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Overview of 5G Use Cases and Architecture

Presents a high-level view of the concepts underlying 5G with a discussion of usage scenarios and use cases that require 5G. It also provides a detailed overview of the 5G architecture, which includes the core network and the radio access network.
This chapter is from the book

Learning Objectives

After studying this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Present an overview of the types of use cases enabled by 5G

  • Discuss the user experience and performance requirements of use cases in various categories

  • Present an overview of the NGMN 5G architecture

  • Present an overview of the 3GPP 5G core network architecture

  • Present an overview of the 3GPP 5G radio access network architecture

This chapter presents a high-level view of the concepts underlying 5G. Section 3.1 provides an overview of the types of use cases enabled by 5G. This section presents three taxonomies or groupings of use cases developed by three different organizations. These different perspectives enable you to develop a solid grasp of the types of use cases that are emerging with 5G and their chief characteristics.

Section 3.2 presents a 5G architecture framework developed by the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN) Alliance. This framework is widely accepted within the telecommunications industry. The framework provides an excellent high-level rendering of the overall 5G system and enables you to understand the overall structure of 5G.

Section 3.3 presents architecture models for the 5G core network and radio access network developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which is the organization developing the technical specifications for 5G. The diagrams presented in this section illustrate the framework being used for the development of detailed technical specifications and enable you to see the context of the separate technical aspects of 5G that are described in subsequent chapters and to see how the various technical elements of 5G fit together.

3.1 5G Use Cases

There is a reciprocal cause–effect relationship between use cases and the capabilities being designed into 5G networks. As users and organizations have come to depend increasingly on wireless and Internet-based applications, these users have come to expect more capability, in terms of data rate and range of features, from wireless networks. These expectations create a demand that justifies the enormous investment required to deploy 5G networks. Conversely, 5G networks are the logical next step in the evolution of cellular networks, and the new capabilities provided by 5G enable users to envision a wide range of new applications, termed use cases, in the standards and specifications documents.

This section looks at examples of use cases, or applications, for 5G compiled by three different organizations: ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R), 5G Americas, and the Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGNM) Alliance. The three compilations provide a good sense of the possibilities enabled by 5G.


ITU-R Report M.2441 describes 16 emerging use cases for IMT-2020, as shown in Figure 3.1. M.2441 provides a description of a number of specific applications encompassed by each use case, as well as a summary of technical capabilities of the IMT systems needed to support each use case.


FIGURE 3.1 Emerging 5G Use Cases (ITU-R)

Chapter 2, “5G Standards and Specifications,” briefly describes each of the 16 use cases.

5G Americas

5G Americas is an industry trade organization composed of leading telecommunications service providers and manufacturers. The organization’s mission is to advocate for and foster the advancement and full capabilities of LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless technologies and their evolution to 5G throughout the ecosystem’s networks, services, applications, and connected devices in the Western Hemisphere. 5G Americas is affiliated with 3GPP as a market representation partner.

The 5G Americas document 5G Services & Use Cases (November 2017) describes 16 use cases and provides a framework for mapping use cases to 5G capabilities. Figure 3.2, from the 5G Americas document, shows the framework, which has two dimensions. One dimension consists of the three usage scenarios similar to those defined by ITU-R and described in Chapter 2.


FIGURE 3.2 Some 5G Use Cases Grouped by Type of Interaction and the Range of Performance Requirements (5G Americas)

The three scenarios, based on their performance requirements, are:

  • Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB): These use cases generally have requirements for higher data rates and better coverage.

  • Massive scale communication: These use cases generally have requirements to support a very large number of devices in a small area and, therefore, very high device density.

  • Ultra-reliable low-latency service: These use cases have very strict requirements on latency and reliability and are also referred to as ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC).

The other dimension characterizes use cases based on whether they involve human-to-human, human-to-machine, or machine-to-machine communication. As indicated in Figure 3.2, a use case may correspond to more than one type of interaction or more than one usage scenario. This depiction clarifies the requirements for the various use cases.

NGMA Alliance

The Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGNM) Alliance is an association of mobile operators, vendors, manufacturers, and research institutes. It is an open forum whose goal is to ensure that the standards for next-generation network infrastructure, service platforms, and devices meet the requirements of operators and, ultimately, that they will satisfy end user demand and expectations. The NGMN Alliance complements and supports standards organizations by providing a coherent view of what mobile operators require. NGMN is affiliated with 3GPP as a market representation partner.

