BY MIKA SKARP
I was asked recently how to explain 5G simply. Stripping it down to its bare skin, I suggested this one sentence; "5G is a crocodized mobile network". In slightly less poetic, and more technical terms one might say that 5G is an Application-Aware Network. But by slightly more technical, I don't mean more complicated; quite on the contrary. But to understand what changes and opportunities 5G will bring it's good idea to familiarize yourself with the 3 big changes coming.
1) Orchestration - The first, most critical and fundamental addition that will come of 5G will be what we call an orchestration layer. While current 4G and earlier generation networks were largely confined to a simple duet of Core and Access layers, 5G will usher in an orchestra of possibilities when it comes serving different applications within a single network. To give but one quick and current example, our coming 5G network will make it easy to support and compliantly serve armies of police body cameras. The same networks will deliver on the precise requirements of driver-less cars.
2) Full Cloud - The second key shift is already underway, but will mature significantly in 5G, and this the move to the cloud. With this shift, informed by the orchestration layer, all elements in the network will be able to be increased, decreased or adjusted based on network capacity. This "elastic"nature of the network will drive down operating costs as capacity will cease to be an issue out side of air interface (RF portion of the wireless device served by a given base station) that will still have a maximum capacity that can be exceeded.
3) Baaaaaaaandwidth - The third critical piece of 5G will be its air interface delivering a whopping 10 Gbps with less than 1ms latency. Part of the recipe for this capacity increase will be the introduction of new frequencies that will expand mobile network spectrum delivering dramatically more bandwidth. Among other promising results will be the ability to enable streaming of increasingly higher definition video and in 3D, an idea that was simply impossibly in previous generations.
When we combine these three core evolutions, we get a network that can effectively serve very low delay applications and very bandwidth hungry applications all at the same time. Essential to making that happen is our orchestration layer that allows the network to be truly application-aware serving different devices in different contexts and adjust to them accordingly and dynamically.
What are challenges? For one thing, it's absolutely essential that these advancements be delivered on a single network in a net neutral way. The network should not adjust capacity or performance based on who the service provider is, but rather, based on a given application's requirements. This not only is driving principle behind Net Neutrality and a free and open internet, but it also makes sense from an economical perspective; Simply put, when consumers can actually select what services they are using, they will use services more. And the engine for growth will once again be fueled by increases in network usage. Net Neutrality along with new technologies will guarantee that new digital services will continue to arrive and become better as we move into 5G.