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Bridging 4G and 5G, and evolving to the edge

August 6, 2020 - Frank Healy

Frank Healy, Product Marketing Manager, looks at how to face and overcome the challenges on the journey to stand alone 5G

If, as the saying goes, a journey starts with a single step, then most service providers have taken more than a few steps towards 5G at this stage. In terms of the benefits it will provide, many articles about 5G tend to focus on the 3 key areas of improvement: latency, speed and densification of (IoT) devices. They then move on to describe the impacts on various industry verticals such as healthcare and manufacturing. Of course retail consumers will also see enormous impacts from a wider range of services including extended reality, e-gaming and autonomous vehicles.

Perhaps the greatest challenge service providers are likely to face is in meeting expectations during what for most of them is likely to be a multi-year movement to “standalone” 5G. As 5G radio becomes more standardised (therefore commoditised), at Openet the conversation turns to two key discussion topics related to the lesser-standardised intelligence of core network design: bridging and edge.

When it comes back down to it, in the medium term, the real-world of interworking “Gs” and how that is managed via an evolved core is likely to remain the biggest technical test for some time. As a diversity of new services and devices roll out based on market opportunities they will be expected to work across a patchwork of 3G, 4G and 5G. The challenge of managing experiences such that a user is optimised whilst floating across this patchwork will depend on more nuanced control and “bridging” in real time. After all, 5G is supposed to encompass more effective mobility benefits. This includes effective interworking with 4G and 3G. It will also need to encompass smart monetisation that meets and exceeds expectations of the diversity of services yet to be imagined.

Edge migration provides another key challenge. There has been much movement already to “cloud native 5G”. However there is still huge potential to distribute network elements further to the edge (i.e. users) in order to realise latency and scaling benefits. The debate continues both within and outside standards bodies as to which elements of the network this should include and when and how exactly it should look. In reality, implementations will vary considerably depending on other factors such as national geography and choice (or not) as well as degree of participation by partners, especially cloud partners like Amazon, Microsoft and Google versus use of a service provider’s own cloud.

Here at Openet our delivery teams are discussing, testing and implementing to meet these key challenges on a daily basis. “Multi-cloud” solution options are provided such that they can meet and exceed current commercial requirements as well as flex to conform to standards once the standards catch up if that’s what is needed by a service provider to ensure long-term company value.  Meantime, as ever, competitive advantages may just arrive earlier as individual service providers push ahead.

A few things are certain. Industries and consumers are demanding more than ever in terms of service quality, variety, self-service and ease of use. 2020 has already driven those expectations further than might have been imagined at the end of 2019. With a few more of the right steps the value of 5G will start to be truly felt in early 2021.

For further information on how Openet is working with service providers to optimise their moves to 5G head to: https://www.openet.com/whitepapers/

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