28 JUNE 2016

Mobile operators and software vendors around the world are preparing for the next BIG thing:  5G.  While the jury is still out on establishing the standards, and no large scale launch plans are expected until 2020, forward thinking service providers, technology vendors and even governments are forging ahead.  Last week, in fact, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced plans to open up “vast amounts” of wide band spectrum to speed the development of 5G applications.

5G is the next generation of mobile and wireless connectivity. Like 3G, 4G-LTE before it – 5G is an enabling technology.  In other words, it’s not the technology itself that’s so exciting – it’s the new services and capabilities it will enable. It’s the incredible potential.

For now, we don’t know exactly what all these new services will be, but we do know that 5G will offer massive flexibility for a large range of applications.  It will provide far more capacity and be more responsive to users’ needs. It will be more energy-efficient and more cost-effective than anything that has come before. 5G will intelligently understand the demands of users in real time, dynamically creating individual network ‘slices’ depending on what applications are being used.  With 5G network slicing, a single physical network can be partitioned into multiple virtual networks to offer support for different types of services and for different types of customer segments. And, 5G will be a key enabler for many IoT (Internet of Things) applications and use cases.

From a technology standpoint, what does 5G mean?

  • Enhanced mobile broadband with lightning fast data rates as high as 10 Gbps
  • Massive amounts of IoT connections, potentially up to 50 billion sensor-enabled devices
  • Ultra-reliable networks with 10,000x the capacity of today’s networks
  • Ultra-low latency for real time applications
  • Dedicated technologies enabling ultra-long life batteries for IoT sensor networks

Depending on the desired outcome, all of these capabilities and flexibilities can help support things like real time sensor networks for the industrial IoT, or the soon to be exploding area of virtual reality applications and connected car services. The IoT health-care sector is expected to be worth more than $400bn USD by 2022 – much of it supported by 5G.  You can’t deliver life-critical healthcare services if your connectivity is not reliable.

In addition, 5G’s extremely low energy consumption means that we will also be able to support remote services – with long battery life sensors that extend to the far reaches of the earth.

Service Assurance, or the act of managing billions of network connections and monitoring them, is undergoing its own transformation of sorts, with big leaps in automation and analytics.  In fact, it will be totally impossible in a 5G environment to manage networks the way most CSPs are managing them today.  At TEOCO, we know this is the future of mobile network and we have been preparing for it. In fact, a number of our platforms are already designed to cope with many of the challenges I mentioned above.

These are some of our latest projects and how we are helping our customers prepare for a 5G world:

  • NFV and SON: NFV and SON are truly shaking up how we manage networks. Soon we will be able to fix issues in the network by remotely and dynamically managing the infrastructure. As a simple example, if you identify a fault or a performance issue due to bandwidth constraints, with Network Function Virtualization, you can remotely order up additional resources to handle the extra traffic. And when you don’t need it anymore, simply dial it down. In today’s complex networks, these decisions need to be made quickly and dynamically, so this whole process is beginning to be automated via a more closed loop process called SON. In fact, TEOCO has already deployed live systems that are utilizing this cutting edge technology today.
  • Rethinking Video and Broadcast: By 2021 it is expected that 70% of mobile traffic will be video, and it will continue to consume huge amounts of bandwidth.  Video can either be delivered in today’s unicast network, or through a multicast/broadcast system called eMBMS, which optimizes the use of bandwidth.  We have solutions today that can identify where it makes the most sense to leverage these new LTE (and beyond) broadcast solutions so that spikes in video traffic no longer lead to network problems.  Video is just one application for LTE broadcast systems.  TEOCO helps global tier-1 customers to identify and validate other business cases that arise with the availability of efficient LTE broadcast technologies.
  • Connected Cars: Another key game in the IoT space is the Connected Car.  Today TEOCO works with one of the largest operators in the world and their connected car customers, where we provide our analytics platform to deliver insight into how these services are being utilized.
  • IoT Device Testing: Don’t forget the “T” in IoT.  With the rollout of 5G we will see a wellspring of new ‘things’ that need to be connected to the network. This is what 5G is specifically designed for.  These things are actually wireless devices that need to be tested before they are rolled out.  TEOCO has its own device testing labs and in-house expertise, where we work not just on testing and ensuring capabilities for traditional wireless devices, but also on how IoT sensors and modules impact the network.  Essentially, even the simplest sensors have the power to bring down a network, either through a signaling storm, or as the cause of network malfunctions that can quickly escalate.

In order to cope with the upcoming tsunami of IoT devices driven by the roll out of 5G, we need to greatly speed up the certification and testing process. TEOCO is currently working on capabilities to automate much of the testing and analysis as a way to improve speed to market, while still ensuring the network remains secure and the customers’ experience is not compromised.

To ensure success in a 5G world, you need technology partners that invest in innovation and are constantly thinking about their product portfolio with an eye towards the future.  Since its inception, TEOCO has been participating with the 5G Innovation Centre (5GIC) hosted by the University of Surrey in the UK.   Our work there has given us not just a better understanding of the network and technology challenges associated with 5G, but also a peek into the endless realm of opportunities.

By Thomas Neubauer, VP of Business Development & Innovations. TEOCO