Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece, Ashu Singh, Lead- Solutions Engineering at Tata Communications Transformation Services discusses an effective guide to operationalising and commercialising 5G networks
By 2025, 5G will account for 15% of the global mobile industry – GSMA Mobile Economy Report, Feb 2019
5G is not breaking news anymore, and neither is it hype that you can afford to ignore. Early adopters have embraced the 5G wave and have been busy planning and deploying data-centric networks. Others have been approaching 5G with some restraint, strategizing their move by closely consulting with authorities and facilitators.
Regardless of where they are along their 5G journey, the fact remains that 5G is a game-changing, all-IP solution that can benefit users and CSPs alike. What’s more, 5G adoption is almost always coupled with industry-wide digital transformation, which functions to challenge and disrupt the human-machine connection as we know it.
Meeting the challenges in operationalising 5G
Drawing from experience, TCTS believes that the 5G ecosystem will largely be attributed to open source contributors and vendors who are standardising the reference architectures for its operationalisation – be they the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), OpenRAN, Open CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter), or so on. Among mainstream OEMs, 3GPP, Broadband Forum, and several others are doing great work in developing standards around NG-Radio, fronthaul-backhaul, standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) core architectures, while simultaneously building the technology gears required to run 5G networks.
The main challenge with 5G operationalisation or commercialisation, as always, would be appropriately planning, building and operating networks of highly complex nature. 5G-enabled projects are often intended to enable futuristic and definitive use cases, driven towards greater socio-economic commitments and purposes.
Steps for an effective 5G deployment
- Strategic planning and governance: To begin with, 5G would require precise long-term planning, involving not only RF but also integrated fibre. Such planning will be key for transport networks as well the X-haul, while targeting the throughput and scenarios governed by ultra-reliable low latency services. The governance will extend to FWA as well, since it is the sole solution to the present broadband crunch and the time-limited demands of networks (since FTTx types of solutions will be non-economic for such scenarios).
- Making the right technology choices: 5G networks are going to be densified and localised, and so the application of mmWave as a choice needs to be done carefully. Transport networks would need careful planning around fibre deployment, IP/MPLS and so on. 4G-to-NSA-to-SA migration strategy will be key to an impactful and end-to-end 5G rollout. Such a project is likely to be governed by virtualisation at the core and RAN. CSPs will have to exercise discretion in terms of ascertaining future flexibility, and selecting the right vendor and open source platform/tools for different domains, while keeping the services live and the costs, contained.
- Testing to perfection: Prior to any large-scale deployment, it is advisable to have a virtualised test environment where prototypes or small-scale replicas can be tested and run on near real-time networks, by enabling 5G services encompassing URLLS, eMBB and mMTC. This must be governed by DevOps methodologies so that CSPs may test and assess multi-vendor networks that are a mix of proprietary and open source software. In-house development and having a 3rd party vendor-agnostic service partner can be beneficial as well, bringing a broader outlook into the picture.
- Orchestration and operationalising: In the end, it all comes down to operationalisation, and that is where the role of orchestration becomes even more important. The master of orchestration will oversee the end-to-end domain architecture, managing the life-cycle of network elements, services, resources, traffic paths, and so on, to make network visibility and service availability efficient and effective. From a business perspective, and in regard to commercialisation, network slicing and multi-access edge computing would assume priority as enablers of new revenue streams and transformative, yet disruptive, business models.
About the author
Ashu Singh, Lead- Solutions Engineering, Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS)
Ashu Singh is a leading the Global Solutions for Telco Cloud and Virtualisation at Tata Communications Transformation Services (TCTS) and has been focussing on innovative solutions around next-gen technologies like Network Slicing, SDN/NFV, ML and Blockchain in Telecom. Prior joining TCTS, Ashu has worked for Cisco Systems, Netcracker Technologies and Idea Cellular Ltd. in diverse roles spanning across Mobile Packet Core Engineering, SDN/NFV Solutions Presales and Prepaid Billing Operations respectively. Ashu, holds an Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering degree from Army Institute of Technology, Pune, India.