Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Volker Held, Head of 5G Market Development, Mobile Networks at Nokia looks at some best practice when rolling out 5G.
5G New Radio (NR) is happening and now. The standards and technology are ready, and commercial roll-outs are starting in markets such US, Japan, Korea, China and Australia. We have seen some exciting recent progress in technology:
5G has become truly mobile with the first transmission of a 3GPP 5G NR Layer 3 call. A 5G signal has been successfully sent to a receiver situated in a moving vehicle with seamless handoff of the signal from one radio sector to another. There are many challenging RF conditions on the move, such as trees interfering with the signal and reflections from buildings – so this is an important milestone on the road to ensuring flawless end to end access, coverage and performance for 5G deployments.
There has also been a first demonstration of a 5G NR connection over Massive MIMO. Beamforming based on massive arrays of controllable antenna elements is a key enabler for 5G’s superior spectral efficiency, boosting the capacity of radio networks.
And last but least there has been a first live deployment of Cloud RAN centralized and distributed (Central Unit/Distributed Unit) split architecture in China paving the way for leveraging the scalability and agility of cloud technology for 5G radio.
And the biggest proof point that we are moving from the lab in to the field are the commercial agreements that have already been signed between network vendors such as Nokia and frontrunner Communication Service Providers.
5G cuts across the entire network
What stands out from most of the 5G contracts awarded is that they not only contain 5G NR radio software but a complete set of solutions and services across the whole network. This seems to be an indicator of a global trend where operators prepare their core and transport domains, not just radio, for 5G.
And it is not just telecoms services operators that are moving in to 5G end-to-end. Nokia is working with T-Mobile and HPA on a large-scale network slicing trial at the port of Hamburg. The trial serves an industrial area of 8,000 hectares with resilient and secure slices and customized SLAs to support different use cases, including, but not limited to: intelligent transport systems; more secure operations using augmented reality; control and management of water gates as well as improved pollution control by connected sensors on moving barges.
You need a lot more than radio to meet the stringent logistic and environmental requirements of a harbour, and Nokia’s 5G solution is covering all network domains. The same applies for trials in areas such as manufacturing or automotive where all parts of the network need high level of connected intelligence to jointly manage the applications that run over the network. In other words: all pieces of the network need to synchronize in perfect harmony.
Tight interworking is needed for applications with tough requirements; be it the need for constant throughput, single digit milliseconds latency, or industrial grade resiliency and security. We expect the ultra-reliable low latency communication (ULLRC) dimension of the 5G equation the interworking of radio, transport, core, datacenters and Management and Operations will become even more critical as low end-to-end latency and extreme reliability drive success for many business-critical applications.
For example, it does not help if only the radio and core are aware of the use case requirements; transport is the glue in between the infrastructure and between the network functions and also need to be part of the equation. The performance attributes of network functions demand strict transport SLAs. The interconnection of these network function workloads spans the datacenter (cloud) and wide area (transport) networking domains. However, creating transport network services on-demand, and at scale, is not easy when end points cross different network domains. We must also automate the interaction between datacenter and wide area networks such that network functions in the former can easily leverage transport SLAs in the latter.
A wide end-to-end approach delivers tangible business benefits
Because of its importance, it is inevitable that the term “end-to-end” becomes overused when talking about 5G. Recently I have seen labels such as “end-to-end radio” and “end-to-end core solution” which in fact point to isolated domain solutions only. I think that with 5G, we need to go one step further and go beyond single domain solutions and focus on the entire network architecture. That is what end to end means and requires in the 5G context.
A wide architecture based end-to-end approach provides tangible advantages: Verified interoperability across domains can significantly reduce risk, minimize integration effort and cut time-to-market. It also raises the level of automation, enabling the entire network to automatically adapt to changing connectivity requirements. We estimate that end-to-end automation leads to an overall TCO savings in the range of 30% because you can avoid unnecessary operational effort and utilizing existing investments more efficiently.
Finally, end-to-end lifts the quality of the 5G network as a whole. In conjunction with the network slicing capabilities it offers, 5G provides a sound basis for the diversification of revenue sources for operators, because they can meet the stringent requirements of any given vertical market segments can throw at them.
At Nokia, Volker is focused on combining the technology and business side of innovation. He heads Nokia’s 5G market development activities for the company, helping to create the future of telecommunications. He was also one of the founders of Nokia FutureWorks and brought Technology Vision 2020 to life. Meet Nokia at 5G Asia this week in Singapore.