At first glance, the upcoming, inevitable shift to 5G mobile networks seems simple. But the fact is, there’s a lot that operators, companies and even consumers have to do to be ready for 5G. Of course, at the consumer level, the only real preparation is buying a phone that’s 5G compatible, but beyond that it’s not so clear cut.
According to a recent post on the Ciena blog from Brian Lavallée, director of Technology and Solutions Marketing for Ciena's packet networking solutions, there’s still a lot left to be defined before 5G can become a reality, starting with what 5G is.
Obviously, 5G is the next generation of mobile data networks to follow up on 4G, but there’s surprisingly little set in stone beyond this. According to Lavallée, this is because 5G has yet to be standardized and “likely won’t be for some time.” That doesn’t mean there aren’t expectations around what 5G should and will be, of course.
From the perspective of the networking industry—which includes equipment vendors, mobile network operators and analysts—there are a number of differing visions of what 5G will be. Some expected performance gains include a radical increase in bandwidth capacity, speeds upwards of 10 Gbps, perceived network availability of 99.999 percent, and even latency as low as 1ms.
Some of these expectations may not prove tenable without significant cost increases for network operators and will therefore be scaled back somewhat, but the overall sentiment is clear: people have high expectations for 5G. Due to a variety of reasons, 1ms latencies for 5G seems the most difficult to attain and as such is the most likely expectation to be softened.
In fact, the building of a 5G-capable network on its own seems like a herculean feat, when all the expected performance gains are considered together. However, it is possible largely with a heterogeneous network (HetNet) design, which comprises a variety of cell types. It is through intelligent utilization of these cell types—including Wi-Fi cells, small cells and macro cells—that a flexible 5G mobile network architecture is possible. This means that the entire end-to-end network infrastructure will be affected, but it will largely fall to the mobile backhaul network (MBH).
And yet it will all be worth it because, no matter how the specifics of 5G work out, the evolution of wireless data will change everything in terms of network performance and enabling new services.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson