5G is the fifth generation technology standard for mobile networks. To put it in context, mobile technology is, in fact, upgrading itself every decade! Take for instance, the jump from the first generation of networks, back in 1980 to 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) in 2010. Thereafter stepped in 5G, which, clearly, won’t be the last version. Clearly on an upward path, this!
Under the Hood: The Nuts and Bolts of 5G
Being service-driven, the architecture of 5G networks is aimed at catering to diversified service requirements, in a flexible and efficient manner. Comprehensive cloudification of access, transport, and core networks is the foundation of this architecture, enabling the key technologies of E2E network slicing and on-demand deployment of services.
Network slicing is a key to evolution of 5G network architecture.
Simply put, a single network infrastructure caters to diversified service requirements, using network slicing. The network slice is derived from a unified physical network infrastructure, based on NFV and SDN. The edge operators attain here is greatly reduced network deployment costs. It permits configuration of logically independent networks on a common physical infrastructure. Each logical network caters to specific business needs, their connectivity and data processing requirements, delivering as per specific SLA requirements.
A word of caution, though, not every customer requires similar service attributes. And this is where 5G network slicing comes to the fore, to cater to different requirements including (but obviously not limited to) ultra-low latency, increased reliability, massive capacity and multi-Gbps peak data rates. In short, the service-driven architecture is bound to have an impact on every potential segment.
Now to break it down further, 5G mobile network services have been classified into three categories:
- Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) – 5G technology has the capacity to deliver up to 10 Gbps peak data rate which is a ~10x improvement over 4G LTE advanced networks. This high data rate has been achieved by radio interface operating in mm waves frequencies (i.e. in the range 30GHz to 300 GHz). This is particularly useful to bring Augmented Realty (AR) to life and unlock the potential of Virtual Reality (VR) applications. Other fringe benefits obviously include extremely high-speed video downloads, cloud gaming, immersive education etc.
- Ultra-reliable and Low-latency Communications (uRLLC) offers an extremely low latency of ~1 msec focused specifically on latency-sensitive services. Examples include assisted and automated driving, connected cars, cloud connected traffic management and remote services management. To give context to the ~1 second latency, it is faster than a blink of an eye. The human reaction time is 250 msec. Think of it this way-your driverless car can react 250 times faster than it would have if a human were driving it. It makes processing and communicating incoming a matter of mere milliseconds.
- Massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) is aimed at supporting up to one million connected devices per square km. It should be able to cater to the demands of a futuristic digital society, as well as services that entail massive amounts of connection density, such as smart city and smart agriculture and industrial IoT etc.
To put it simply (without losing sight of the larger picture), 5G is poised to cater to the next decade. Innovation is expected to be driven by the triple force of multi-gigabit speed; ultra-low latency and device density. Connectivity and intelligence will abound, be it for machines, devices or objects. The future is bright!
Now, moving onto pertinent use cases, to change the course of this blog a bit. First and foremost, each segment, whether customers, industries or operators, stands to gain significantly from leveraging 5G. And why not, if the vision is a “digital-first, connected era”, it only makes business sense to jump onto the bandwagon!
The era of 5G is well underway. The question is, is the global communications space prepared to leverage this to the fullest?