You can do what with your phone?
As we continue to predict how the world will look according to 5G, Telcos are also considering how to deliver on the promise that the new standard holds. Fundamentally it will improve user experiences by delivering new, faster (one millisecond end-to-end round trip delay) and more seamless (1000x bandwidth per unit area) services. This entails providers improving their ability to deliver and support a heavy line-up of data-intense services.
It’s a big shift; both in customer expectations and in technology. It requires new approaches to network operations; new skills and effective ways of providing a bridge from what is, to what will be. Consumers will be looking for exquisite personalized services delivered instantaneously to their smartphones. The world will be real-time. Meanwhile, the enterprise and society will expect far more.
The GSMA suggests that 5G will cover a third of the world’s population by 2025, approximately 1.4 billion connections. Providing a thought-provoking context for the impact of 5G on network operations, the GSMA says:
“5G will see a major shift in how cellular networks are designed and what they are used for. Mobile operators will use new network architectures…Advanced software will enable the mobile network to adapt to the needs of the service, rather than the other way around.”
The 1.4 billion connections won’t, of course, all be enthusiastic gamers on their morning commutes thrilled with faster speeds. They’ll be connections changing the way society functions, becoming the base enabler of autonomous driving, remote robotic surgery, smarter manufacturing, and, yes, great fun gaming. A bigger focus than ever before will bring data analytics to the top of the agenda; the ability to assimilate huge volumes of data and extract the meaning from it in real-time to drive ever-more responsive services and deliver the fundamental requirement of IoT; the ability of machines and systems to talk to each other and react accordingly.
Enormous commercial opportunity
Autonomous cars will be communicating in real-time with traffic systems and other vehicles. Smart homes and office buildings will be sensing environmental influences to activate internal building systems. Transportation systems in smart cities will be more in evidence. Virtual Reality will become a widespread, well, reality. Healthcare will embrace remote intervention and prevention capabilities. IoT, in short, will lean heavily on 5G.
It’s time to make sure not just that your network can take the weight, but also that your entire approach to network architecture – the creation of 5G-capable infrastructures – and servicing customer needs is geared around an enormous commercial opportunity and potential new revenue streams.
Planning for transition and beyond
I’d like to explore how to put this ‘bridge’ in place; allowing the crossing-over from a 3G/4G world into 5G while taking a view that also goes beyond that. Any CSP needs to be concerned with the long-term value of investments and/or the sustainability of changes to network management, technology and company culture; it’s not just about the opportunity to come but the many opportunities that may then come after that.
Network changes undertaken in response to the requirements of 5G will stand the network in very good stead for many years to come. These changes may well dictate bringing new skills into the business, restructuring teams, and basically becoming the sort of organisation that can thrive in a substantially redefined competitive environment. Solutions should be robustly future-proofed; capable of evolving as demands on the network evolve, which they certainly will.
The NFV path to innovation
NFV is a prime enabler in the essential network transformation. My colleague, Gabriele Di Piazza, discusses the essential agility that NFV brings to network infrastructure automation and orchestration in his blog: The network is at the epicentre of all that happens next; Multi-access Edge Computing is right there alongside it. Network operators can react faster when they decouple core network functions from hardware appliances.
An Ericsson spokesperson puts it in perspective:
“NFV is now a prerequisite for having the kind of network that you need to be able to address the IoT workload for 5G. Furthermore, the time is now for operators to formulate their strategies to transition their core network in preparation for 5G in 2020.”
Changes made to the network now need not be regarded as fixed in stone or, in other words, embedded in the machine. At VMware we’re delivering solutions that enable CSPs to build the bridge now, work with containerised applications, but also lay the foundations for the road ahead after the transition, wherever that may lead. Without NFV there is no easily operable solution to grasp the enhancements that 5G will bring.
Telcos should consider that NFV is a mandatory first step towards 5G, but effective deployment depends on a partner, architecture and technology strategy to pin down the journey path and streamline network operations.
What do you think? Have you made the shift to NFV ahead of the arrival of 5G? If not, do you think you need to be exploring why not? Is it something you’d like to explore further? Contact me if you want to continue the discussion.