What will the air interface for 5G look like?

There is a race between equipment manufacturers, chipset manufacturers, carriers and  standardization bodies to take the lead on defining what 5G will actually be. One of the hot topics is the choice of the most appropriate waveform and mutliple access method to meet the requirements of 5G.


Each mobile communication generation came with its own waveform and multiple access standard in order to improve the performance of the links and the spectrum efficiency of the network. A summary of the waveforms used from 2G to 4G is given below (most standard ones):

Generation Acronym Description
 2G / GSM
FDMA and TDMA  Combination of Frequency and Time Division Multiple Access
 3G / UMTS
 WCDMA  Widespread Code Division Multiple Access
 4G / LTE
 OFDM  Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing

The 5G standard won’t be fully defined until 2020, so far here are the multiple candidates that I have identified in the battle to become the new preferred 5G air interface standard:

  • New Waveform. not unveiled yet, by Samsung Electronics & SK Telecom
  • UF-OFDM. Universal Filtered OFDM, by US Cellular Networks and Alcatel-Lucent
  • F-OFDM. Filtered OFDM, by Huawei Technologies
  • GFDM. Generalised Frequency Division Multiplexing
  • FBMC. Filter Bank Multicarrier
  • UFMC. Universal Filtered Multicarrier
  • SCMA. Sparse Code Multiple Access, by Huawei Technologies
  • NOMA. Non-Orthogonal Multiple Access, by NTT DoCoMo
  • RSMA. Resource Spread Multiple Access
  • OTFS. Orthogonal Time Frequency Space by Cohere Technologies & Telstra

I have also found on Telecom TV this schematic that illustrates quite well the candidates for the key components of the 5G air interface:


Have you found further information on the topic? Do you have more details? Let me know in the comment section so that we can complete this post.

Some reference documents:








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