New Digital Environments: The Structure of 5G


The 5G network being constructed moves away from the hierarchical structure that 4G typically uses. 5G has the potential to create a more agile, dynamic and decentralised network to deliver a new digital environment all businesses can benefit from.

Pervasive networks

Building the infrastructure to support the advanced services 5G will mean initially retrofitting the existing 4G network, which will for some time act as the supporting foundation for the 5G infrastructure itself. Service providers looking at the cost to income ratios will likely evolve their networks over time and not make expensive wholesale changes to their networks in the short term.

Chris Mills, Head of Industry Analysis at Tutela, says: “The greatest challenge with deploying 5G lies in the uncertainty of rolling out millimetre-wave spectrum on a wide scale. Although technologies like beamforming have shown promise in labs and limited trials, strategising a nationwide 5G rollout is difficult because of the use of higher-band spectrum than has ever been deployed before. From 2G to 4G, the spectrum from 700 MHz to 2600 MHz has been the focus and working with those frequencies is a known quantity. For deployment of much higher-band spectrum, there are more questions that operators still have to answer.”

With Nokia’s Phil Twist concluding: “Far from being just a radio upgrade, 5G will require several different stages of investment, each of which builds upon the last and can be monetised as soon as they are deployed. Beginning with the radio, delivering 5G means expanding IP capacity through investment in a high-speed transport network, ensuring ‘last-mile’ connectivity, and introducing network virtualisation and edge cloud deployment with very high capacity connectivity between these sites. Once the foundations are in place, the real power of 5G will be seen through network slicing and network services enabled by highly automated, smart software.”

The 5G network may still be mostly embryonic, however, the promise of a new network infrastructure that can deliver fast, dynamic and secure services to businesses and consumers is an exciting prospect. A program of investment that will stretch over several years has already started. Service providers, though, will need to see how the initial use cases for 5G utilise the network and where further investment is needed.

For users, if the infrastructure is quickly in place, the current 4G network could feel like the dark ages in comparison to what can be done with 5G. Ultimately cost, investment and monetisation will all need to be in balance to deliver the promises 5G has made.

NEXT: Interview with Dr. Paul Carter, CEO of independent mobile network benchmarking company Global Wireless Solutions (GWS)

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