5G Gets Service Provider's Connectivity Operating In Digital Time

By Clare McCarthy, Head of Strategic Global Marketing, Nokia Mobile Networks

Clare McCarthy, Head of Strategic Global Marketing, Nokia Mobile Networks

Connectivity is the foundation of the digital world. On a personal level, connectivity problems cause irritation, or anxiety when the ability to communicate with friends and family is lost, even temporarily. But for businesses, slow and unreliable connectivity can increase costs, hurt profitability and undermine business opportunities, as well as damage the brand and market confidence.

"5G network slices can simultaneously support multiple applications with diverse traffic characteristics on one physical network"

As we move to a hyperconnected world there are an increasing number of devices, sensors, and services relying on web-based applications. The underlying networks need to have even greater capacity and resilience while performing at the pace of today’s and tomorrow’s world. In other words, the network needs to operate in digital time.

5G is fast. Using a 5G connection, you can download a feature film in 30 seconds, instead of 30 minutes via LTE. Latency, or response time, is 1 millisecond. To put that in context, the blink of an eye takes 250 milliseconds, so 5G really is super fast.

That’s not all. 5G can manage up to 1 million devices per km2 and has 10,000 times greater capacity than the cellular networks of 2010. Peak speeds will be available from 10Gbps (speeds everywhere of 100Mbps), and it has five nines reliability.

5G can simultaneously meet the demands for a diverse range of connectivity requirements at massive scale, allowing communications service providers (CSPs) and enterprises to address new business opportunities. Its capacity, reliability and latency mean that wireless operation of mobile-critical systems in areas such as industrial automation, logistics and connected vehicles can fully realize the fourth industrial revolution, with connected healthcare for developed and emerging markets and fixed wireless broadband access to remote areas.

5G is not just a new radio access technology. It uses cloud-based platforms for delivery and management of interactive, intelligent, energy efficient applications to any connected device in any industry sector, in real time. As an enabling technology, 5G will play an important role in delivering advanced IoT applications. Its versatility is perfectly dimensioned for CSPs to create services and marketing offers to leverage digital moments that deliver value to customers at their point of consumption. 5G can support a plethora of services/applications that broadly fall into one of three capabilities.

1. Extreme mobile broadband: Delivering gigabytes of bandwidth on demand for 4K/8K video, augmented and virtual reality.

2. Ultra-reliable and low latency communications: Providing real-time control of machines in factories and vehicles on roads, to increase productivity and improve safety.

3. Massive machine-type communication: Connecting billions of sensors and machines to create super-efficient public infrastructure for energy, water and traffic management.

Where are we now?

Initially, 5G commercial networks were expected to emerge in 2020, but customer demand for the benefits of 5G means that we will see these networks far sooner – with commercial deployments scheduled to get underway in the US in the second half of 2018.

5G trials are numerous and widespread even as the work to finalize 5G standards continues. Those standards are being developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), a collaboration between groups of telecommunications standards associations. Some of the first set of 3GPP Phase 1 (Rel 15) specifications are already available. (Non-standalone mode was finalized end of 2017 and the support of the standalone mode followed in mid-2018.)

Beyond the US, the most ambitious CSP customers are in the South Korea, Japan, and China, with launches expected in early 2019 in South Korea. More commercial 5G networks are expected to appear around 2020, and further enhancements will support ultra-reliable and low latency communications as well as massive machine communications.

Nokia, for example, is already working with enterprises such as the Hamburg Port Authority together with Deutsche Telekom. The 5G test bed in at the Hamburg harbor covers nearly 20,000 acres with use cases including traffic light management, data processing from mobile sensors and virtual reality. In addition, Nokia is trialing 5G for industrial automation with Bosch and has developed a proof of concept with BMW showing how network slicing can be applied in the automotive sector.

How will 5G develop?

One of the benefits of 5G is that it allows CSPs to slice their precious capacity to get maximum use and throughput from their network assets. 5G network slices can simultaneously support multiple applications with diverse traffic characteristics on one physical network.

For example, autonomous driving needs ultra-low latency, but not necessarily a high throughput, while streamed video entertainment to passengers in the car requires high capacity. A network slice can also be used as short-term lease for voice over IP connectivity for a festival, while a utility may want longer terms for connectivity to IoT devices (sensors, meters, in-home controllers).

This means multiple services can be delivered over the same physical network using network slices, but each slice will be perfectly dimensioned and managed to the characteristics required for the service to deliver optimal user experience.

5G will deliver network and resource efficiency and innovation in equal measure. It uses connected intelligence, machine learning and AI to adapt to events and circumstances dynamically in real time, such as adapting antenna beam patterns to changing demand in nanoseconds, or counteracting bottlenecks in the network that will impact a video stream before end user experience gets compromised. 5G allows CSPs to leverage the opportunities that occur in digital time.

An Architecture for 5G

Being "5G ready" is more than simply adding software to the network. Ensuring the entire network has the appropriate capabilities to realize the full potential of 5G, requires radio sites are connected via transport networks that support the higher capacity and lower latency. The core network will be cloud-native and scale according to demand, while all functions in the network are managed and orchestrated by automated systems. The best network architecture will reflect these characteristics, delivering network performance, flexibility and intelligence with the lowest operational complexity that is efficient and sustainable.

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