Next Generation Networks: The Promise of 5G

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Is 5G the transformative network technology that will revolutionise every industry it touches? We assess the current state of 5G development and ask whether the reality will match the hype

Data on the edge

One of the fundamental and transformative components of 5G is how data and processing will move away from centralised data centres to the edge of the network. The 4G network is highly hierarchical connecting devices often over long distances to a data source. 5G and its ability to move much of the data-intensive processing to close to the end user is why 5G could be so transformative.

What is clear is that the 5G network will be a radical departure from that which currently supports 4G. More edge networking, coupled with virtualisation, will deliver the flexible networks that are needed today. The burgeoning autonomous vehicle sector only becomes possible with very low latency communications that only a decentralised and virtualised network can support.

Eric LeCalvez, vice president Telecom Segment and Strategic Global Telecom clients for Vertiv in EMEA told Silicon: “We believe edge computing will be transformative, but it will not be a wholesale transformation; edge computing will be driven by key clusters of use cases and archetypes. Over the last few years, ‘edge computing’ has become one of the most talked about trends in IT. This is because nearly every industry is recognising the limitations of supporting users through centralised IT infrastructures. With a huge number of connected devices, 5G networks must be combined with edge data centres to store and process data at a local level.”

Also, when data moves to the edge of the network, the economies of this transportation come into play. Indeed, telcos will look very closely at their revenue models before making services available. “With data being created at an unprecedented pace, telcos must look at how economical it is to transfer data from the edge to the cloud and consider if it is more cost effective to pre-process data locally,” explained Stephan Fabel, Director of Product at Canonical. “As cities become smarter, autonomous sites and local content caching more common, data legislation has never been more stringent. As operators expand their reach, data governance will become a growing consideration which will make edge computing a necessity for developing telco’s.”

Moving data and processing to the edge of the network are the most striking and potentially disruptive aspects of 5G. The connection of users with servers will still exist, but it will be massively augmented with edge services. The need for low-latency and reliability will see the data landscape we know today change out of all recognition.

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