With 4G/LTE (News - Alert) being deployed around the globe, interest is turning towards what’s next for mobile networks, the emerging standard 5G. During a recent webinar about the technology and it’s inpact on wireline networks, Ciena’s Brian Lavallée, Senior Director of Portfolio Solutions, talked extensively about how 5G will affect all parts of the network from end users to data centers, and everything in between. To succeed, mobile network operators (MNOs) will need more than just a new radio access network, they will also need fiber—and lots of it – to manage the massive increase in bandwidth that will come as billions more users, both human and machine, join the network. The Q&A segment of the webinar was enlightening, so we thought we’d share.
Q: Will 5G require new wireless spectrum?
BL: Yes. A lot of people are looking at what part of the spectrum will be required, and different frequency ranges are being proposed. To complicate matters, different frequencies are being suggested in different countries. It’s too early to say if this will cause problems for 5G radios, but there definitely will be new wireless spectrum required.
Q: Will small cells be required to implement 5G?
BL: Definitely. This is mainly because 5G will use higher frequencies, which don’t travel as far and don’t travel as well through obstacles, such as buildings. This means Mobile Network Operators must install 5G radios closer to end users by deploying millions of cells. Small cells won’t be required day one, as they can be installed over time. But there’s no getting around that rolling out 5G to large geographic areas will require a tremendous number of new small cells.
Q: Will IPv6 have a place in 5G or is IPv4 sufficient?
BL: IPv6 will have a big place in 5G, primarily because of the Internet of Things (IoT), which will add billions of new devices to this mobile network as it’s roll out. IPv4 cannot cope with the number of unique IP addresses that will be required, but IPv6 can. IPv6 also introduces the Neighbor Discovery Protocol (NDP) that enables multi-protocol interoperability between IoT devices. So, both the number of addressable addresses in IPv6 and the features of the protocol will be critical to the success of 5G.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of fixed mobile broadband access?
BL: From an advantage perspective, MNOs can ship a 5G fixed access node to an end user and have it up and running quickly. That user may have to install the node on their wall, but once it’s turned on, it auto-discovers the mobile network and is good to go. It also means using new spectrum, and if service providers introduce mobile broadband access into a home, it opens the network to every device, sensor and “thing” in the house using high-bandwidth applications such as HD audio, video or virtual reality, which will place an enormous burden on the RAN side of the network.
Q: How will 5G address or improve voice quality, and in what way?
BL: That’s a good question because the voice portion of cell networks is rarely discussed anymore. There are a lot of over-the-top (OTT) VoIP applications today that are at the mercy of the network because existing 4G networks operate at best effort. This means the performance of these OTT applications is often unreliable. If there was a guaranteed service level assigned to a VoIP service, users would get the same performance level as today with wireline networks. MNOs could deploy their own VoIP applications (to replace VoLTE) giving them a guaranteed level of quality of service using network slicing, and by taking advantage of the much lower latency of 5G networks.
Q: Will the proposed 5G performance enhancements be offered to all mobile users and devices?
BL: No. 5G is expected to be deployed strategically in different locations, especially in the early days. If consumers are expecting all 3G and 4G networks to be replaced with 5G, they’ll be disappointed. 5G is expected to complement 3G/4G where it makes sense. And depending on where service providers believe applications will most lucrative, they can roll out speeds of up to 10 Gb/s. This means if you’re in a rural community, chances are you probably won’t get 5G. Closer to cities there expected to be a lot of self-driving cars, video broadcast services, and other applications that will require high-bandwidth and low-latency, so service providers will likely deploy 5G in these geographic areas first and foremost.
Q: Is carrier aggregation mandatory for 5G?
BL: It’s not mandatory, but it’s something that a lot of MNOs are investigating. The technology allows operators to aggregate multiple carriers to increase the speed and capacity of their networks, and to take advantage of fragmented spectrum allocation. I think it will eventually be commonplace to use carrier aggregation to achieve the speeds being promised for 5G, as it unifies assets for a better user experience.
Q: How much fiber will each cell site require in 5G?
BL: Given all the fiber technologies available today, both deployed and in trials, we should be able to ramp the capacity of fiber up into the terabits per second, if required. This includes DWDM, coherent modems, and new modulation schemes, which are already delivering 400 Gb/s per wavelength. So one fiber per cell in each direction – a fiber pair – will enable sufficient capacity. MNOs concerned about diversity will probably use multiple fibers, but capacity can be delivered with just one pair. For MNOs less concerned with diversity, a single bi-directional fiber may also be an option, albeit likely a more unpopular one.
To hear more about how 5G will impact the wireline network, check out the webinar, 5G Will Need Fiber, and Lots of It, anytime.
Edited by Maurice Nagle