What is 5G-Advanced?

5G-Advanced, otherwise known as 5.5G, is a new category of network technologies that builds on the foundations of 5G networks to digitally transform industry and user experiences.

It’s been nearly four years since 5G network deployment has gotten ‘properly underway’ in the United States, according to the European 5G Observatory. Like 4G and 5G, 5G-Advanced was developed by the 3rd Generation Partner Project (3GPP), a conglomerate of standards organizations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications.

The term 5G-Advanced was first used on January 6, 2023, when 3GPP, called it the mid-point of 5G standardization in its Release 18 Update.

Since then, 5G incumbent Huawei claims to have made significant progress in the development of 5G-Advanced technologies including extremely large antenna arrays (ELAAs) to support 10 gigabit downlink, flexible spectrum access, and passive IoT.

At the 5G Advanced Forum during MWC Shanghai 2023 Huawei’s President of ICT Products & Solutions, Yang Chaobin said, “In 2024, Huawei will launch a complete set of commercial 5.5G network equipment to be prepared for the commercial deployment of 5.5G."

However, Huawei is not innovating alone. Organizations such as Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung, ZTE, Cisco, Qualcomm, and Intel are all fiercely competing for dominance in the burgeoning market.

Nokia identifies these key improvements brought on by 5G-Advanced:

  • XR (AR, VR, gaming): Through the enhancement of application awareness XR workloads can be moved from the device to the network, resulting in smaller devices with better mobility.
  • Enhanced coverage and MIMO performance: According to the company, 5G-Advanced is projected to deliver 20% higher data rates than 5G, delivering lower uplink latencies.
  • 5G to replace GSM-R: The Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) developed by the International Union of Railways, which will replace GSM-R in Europe by 2030, will use 5G new radio (NR) for its dedicated spectrum bandwidths due to its utility; and to address public safety concerns.
  • Evolution beyond the smartphone: Nokia claims the enhanced connectivity of 5G-Advanced networks will usher in a new era of both full and ‘Reduced Capability’ devices. These ‘RedCap’ devices will offer significantly reduced prices, at the cost of performance and flexibility.
  • Accurate positioning: 5G-Advanced will also offer enhancements in terms of cellular-based positioning, including the identification of non-line-of-sight paths as well as centimeter-level accuracy for both indoors and outdoors scenarios.
  • Resilient timing: 5G has started to become a viable alternative to GNSS/GPS for synchronizing functions to Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) or any other well-defined time domain.
  • Network operation efficiency: Through the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies to the RAN, core and network management domains, 5G-Advanced improves performance and energy efficiency with automation.

As the 5.5G era grows nearer to beginning mobile network providers still struggling to move past 4G will now need to decide whether their future lies with 5G or 5G-Advanced. Additionally, 3GPP has already announced that after Release 20 the company will shift its focus to the development of 6G which will likely integrate these features