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5G to unleash new wave of disruption - are you ready?


Author: Shreshta Shyamsundar, Principal Technology Architect, Enterprise Architecture 

The 5th generation of wireless systems - abbreviated as 5G - is almost here! While it is expected to be commercially available in 2019, testing is scheduled to begin in the winter of 2018 in Seoul, South Korea. Many companies are already taking steps to prepare for its rollout. In the last quarter, Qualcomm announced that a commercially viable 5G modem will be available. Meanwhile, Qualcomm is supporting OEMs in building next-gen cellular devices and aiding operators with early 5G trials and deployments.


Originally, 5G will be designed for multimode mobile broadband that works through 4G LTE and 5G devices. But, it will also be extensible as a fixed wireless broadband device. With 5G, customers will experience and consume higher value content at much greater speeds. By enabling interworking and cohesive connectivity, 5G promises to enhance the quality of the broadband experience.


As a step above 4G, 5G will radically increase the speed of data transfers across the network - going beyond merely sending texts, making calls and browsing the web. As a digital user, 5G will enable you to instantly and easily download and upload Ultra HD and 3D videos. Sustaining the hyper-connectedness brought on by the Internet-of-Things (IoT), 5G will help seamlessly connect and support thousands of connected devices across personal and work environments.


Getting the right hardware


However, 5G will come with its own challenges. While we can look forward to greater data rates, more devices and lower latency, rolling out 5G means re-thinking the entire network stack, particularly radio access networks and network hierarchies. Our current network communication hardware cannot support the 1ms latency that 5G commands. Providers will have to consider software-defined networking (SDN) to manage traffic and network function virtualization (NFV) to virtualize network traffic.

 

These thoughts have been well-articulated in an NGMN white paper. According to the authors, 5G will demand extreme innovation in 6 key areas, namely 1) user experience, 2) system performance, 3) devices, 4) enhanced services, 5) business models, and 6) network deployment and operations. The paper talks about building "architecture that leverages the structural separation of hardware and software, as well as the programmability offered by SDN/NFV. As such, 5G will be a native SDN/NFV architecture covering aspects ranging from devices, (mobile/fixed) infrastructure, network functions, value-enabling capabilities and all the management functions to orchestrate the 5G system. [2]"


The authors add, "On the radio access side, it will be essential to provide enhanced antenna technologies for massive MIMO at frequencies below 6GHz and to develop new antenna designs within practical form factors for large number of antenna elements at higher frequencies[2]."


Energy savings from 5G

 

5G demands lesser energy to power devices, thereby supporting (theoretically, at least) a greater density of endpoints. In fact, Telstra and Ericsson are collaborating to create "the first national IoT-enabled mobile network[3]". With this technology, the average upload speed will rise to 200-400 KBPS. We can also expect to see greater number of cost-effective and energy-efficient sensor devices. Here, the use-cases are far-reaching. According to the news report, "a sensor network deployed at Pooley Wines in regional Tasmania [can] collect data like soil moisture and temperature, rainfall, solar radiation and wind speed.[3]"


Opportunity for enterprise architects

 

5G is already in trial phase and pre-user production testing is expected to commence within 18 months. This means there isn't any time to waste: Telcos must focus on building a roadmap for 5G enterprise architecture, particularly for time-bound technology refreshes. They need to prepare for increased data volumes, faster time-to-market and a 5x reduction in latency from 5ms to 1 ms.

 

In fact, many network operators across continental US, Europe and Asia are already assessing the impact of 5G on existing systems, applications, processes, and operating models. Insights from these assessments can give enterprise architects a head-start on designing offerings that implement 5G in organizations. This will equip them with a competitive edge when it comes to presenting a business case, performing gap analysis and recommending strategic initiatives.

 

The Infosys SMART EA offering [4] helps operators find numerous ways to implement 5G technology for greater value. However, they need to start thinking about the potential IT roadmap now to reap benefits and gain a substantial market advantage.


References

[1] - Ofcom 2017 report - 15 June 2017 - http://telecoms.com/479494/ofcom-publishes-beginners-guide-to-5g/

[2] - Next generation mobile networks - 27 Feb 2017 - https://www.ngmn.org/5g-white-paper/5g-white-paper.html

[3] - Telstra gets a Jump in 5G Race - 27 Feb 2017 - http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/technology/telstra-gets-jump-in-5g-race/news-story/c5cfe570b75a8adb6f198602af01ae21

[4] - Infosys Enterprise Architecture practice - 15 June 2017 https://www.infosys.com/enterprise-architecture/Pages/offerings.aspx#Strategize


 

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