5G. It’s coming, but there are still so many aspects of its implementation to figure out, nobody is really sure what the next generation of mobile telecom will look like, or what it will be used for. We have some pretty good guesses, though. Here are six 5G predictions from industry analysts and researchers.
1. Network slicing requires collaboration between operators
Network slicing—”a processing path containing all the networking functions needed to
deliver a service”—is a cornerstone of 5G if the next generation of mobile telecom is to deliver on its promise, stressed Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst at Heavy Reading, in a recent article. Defined that way, he elaborated, slicing extends across network domains, operators, and industries, therefore requiring industry collaboration.
Easier said than done, of course. Brown noted that such collaboration depends on common interfaces interoperable between providers, “that can be built and operated using multi-vendor technology,” with global reach and economies of scale. Outside of the standards process, operators must also cooperate to ensure components work together in reality and not just in theory.
“There is no question that network slicing will be difficult.,” Brown concluded. “Operators must think strategically and practically about how to deliver this capability.”
“But not every aspect of networks has converged and none will be forever static,” Rouwet elaborated. Today, “network systems must either rely on unique hardware for each standard as they have in the past or hardware with revolutionary flexibility,” even as “vendors continually upgrade their designs, and the industry periodically updates its standards.”
“What is required Is a new approach, combining hardware and software architectures to enable a solution which leverages networking and wireless domain expertise to solve the challenges of multi-generation support efficiently while delivering a scalable solution for multiple segments,” he concluded.
3. Spectrum must be managed globally with sharing and innovation in mind
Unavoidably, radio spectrum and how it is managed play a huge role in the success of 5G. And, the devil is in the details.
“The wide range of frequencies in play creates a lot of opportunities for the next generation of mobile networks, but could also serve to fragment the global market creating problems around interoperability and seamless service delivery,” noted Sean Kinney, RCR Wireless News Managing Editor, in a recent article. That’s why nonprofit trade group Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) is “working to build global consensus around 5G spectrum harmonization.”
A global approach to this is needed, Kinney elaborated, because of “the explosive growth in the volume and type of mobile data traffic, as well as the ongoing number of connections coming from the internet of things.”
Both regionally and globally, that means making more, and higher frequency, spectrum available, and doing so in a way that focuses on harmonization to be sure everyone’s needs are met.
No doubt, millimeter wave spectrum will play a role in 5G, but exactly what that looks like isn’t yet clear. After all, while mmWave wireless broadband is fast, but the connectivity technology needed to enable it isn’t necessarily easy for users to install, noted Dan Jones, RCR Wireless News Mobile Editor, in a recent article. He added that range, propagation, and installation are all factors to consider with mmWave.
Range is a particularly thorny issue; even professionally-mounted mmWave rooftop radios set up to make line-of-sight connections top out at about 3 miles, Jones elaborated.
“And therein lies the rub: Operators hoping to use fixed 5G as a cable alternative want it to be cheaper than digging up roads for cable installations,” Jones explained. “Obviously, using a 5G radio to connect several houses helps to reduce costs. This will not be the case, however, if the operator has to make a truck roll — or two! — to get the user connected.”
Nonetheless, “mmWave use is being hung around the 5G standard with the promise of delivering a gigabit-speed fixed wireless alternative to cable,” both in the U.S. and internationally, Jones concluded.