It’s only been months since the first 5G-enabled consumer devices hit the market, but the industry is already preparing for what comes next. Here, you’ll find the first of a two-part blog series discussing where the telecom industry is headed and how VMware is helping to shape the next big evolution to 6G and beyond.
After living and breathing 5G nonstop over the last couple years, you’re probably still trying to catch your breath. Thinking about yet another generation of wireless networks may be the last thing you want to do. But here’s something to consider: Wouldn’t it be great if your transition to 6G wasn’t the same kind of massive, all-encompassing transformation effort as the move to 5G?
That’s exactly what a new North American industry group, the ATIS Next G Alliance, will study – among other objectives in establishing North American 6G leadership.
As a founding member of the ATIS Next G Alliance, VMware is joining some of the leading network operators and equipment suppliers in the world to set the agenda for next gen wireless. And, we have some good news: many of the things you should be doing to prepare for 6G have already begun as you scale out your systems with 5G.
Historically, when we’ve gone from one wireless generation to the next (2G to 3G, 3G to 4G), it meant significant infrastructure investments considering bespoke systems that had to swapped out. You can understand why it happens; you can’t just move all your customers to a new network generation overnight. So, you add the new technology as an overlay, continue running the old, and hope that eventually you can switch everything over. In the interim though, you spend a ton of time (and effort, and resources) running multiple siloed architectures at once.
The first few times we went through this process, you could excuse it. By the time 4G rolled around though, we knew all about the costs and hassles of building yet another silo. We knew we’d be better off making more fundamental changes to our processes and organizations. Specifically, we knew that by embracing software-first models from the world of IT and web-scale data centers, we’d be able to evolve our networks much more easily and cost-effectively.
But we didn’t. Instead, we kicked the can down the road. We left the most profound changes for the next major network evolution: breaking down legacy network siloes, moving to cloud-native infrastructure, implementing continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipelines, retraining network teams in agile development process and DevOps.
How much easier would implementing 5G have been if you already had all that in place? Well, we’re finally in position to build a more flexible, capable foundation for future network evolutions. By embracing agile software models and cloud-native applications as we expand 5G, we can make the next transition a lot simpler.
Entering the Next G
Preparing for the next big telecom evolution years in advance is nothing new. Several other regions have already announced plans for 6G research initiatives. If North American industry wants to lead in this space, we need to start laying the groundwork now. VMware and other companies participating in the Next G Alliance aim to do it.
It’s still early days for this effort, and plenty of details remain to be worked out. But we already know some of the things that need to be in place for 6G and beyond. Things like:
- Openness: We need to move beyond vertical ecosystems to horizontal platforms that enable full separation of ‘function’ from the underlying hardware and software, with multiple industries, multiple providers and multiple vendors contributing to the end to end system compositions.
- Cloud-native applications and infrastructure: We need to eliminate a reliance on monolithic network functions and systems. Instead, we need to embrace containerized microservices from the world of IT, which will let us treat the network as a flexible pool of resources that can be assembled and reassembled at will.
- Automation: We need to lay the foundation for use of Machine Intelligence in all aspects of plan, design and operations enabling self-organizing, self-healing and self-optimizing systems.
If those principles sound familiar, they should, because they’re the foundation of the offerings VMware is bringing to 5G networks and services right now. And, that’s the best part: whether you’re thinking about 6G today or not, you’re likely already taking many of the steps that will make future evolutions easier.
Envisioning Tomorrow’s Network
Stay tuned to industry efforts like the ATIS Next G Alliance—and expect to see VMware leading the way in many of them. In addition to our own Ready for Telco Cloud certification and partner program, we’ve been longtime contributors to industry groups like the O-RAN Alliance, TM Forum, and GSMA.
Recently, we became a founding member of the 5G Open Innovation Lab (5GOILab), where we’re helping startups develop groundbreaking 5G applications and services. Leading into 5G, we recently joined the Board of Governors for 5G Americas to help bridge the wireless and cloud industries. And, we’re working with the Open Infrastructure Foundation (OIF) to support the open-source communities developing tomorrow’s open infrastructure software.
Through efforts like these, we’re working to help service providers capitalize on the most innovative 5G capabilities today, while smoothing the transition to the networks of tomorrow.
Learn more about how the VMware telco cloud portfolio supports the transformation for future-ready networks by reading Telco Cloud for Dummies. And, stay tuned for the next blog in this series, where we’ll explore previous network evolutions and discuss why the next one will look very different.