE as its first compliant technology”. Also in June 2008 the alliance announced it would work with the Femto Forum to ensure femtocells benefit from the technology.
The alliance worked on intellectual property rights "to adapt the existing IPR regime to provide a better predictability of the IPR licenses (...) to ensure Fair, Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (FRAND) IPR costs". As part of this work, it issued a public request for information on LTE patent pool administration.
The alliance provided input to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC) on frequency allocation, since they considered a timely and globally aligned spectrum allocation policy a key to the development of a viable ecosystem on a national, regional and global scale. The ITU and regional bodies are developing channeling arrangements for the frequency bands identified at the ITU World Radio Conference in 2007. In October 2009, the NGMN spectrum working group released “Next Generation Mobile Networks Spectrum Requirements Update”, containing the status and NGMN views and requirements on frequency bands identified at the ITU WRC-07.
Since next generation devices, networks and services need to be synchronized for a successful launch, NGMN in February 2009 released a white paper which provided generic definitions for next generation (data only) devices to ensure that devices were available at the time when first networks were launched in 2010.
After the launch of the first LTE networks in 2010, the alliance then addressed challenges of network deployment, operations, and interworking, while focusing on LTE and its evolved packet core, as defined by the System Architecture Evolution.
In September 2010, NGMN published recommendations on operational aspects of next generation networks. Rising complexity and increasing cost of network operations due to heterogeneity of networks (supporting different technologies), number of network elements, the market need to gain flexibility in service management and to improve service quality drive the need to improve the overall network operations. The document outlines requirements for self-organizing network functionalities and operations and maintenance (O&M) to address these issues.
In 2014, the NGMN Board decided to focus future NGMN activities on defining the end-to-end requirements for 5G. A global team has developed the NGMN 5G White Paper (published March 2015) delivering consolidated operator requirements that will support the standardisation and development of 5G. NGMN encourages the industry to have 5G solutions available by 2020. However, the commercial introduction of 5G is expected to vary from operator to operator. In 2015, NGMN launched a 5G-focused work-programme that will build on and further evolve the White Paper guidelines. The main 5G NGMN work-items for 2015 are; the development of technical 5G requirements and architectural design principles, the analysis of potential 5G solutions and, the assessment of future use-cases and business models. Furthermore, the NGMN project teams will address the areas IPR and Spectrum from a 5G perspective. Following the white paper published in March 2015, in September 2015, the NGMN decided to publish a Q&A in order to answer some key questions posed. For example,
What will 5G allow us to do compared with today? 5G will be an end-to-end system environment to enable a fully mobile and connected society. It empowers value creation enabled by sustainable business models. Typical use cases for 5G are high capacity / high performance outdoor and indoor broadband access in dense urban areas, higher user mobility, Internet of Things, extreme real-time communication, ultra-reliable and lifeline communication, as well as broadcast-like services. How will 5G enrich our everyday life according to the White Paper? In addition to supporting the evolution of the established prominent mobile broadband use cases, 5G will support countless emerging use cases with a high variety of applications. As already mentioned, 5G will allow us to cover use cases ranging from “Internet of Things” applications with very low bandwidth requirements to use cases with a very high demand on data rate and latency. Furthermore, NGMN envisages delay-sensitive video applications, high speed entertainment applications in vehicles, and “mobility on demand” services for connected objects. There will also be new services enabled in the health and safety area with extreme requirements in terms of system reliability. In addition, future services will be delivered across a fully heterogeneous environment and a wide range of devices such as smartphones, wearables, and Machine Type Communication. Which demands must networks of the future fulfil to manage the tremendous growth in connectivity and traffic density? The 5G use cases demand very diverse and sometimes extreme requirements. In the NGMN White Paper, requirements have been defined in six distinct areas: User experience, system performance, devices, enhanced services, business models, network deployment & operation. It is anticipated that a single solution to satisfy all the extreme requirements at the same time may lead to over-specification and high cost. Nevertheless, several use cases are anticipated to be active concurrently in the same operator network, thus requiring a high degree of flexibility and scalability of 5G networks. NGMN envisions an architecture that leverages the structural separation of hardware and software, as well as the programmability offered by SDN and NFV. As such, the 5G architecture will be a native SDN/ NFV architecture covering aspects ranging from devices, (mobile/ fixed) infrastructure, network functions, value enabling capabilities and all the management functions to orchestrate the 5G system. On the radio access side, it will be essential to provide enhanced antenna technologies for massive MIMO at frequencies below 6GHz and to develop new antenna designs within practical form factors for large number of antenna elements at higher frequencies.
The NGMN Alliance is organized as an association of more than 80 partners from the mobile telecommunications industry and research. About one third are mobile operators, representing well over one half of the total mobile subscriber base world-wide. The remainder comprises vendors and manufacturers accounting for more than 90% of the global footprint of mobile network development as well as universities or non-industrial research institutes.
The NGNM Alliance co-operates with standards bodies and industry organisations like 3GPP, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, the GSM Association, and the TM Forum. In July 2010, the alliance and the TM Forum agreed to work together on optimized management systems and operations of the next generation of mobile networks. In May 2011 the alliance became a market representation partner to the 3GPP.
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