Dialogic Blog

5G and NFV – Part 3: Will 5G Require Sweeping Changes to Access and Core Networks?

by Chet Berry

Jul 9, 2015 12:20:00 PM

This Part 3 of the "5G and NFV" series. Be sure to read Part 1: Rethinking the Mobile Infrasturcture, and Part 2: 5G Objectives, Demands, and Key Features to get the full details. 

When comparing the network capacity and performance of present-day LTE-Advanced (aka IMT-Advanced) and other cellular technologies (shown in the below table) to the demands of 5G, it becomes quite obvious that such demands are not attainable using these technologies.

Comparison_of_LTE-A_with_other_Cellular_Technologies

Comparison of LTE-A with other Cellular Technologies

What is clear is that the 5G initiative will require an entire innovative set of networking technologies in order to accommodate the mandates placed on it. Prior to 3G, mobile telecommunications networks were architected around making and receiving voice calls, with any supplementary data services as a side activity. Smartphones and tablets have improved the user experience resulting in increased demand for mobile data access. Per the Cisco Visual Networking Index, video is now the largest component of mobile data traffic and the study projects that nearly three-fourths of the world’s mobile data traffic will be video by 2019.

Smart devices and other smart platforms are front lining the way for a new array of data services and applications. Gerhard Fettweis, Vodafone Chair Professor at the Dresden University of Technology and Siavash Alamouti, a UK entrepreneur believe the next paradigm shift in mobile communications will be in how you will efficiently search for relevant information on the Internet. In an article in the IEEE Communications Magazine, they predict that “Instead of the consumers going to internet, the internet will come to them and in fact we will become nodes on the internet.”

This shift represents the next frontier of mobile communications where any-to-any and highly contextual communication is possible over a wide range of network technologies. For example, the network would consist of a ubiquitous, but complex HetNet access architecture (small cells, macro cells, Distributed Antenna Systems, Distributed Radio Systems, etc. all working together), device-to-device communications, and a dynamic self-adjusting core infrastructure.

 Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) are trying to get their hands around the key technologies in this effort for the 5G core:

  • 5G Public Private Partnership belonging to Horizon 2020 European research program
  • ARIAB 2020 ad hoc group based in Japan
  • IMT2020 and Beyond promotion group in China
  • 5G Innovation Center (Surrey University in UK)
  • New York Wireless University consortium standards
  • International Telecom Union (ITU)
  • European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI)
  • International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT)
  • Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN)

SDOs associated with the access network are adamantly defining and redefining requirements in parallel with those specifying the core technologies. New global spectrum usage and allocation definitions are being standardized by the ITU in World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRC15 and WRC18). These meetings will address expanding the RF spectrum as well as assignment of different frequency bands, licensing limitations and waveforms to accommodate a wide range of applications and services:

  • Public broadcast
  • Mobile phone
  • Data services,
  • Military use (radio, radar, etc.)
  • Satellite services
  • Public emergency services
  • Unlicensed services (e.g. Wi-Fi, garage door openers, remote control toys, and walkie-talkie)

The fundamental question that one should ask is how will 5G ever become actualized if it requires CSPs to make such sweeping changes to their legacy investments and infrastructure? Traditionally CSPs evolved their networks to newer technologies by re-using their investment in purpose-built proprietary network elements and associated software. This may still be possible; however, for the most part a complete refresh is required. Consequently CSPs must examine alternative methods in deploying 5G infrastructure. The deployment methods selected must be cost effective and not mandate significant CAPEX or OPEX investment to facilitate a timely transition. It must also provide a framework that will address all the requirements and challenges identified for 5G.

Is there an effective way to not only reduce the cost of transitioning to 5G, but also reduce the risk of deploying new technology in the presence of ever changing and emerging standards? Read the final installment of this 4-part blog on 5G and NFV. Let us know what you think by tweeting us at @Dialogic.

Topics: 3G, 4G, 5G, and WiFi, NFV/SDN & Cloud