5G is powering a resurgent 4G

January 26, 2021 - Frank Healy

Frank Healy, Senior Product Marketing Manager, discusses how backwards compatibility of 5G technology is benefiting 4G services

New approaches and backwards compatibility of 5G technology are also benefiting 4G services

5G has often been talked about in terms of benefit to 4G – by freeing up huge capacity at peak periods – but 5G is providing some surprising other benefits to 4G.

2021 is set to become an inflection point for 5G for sure. Various elements are now converging including: necessary 5G functions, devices, spectrum and even coverage, especially in urban locations. This is great news for home-based workforces, gamers and enterprises. But 5G is already providing some less-talked-about benefits back to 4G in terms of tools and best practices with resulting value for advancing service providers.


Portability and updatability benefits of 5G functions built as microservices have been talked about in a 5G context for quite some time [including on this blog space]. But what about the application of such benefits to 4G? Of course amongst these microservices are “conversion” microservices such as Openet’s own 4G to 5G “data bridge” microservice. But what if 4G could more generally enjoy the benefits of microservices advantages? This is music to the ears of service providers’ accountants who are already enjoying the benefits of scale and licensing models from microservices for 5G. Microservices better suit flexible business i.e. revenue requirements of service providers in a digital age.

Cloud and open-source

It seemed that, amongst other things, 2020 saw a huge surge in public-, hybrid-, and multi-cloud deployment discussions and decisions. Many of these decisions were driven by 5G. But these decisions also have implications for older 3G and 4G equipment. What if the scaling benefits of cloud (down as well as up) could also be applied retrospectively to 3G/4G assets? What if all existing hardware, even commoditised 3G/4G hardware on premises, was no longer needed and could also be more efficiently managed via the cloud?  These drivers are why Openet has recently rebuilt its 4G PCRF (Policy Control) functionality for cloud deployment in addition to being microservice-based.


Perhaps DevOps is the secret sauce for true differentiation from which even smaller, more flexible, service providers can gain advantage. 4G missed out on it pretty much but it has been maturing nicely in a more complex 5G environment. Now that it has been proven with 5G-oriented DevOps teams interfacing effectively with the best vendors in this space – those teams can also turn their attention to 4G. After all, best practice is best practice. Whether that applies to 5G or 4G or 3G it doesn’t matter, as long as it is applicable.

All of this has implications for the service provider organisation more generally. Rather than building a new 5G stack and skill base that somehow sits in parallel to the rest of the 3G/4G organisation – with resulting overheads, the “new” organisation becomes “the” organisation. It provides benefits to end-user services also. Services are not seen as “3G/4G services” as opposed to “5G services” that need to battle for internal resources. Instead, the user is put at centre stage along with service continuity regardless of the “G”. End-users will rejoice as well as accountants.

For more on Openet’s Policy Controller (OPC) and how Openet is built for change visit our Policy section.


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