Earlier this month, Champion ONE participated in the Big 5G Event, a summit at which industry leaders discussed all things related to 5G deployment. Here are our biggest takeaways from this exciting event.
“If You Build It, They Will Come…”
Major domestic carriers are collectively fully committed to deploying their 5G architectures as soon as possible. Their planning has reached a consensus around 3 key use cases for 5G:
1. Mission-critical IoT applications which require low latency and high reliability, including autonomous vehicles, intelligent security systems, remote surgery, and much more.
2. Massive IoT, which includes all high-volume, low-bandwidth devices like smart speakers, kitchen appliances, and many similar “smart home” consumer products.
3. Enhanced mobile broadband, which will facilitate augmented-reality mobile apps, ultra-HD video streaming, and much more.
However, it is not known when (if ever) any of these applications will gain a steady foothold in the marketplace and drive carrier revenue. This makes it difficult for any carrier to build a soundly quantitative business case at this time. Therefore, the approach seems to be to build the basic 5G infrastructure supporting each of these use cases, let the applications follow, and adapt as necessary.
…But How Do You Build It?
From an engineering standpoint, many questions remain about the physical deployment of this new technology. The speed and ubiquity that 5G promises will require hundreds of thousands of new radios and antennas. But where should they go to optimize coverage while also managing installation, power and interconnect costs as well as ease of maintenance? On top of widespread aesthetic concerns, there are also growing questions about electromagnetic field-related health risks that may require further study.
Furthermore, U.S. carriers are using new high-band millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum for 5G development, a relatively new frontier for equipment vendors and carriers. The mmWave spectrum has high-speed capability, but shorter range and greater potential path interference. What are the optimal antenna locations and configurations (e.g., Massive MIMO) to adequately use this spectrum? Can mmWave deliver the promised use cases efficiently?
Edge Computing Is Critical
The ultra-low latency requirements for many 5G applications will require network architects to build data centers farther out toward their end users. While the industry is certain of the necessity for edge computing, many questions remain about ownership, feature and performance requirements, and deployment footprint. For example, will these applications require hardened equipment? Will carriers, cloud providers, IoT applications providers, or other entities host them? Will edge computing be placed at cellular radio locations, BBU locations, central offices, or all of these?
A New World of Open Standards.
Open software and hardware standards have proliferated across the network ecosystem to support multiple, and sometimes competing, approaches. This has posed yet another challenge for carriers as they plan long-term deployment strategies. However, we are starting to see some convergence and consolidation through collaboration among standards bodies that we expect to clarify the roadmap. While this isn’t unexpected at this stage in the life cycle, what does seem different is these new alliances seem more formal and noticeable than in years past, which demonstrates a commitment on all sides to develop an optimal end-to-end system.
Want to stay up-to-date on 5G developments? Stay tuned to our blog for frequent updates.