While the transitions from 2G to 3G and 3G to 4G were largely driven by consumer demand for more capable mobile data services, 5G topologies are a response to demand for enterprise functionality beyond broadband access to the internet.
That said, as consumer smartphone adoption nears saturation levels in mature economies, 5G systems will be required to reduce the costs associated with delivering high-quality services for mobile and fixed broadband. 5G will enable (in the long run) three major groupings of use cases: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC). The latter targets the efficient and secure connection of millions of devices without overloading the network. Through optimized design and heavy use of technologies born in the cloud, these networks will excel at bandwidth, cost efficiency, scale and latency performance and provide the ‘knobs and dials’ to rapidly provision exactly what is needed.
451 Research believes 5G will be the most impactful and difficult network upgrade ever faced by the telecom industry; it is part of the complex ‘digital transformation’ movement encompassing IT/network convergence and radical changes in how software is created and deployed. Those that can thrive in this period of change will create a new class of telecom operator with value-creation capabilities that far exceed anything we’ve seen in the past 100 years. Clearly, the brass ring is extra shiny because the long-term target environment will be dynamic, scalable, agile, efficient and programmable.
With 5G Deployments Advancing Rapidly, Operators Share Plans for Dealing with Increasing Densification, Higher Energy Consumption
The 5G evolution will begin for most in the next couple of years, and telecom providers need to begin to prepare now to maximize their opportunity for success. Across all geographies, telecom providers are ramping up their 5G deployments. Of course, all aren’t moving at the same pace, nor are they expressing the same concerns and views on their respective opportunities and overall readiness.
The momentum of telco-driven edge computing crystalizes the notion that telcos see 5G as a way to reestablish a position in the ‘cloud to ground’ computing and storage value chain beyond what they will require for their internal service operations.
Other key findings:
• The overwhelming business outlook for respondents is very positive (70%).
– We believe the overall sunny mood is at least partially driven by the promise that 5G and edge computing capabilities will drive service diversity and velocity with a lower-cost platform in response to the insatiable demand for broadband internet services.
• 5G is widely expected to raise overall energy costs.
– Nearly all (94%) respondents indicated that 5G will raise overall energy costs. Given the prominence of energy as an overall percentage of opex, it’s clear that mitigation strategies will be critical to maintaining 5G business case viability.
• Energy challenges will be addressed with technologies/new risk-sharing models.
– Energy-saving tactics will be varied and address every layer, from intelligent networking equipment that enters sleep mode during idle time to use of artificial intelligence (AI) and new cooling techniques.
• 5G era starts for most in 2020/21.
– Well over three-quarters (86%) of survey respondents will deliver their first 5G commercial services in 2020 (53%) or 2021 (33%).
• Initial 5G services will mostly be ‘more of the same.’
– Partially due to the technical limitations of the Release 15 standard and partially due to a lack of innovation, 96% of respondents indicated that 5G services offered in 2021 will be evolved versions of what is offered today on 4G.
• Site acquisition and connectivity are critical enablers of distributed 5G/edge topologies.
– The new denser topologies of 5G/edge networks drove issues such as site acquisition and availability of high-quality connectivity to the top of the heap of success factors in 5G; 45% of respondents ranked this as most important to success.
Connectivity Challenges a Mixed Bag
Once the infrastructure is deployed, whether in a small datacenter (micro-datacenter), central office recast as a data center, at a cell tower, central office or point of presence, those locations must have access to high-quality network connectivity. For 5G to run successfully, certain updates will need to be made to enable improved connectivity – whether this means adding physical infrastructure or virtualizing existing physical infrastructure. The existing configuration of our cell networks won’t suffice. We briefly touched on the importance of updating physical infrastructure – that is, replacing massive cell towers with smaller, more densely scattered nodes. Across all respondents, site acquisition, rights of way and high-quality connectivity to distributed PoPs is the most important enabler of 5G, coming in at 45%.
This number is consistent across geographies, excluding a major spike (60%) in Latin America and a less significant dip (32%) in North America.