5G : The Black Swan has landed !!


Despite 5G technology not yet being standardised and unlikely to be ready for half a decade, many in the industry are breathless with excitement . While vendors jockey for mindshare, there is no shortage of posturing around “what 5G is” and who should care. This includes the technologies that will make 5G a reality (including virtualisation, millimetre wave spectrum, unlicensed spectrum, duplex free operations) along with 5G drivers like ubiquitous IoT demands. Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance feels that 5G should be rolled out by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands.

So what are the characteristics of a 5G network ?? For starters it is a super-efficient mobile network that delivers a better performing network for lower investment cost. It addresses the mobile network operators pressing need to see the unit cost of data transport falling at roughly the same rate as the volume of data demand is rising. It would be a leap forward in efficiency based on the IET Demand Attentive Network (DAN) philosophy. 5G is super-fast mobile network comprising the next generation of small cells densely clustered together to give a contiguous coverage over at least urban areas and gets the world to the final frontier for true “wide area mobility”. It would require access to spectrum under 4 GHz perhaps via the world’s first global implementation of Dynamic Spectrum Access. And yes it is a converged fiber-wireless network that uses, for the first time for wireless Internet access, the millimeter wave bands (20 – 60 GHz) so as to allow very wide bandwidth radio channels able to support data access speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s.

In order to further extend traffic capacity and to enable the transmission bandwidths needed to support very high data rates, 5G will extend the range of frequencies used for mobile communication. This includes new spectrum below 6GHz, expected to be allocated for mobile communication at the World Radio Conference (WRC) 2015, as well as spectrum in higher frequency bands, expected to be on the agenda for WRC 2019.LTE will continue to develop in a backwards-compatible way and will be an important part of the 5G wireless-access solution for frequency bands below 6GHz. Around 2020, there will be massive deployments of LTE providing services to an enormous number of devices in these bands.

While both 3G and 4G radio access networks (RANs) were built as stand-alone network, 5G RAN will be deployed by integrating the existing LTE-Advanced (LTEA), its evolution technologies, and new radio access technologies (RATs). So expect Virtualization and SDN ( the other big thing in network evolution ) will be extended to 5G mobile wireless networks as well. As you know with wireless network virtualization, network infrastructure can be decoupled from the services that it provides, where differentiated services can coexist on the same infrastructure, maximizing its utilization.

In an idealised 5G core network the control plane is separated from the data plane and implemented in a virtualized environment. It is a fully distributed network architecture with single level of hierarchy built to provide shortest possible delay in data path. Developing an SDN business involves the deployment of physical infrastructure, a network controller and a telecoms operating management system which combines operation and business support systems. The network controller is central to SDN with two main functions: virtual resource control and traffic management systems (TMS). The network controller can create a programmable, logical network that allocates resources within the physical network (access and core networks) in the most dynamic way without needing to know the actual infrastructure topology. In so doing, the operator can build the most appropriate virtual network offering multiple services.

Carriers that have jumped headlong into the SDN/NFV bandwagon have positioned themselves ( knowlingly or unknowingly ) to launch 5G !! Telecom Italia has been among the tier 1 telcos driving the move to NFV. Along with AT&T, BT Group, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Verizon, the company a couple years ago pushed network functions virtualization into the spotlight by creating an ETSI group to explore the technology.

Meanwhile AT&T, has introduced its vision for the company’s network of the future: the ‘User- Defined Network Cloud.’ AT&T claims their the cloud-based architecture is “a global first at this scale.”The carrier expects its revamped architecture will accelerate time-to-market for technologically advanced products and services. Integrated through AT&T’s wide-area network (WAN) and using NFV and SDN, the architecture is expected to simplify and scale AT&T’s network by separating hardware and software functionality, separating network control plane and forwarding planes, and improving functionality management in the software layer.

Of course Telco Industry Execs are waxing lyric ( and not without just cause ) about 5 G and its titanic potential. Here are some comments.

Middle East operator Etisalat claims the rollout of 5G technology is one of its goals for 2020 and will underpin its future support for machine-to machine (M2M) and eGovernment services as well as the wider Internet of Things (IoT).The Internet of Things (IoT) has become shorthand for the concept of billions of connected devices. And it’s an idea that’s getting some real traction as big names position themselves as players in the market.

“ The mobile industry should consider 5G as a “special generation”, introducing challenges in all layers of the technology” ( Mike Short, VP of public affairs Telefónica Europe )

“ We have engineering teams working on LTE and 5G. Each time the 5G team unveil a new performance leap, the LTE engineers respond by matching it “ ( Matt Grob, VP & CTO for Qualcomm )

“5G is a fundamental change in technology and will have a significant impact on how we offer services. We must look at performance and coverage, and not just consider microcells.” ( Allan Kock, director of RAN development at TeliaSonera )

“ 5G must have green as part of its very DNA, ensuring that all aspects of 5G, from access networks, data centres and transport network to connected devices only consume energy when they are being used. However 4G is a success, let’s enjoy . We shouldn’t jump too fast,” “ Stephane Richard Orange France

“Most of our competitors talk about 5Gb/s and 10Gb/s or some other number, but they’re not telling you the configuration, which is ridiculous. 5G should not be a “forced leap” in technology, but draw heavily on re-use existing radio air interfaces – LTE, WiFi and LTE-U – under a common control plane.” ( Marcus Weldon, CTO of Alcatel-Lucent )

“Computing costs have fallen 1000-fold since their inception.We’ve achieved this change with semiconductors, we now have to do the same with 5G compared to 2G,” KT Telecom CEO Chang-Gyu Hwang

So where can you go to see 5 G in action ? How about scheduling a trip to the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.The Japanese government is aiming to put the world’s first fifth-generation communications system for mobile phones into practical use by 2020, in time to help promote Japanese technology at the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. The 5G system will offer a communications speed about 100 times faster than LTE. For example, when a user downloads a two-hour movie online, it takes about five minutes with LTE, while a 5G user would be finished in several seconds. Users will also be able to enjoy movies with high-resolution such as 4K on smartphone and other portable terminals.

As for how we watch the games, Japan’s national broadcaster Nippon Hoso Kyokai is at work on 8K Super Hi-Vision broadcast quality that offer 16 times the level of detail of current top-of-the-range 4K systems. NHK aims to begin transmission in the 8K system by 2016, and to be able to broadcast the entire games with exceptional quality by 2020.

Moreover, with universal availability of instantaneous communications, high level of guaranteed QoS, and cost levels appropriate for meeting customers’
expectations, 5G will pave the way for new business opportunities. With 5G, networks will be transformed into intelligent orchestration platforms. By cementing strong relationships between vendors, operators and verticals, 5G will open the field to new business value propositions.

5 G is actually a “ Black Swan “ . According to author Nasim Taleb a Black Swan is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme ‘impact’. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

So Believers get ready : 5 G will rock your world !!

Sadiq Malik ( Telco Strategist )


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