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Laying the foundation for the 5G opportunity
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Laying the foundation for the 5G opportunity

Posted by Zenobia HegdeMarch 29, 2017

Although consumers may only just be getting to grips with 4G, service providers and other businesses are already planning for the next wave of network technology. According to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report, there will be 550 million 5G connections by 2022.

There will also be 29 billion connected devices in use, says Raffaele D’Albenzio, Solutions architect, F5 Networks, 18 billion associated with the Internet of Things (IoT), meaning that heightened network performance could have an unprecedented impact on society.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) recently urged the UK government to handle the roll out of 5G across the country better than that of 4G. With the proportion of 4G users continuing to rise – jumping from 8% to 25% last year – the pressure is on to deliver a stronger network to meet growing demands for data.

The market is reaching a stage of maturity, with over half of the UK’s LTE (Long Term Evolution) wireless networks now operating on 4G technology, meaning service providers are now in a strong position to continue delivering a better experience to its users. While 4G and LTE are designed to improve capacity, user data-rates, spectrum usage and latency, 5G represents more than just an evolution of mobile broadband.

While 5G is still in its evolutionary stage, its development will clearly be influenced by a need to support some specific use-cases; extreme mobile broadband (EMB), massive machine type-communication (mMTC) and ultra-reliable machine-type communication (uMTC). All of these will have an impact on innovations such as autonomous vehicles, telemedicine and the Internet of Things.

In addition, the development of Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) – which enables the edge of the network to run in an isolated environment from the rest of the network and creates access to local resources and data – is likely to have an impact on 5G networks.

Having a technology that is potentially able to apply functions independent from the underlying protocol gives service providers the flexibility to implement services almost everywhere in the network. Indeed, Research and Markets has identified it as a $80 billion market opportunity by 2021.

Although these use-cases have significant potential, it will take an evolution of network architecture to bring these to life, requiring adaptation on both the radio and network side. For example, services may be centralised and in some cases distributed. This will depend both on the service function itself (some service functions will be naturally centralised or distributed) and, from a use-case point of view, access to technology and the type of performance required.

Inextricably intertwined in this revolution is network virtualisation. NFV architectures provide the necessary network flexibility to enable new service delivery models and elastic network scaling to reduce the total cost of ownership. The orchestration of networks, whether a fully virtualised network or hybrid, allows service providers to instantiate new services and deliver a network that can provide subscribers with a more personalised service and an improved customer service.

With the role out of 5G, networks could grow 10 or even 20 times more due to increased volumes of traffic and millions more devices entering the space. Beyond virtualisation, security defences must also be maintained as the network expands. With millions of new devices entering the space, security concerns will need to be addressed from day one.

A growing network also means ensuring that accessibility is not limited as a result of increased protection. The best way to do this is work with a service provider and deploy NFV and cloud-based technology for the business as soon as possible.

My next blog will explore in more detail how network optimisation can monetise service providers’ infrastructure and facilitate the migration of innovations currently on the horizon into the mainstream.

The author of this blog is Raffaele D’Albenzio, Solutions architect, F5 Networks

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Zenobia Hegde

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