5G deployments are starting to expand beyond the few city-wide showcases of the last couple of years. And new use cases for consumer and enterprises are being developed all the time. But it will take the parallel implementation of edge computing in the next few months for 5G to truly reach its potential.
What is the edge? Where is the edge? How does it benefit 5G? What is the sum of these parts? Can we have one without the other?
These are valid questions as we move from initial limited implementations of 5G towards a future where it becomes essential not just for consumers and lifestyles, but businesses chasing market opportunities. As we move into that future, the defining characteristics
The end of one year and start of another often sees people look back and reflect upon the last 12 months as well as start to think about the year ahead.
This year though, I find myself not only reflecting on last year but the decade that has now come to an end. The last decade saw the way we communicate dramatically change and mobile technology and handsets played a huge role in that. The wide-spread roll out of 5G that is said to come in this new decade will drive further reinvention – so what are the parallels between the last decade and where we are today?
As the ‘Naughties’ drew to a close, we were just a couple of years into the smartphone revolution, with the real growth still yet to come. The latest handset on the market was the iPhone 3G S, which was launched in the Summer of 2009 and ran on the 3G network with a top speed of 7.2Mbps download and only 384Kbps upload.
Backhaul requirements within current wireless networks are largely asymmetrical with most traffic flowing from the core to the handset, according to Mark Gilmour, VP of mobile connectivity solutions at Colt Technology Service. But 5G networks will require more symmetrical backhaul capability.
It’s been a whirlwind few months since I joined Colt, particularly in the last month with speaking assignments at three big events on the future of 5G and mobile connectivity.
First I attended the Big 5G event in Denver, where I was part of a panel on ‘Virtualization & the 5G Cloud’. It was clear from the discussions that the route to full virtualization is underway but there are a number of unresolved questions on how the mobile & cellular network will be fully impacted and the timeline to get there.
A few weeks ago I wrote a blog piece for the 5G world series blog regarding developments towards 5G and the impact on the network architecture.
The basic premise of my article is that the new target performance requirements of the 5G new radio specification will open up new opportunities previously not achievable on a mobile network.
In this article I concentrate on just one of those target specifications which is latency or network delay as per the diagram above and the effect on the network architecture.
As a result of the differing latency requirements for differing applications it essentially kills the idea of the current”one size fits all” mobile network architecture with the fixed locations for Cell tower, Evolved Packet Core, and compute process to cater for the different use cases. The future 5G networks will have to be adaptable, dynamic, and programmable from end-to-end using virtualised constructs.
Key topics discussed during the conference included
100G in the Metro,
SDN in the transmission/transport layer
Datacentre evolution & geographical spread
I spoke at two sessions during the four days. First in one of the pre-conference workshops WDM-PON Networking. In this session I introduced Three UK and discussed WDM in the access environment for mobile backhaul and participated in a panel discussion with Fabienne Saliou of Orange Labs on the subject.
On the final day I presented to the conference during a section on Fronthaul & mobile backhaul. The title of my paper being “Even a Wireless Network needs Wires.”
I gave an example of a complex mobile backhaul environment and discussed some of the future requirements that architectures such as C-RAN may bring to the transport network.
In my address I put forward the case for demonstrating that the global rise in mobile data traffic was no longer a tsunami but in fact more of a rising tide with the sea levels rising each year. I presented statistics from the last 7 years within the Three UK network which has been leading the market in mobile broadband volumes in the UK to illustrate my point. Being a scuba diver, one who looks for the turning of the daily tides and slack water, I found it interesting that whilst in UK waters we experience two tides (High, Low, High, Low) a day, in the terms of Mobile data usage, there is only one tide in a day.
The slide on the right taken from my presentation illustrates a typical midweek day in March 2014, with a low water mark around 5am and a high water mark around 10pm. Weekends also look like this with the axis shifted one hour to the right. It seems the UK consumer likes to stay in bed an hour later on the weekend and stay up an hour later using their mobile devices. Month on month, year on year the overall volume of data traffic has continued to rise and overall market and industry trends bear this out and the outlook towards the end of the decade and the development of 5G indicates this will continue.
Michael Carroll, reporting on TNMO 2014 for Fierce Wireless picked up on the analogy for one of his reports on the conference. Link to report , thanks Michael.
There was a quite a lot of debate on the need for and use of backhaul for small cells, this will be explored further no doubt at the upcoming Small Cells World Summit and Backhaul summit at the Excel Centre, Dockland, London. I will feature on a couple of panel discussions at that conference, debating the Small Cell Backhaul Demand and how to prepare for small cells.