NGMN’s 5G White Paper (February 2015) defines 24 use cases intended as representative examples of the applications for 5G and meant to highlight the diversity of performance requirements that 5G networks must satisfy. Figure 3.3, from the white paper, illustrates the framework for positioning use cases in a way that clarifies requirements. At a high level, use cases are grouped into eight use case families. These families are roughly similar to the three usage scenarios defined by ITU-R but at a greater granularity. Each family reflects the dominant characteristic of the use cases in that family.


FIGURE 3.3 Use Case Categories Definition (NGNM)

Each family is in turn divided into a number of categories. The categories represent distinct types of demands on the 5G network in terms of user experience requirements and system performance requirements. For each use case category, one set of requirement values is given, which is representative of the extreme use cases(s) in the category. As a result, satisfying the requirements of a category leads to satisfying the requirements of all the use cases in this category. Tables 3.1 and 3.2, from the white paper, summarize the requirements.

TABLE 3.1 User Experience Requirements

Use Case Category

User-Experienced Data Rate

E2E Latency


Broadband access in dense areas

DL: 300 Mbps

UL: 50 Mbps

10 ms

On demand: 0–100 km/h

Indoor ultra-high broadband access

DL: 1 Gbps

UL: 500 Mbps

10 ms


Broadband access in a crowd

DL: 25 Mbps

UL: 50 Mbps

10 ms


50+ Mbps everywhere

DL: 50 Mbps

UL: 25 Mbps

10 ms

0–120 km/h

Ultra-low-cost broadband access for low average revenue per user (ARPU) areas

DL: 10 Mbps

UL: 10 Mbps

50 ms

On demand: 0–50 km/h

Mobile broadband in vehicles (cars, trains)

DL: 50 Mbps

UL: 25 Mbps

10 ms

On demand: Up to 500 km/h

Airplanes connectivity

DL: 15 Mbps per user

UL: 7.5 Mbps per user

10 ms

Up to 1000 km/h

Massive low-cost/long-range/low-power machine-type communication (MTC)

Low (typically 1–100 kbps)

Seconds to hours

On demand: 0–500 km/h

Broadband MTC

See the requirements for the broadband access in dense areas and 50+ Mbps everywhere categories

Ultra-low latency

DL: 50 Mbps

UL: 25 Mbps

< 1 ms


Resilience and traffic surge

DL: 0.1–1 Mbps

UL: 0.1–1 Mbps

Regular communication: not critical

0–120 km/h

Ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency

DL: 50 kbps–10 Mbps

UL: a few bps–10 Mbps

1 ms

On demand: 0–500 km/h

Ultra-high availability and reliability

DL: 10 Mbps

UL: 10 Mbps

10 ms

On demand: 0–500 km/h

Broadcast-like services

DL: Up to 200 Mbps

UL: Modest (e.g., 500 kbps)

< 100 ms

On demand: 0–500 km/h

TABLE 3.2 System Performance Requirements

Use Case Category

Connection Density

Traffic Density

Broadband access in dense areas


DL: 750 Gbps/km2

UL: 125 Gbps/km2

Indoor ultra-high broadband access

75,000/km2 (75/1000 m2 office)

DL: 15 Tbps/km2 (15 Gbps/1000 m2)

UL: 2 Tbps/km2 (2 Gbps/1000 m2)

Broadband access in a crowd

150,000/km2 (30,000/stadium)

DL: 3.75 Tbps/km2 (0.75 Tbps/stadium)

UL: 7.5 Tbps/km2 (1.5 Tbps/stadium)

50+ Mbps everywhere

400/km2 suburban

100/km2 rural

DL: 20 Gbps/km2 suburban

UL: 10 Gbps/km2 suburban

DL: 5 Gbps/km2 rural

UL: 2.5 Gbps/km2 rural

Ultra-low-cost broadband access for low ARPU areas


16 Mbps/km2

Mobile broadband in vehicles (cars, trains)


(500 active users per train × 4 trains or 1 active user per car × 2000 cars)

DL: 100 Gbps/km2 (25 Gbps per train, 50 Mbps per car)

UL: 50 Gbps/km2 (12.5 Gbps per train, 25 Mbps per car)

Airplanes connectivity

80 per plane

60 airplanes per 18,000 km2

DL: 1.2 Gbps/plane

UL: 600 Mbps/plane

Massive low-cost/long-range/low-power MTC

Up to 200,000/km2

Not critical

Broadband MTC

See the requirements for the broadband access in dense areas and 50+ Mbps everywhere categories

Ultra-low latency

Not critical

Potentially high

Resilience and traffic surge


Potentially high

Ultra-high reliability and ultra-low latency

Not critical

Potentially high

Ultra-high availability and reliability

Not critical

Potentially high

Broadcast-like services

Not relevant

Not relevant

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