Since 2014 the hype and expectations around 5G have been a media frenzy, good to now see that it is changing/has changed and that realistic expectations are surfacing. Though the investment numbers have increased as mobile operators realise it’s just not radio, but a wholesale transformation of their networks that’s needed to bring forward the real benefits and some of the costs savings promised.
The 241 use cases are now 8 or 10, the 3 prime technical features are eMBB, URLLC and eMTC. There is also a clear split between the consumer (just more broadband) and the verticals (everything from Industry 4.0, thru Smart Cities, Public Safety, eHealth, Transport, etc) with the verticals bringing in a whole new perspective around private 5G networks (which has accelerated interest and deployment of 4G LTE private networks). While satellite was ignored by 4G, there is a new sharing of thoughts and desire for 5G and satellite to co-exist and work together as a single extended network.
The wholesale changes include implementation of SDN/NFV (i.e. virtualisation along lines of IT systems, splitting of software into separate services), a massive decentralization (i.e. 6 to 20 data centres) and moving the core closer to the edge of networks. This brings with it as many as 20 new fibre rings, linking the new DCs and fibre out to all of the towers (1Gbps leading to 10Gbps) as over 50% are still linked by microwave.
Along with the 8 or 10 prime use cases, operators are now able to see the next challenge – how do we build a service(s) led company and bill for a service, rather than handsets and a monthly data plan. It’s a different model driven by “network slicing” and its ability to partition networks to meet the varying needs of the verticals, verticals with different buying strategies and multiyear contracts with SLAs.
Finally, it’s good to see UK playing a leading part. Not only do we have many start-ups/SMEs (Blu Wireless, Quortus, CCS) in this area we also have R&D facilities from leading players, Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, MediaTek, Qualcomm, etc. Government has played its part with funding – £16m into Kings, Bristol and Surrey universities, £35m into the 5GIC, this year £25m into 6 5G Testbeds, a further £35 into the Urban City Call and a soon to be announced Rural Call competition (again over 3 years as was the Urban Call) with a final £30m of matched funding. Alongside this, we have over a dozen universities working on 5G H2020 funded projects and programs.
Can’t wait for 2H 2019 and the 1st real commercial 5G trials!
Article by Peter Curnow-Ford