There is a lot of attention being paid to 5G test labs and proof-of-concepts (POCs) these days. Indeed, it makes it hard to sometimes remember why, with 4G still just rolling out in much of the world, industry focus is so intent on what will come next as opposed to what is on the way now.
It would be easy to say that the reasons solutions vendors are stoking the flames of 5G is based mostly on the desire to assure long-term revenue streams for themselves and in theory those of their customers’ new 5G-based services. Yet, optimal monetization is only part of the story. It is an end and not a means.
Actually, getting to 5G is as much about the journey and the deliverables along the way as it is about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is about the facts that in an increasingly “wireless-first,” software-centric, virtualized and visualization-based world (personal and professional), the wireless infrastructure of the future is going to have to serve many masters. Not only that, it is going to have to serve all and each of them flawlessly as “E”verything in its own way will be “mission critical.” In other words, lack of accessibility and bad customer experiences— as a result of poor network performance on multiple fronts but specifically in regards to things like latency, jitter, packet loss and the like—cannot and will not be tolerated.
All of this is the subject of an interesting recent blog by Chalermpol Juramongkol, who is responsible for Nokia’s (News - Alert) 5G innovation marketing. The blog, 5G Mission Critical, not Mission Impossible, deftly walks readers through the multiple constituencies the wireless networks of the futurl6e will have to serve, why ultra-reliability and virtual zero latency are so network mission critical, and why assuring the latter is foundational to 5G. This means from inspiration to solution realization to the total lifecycle journey.
So much about the reason for 5G is about the accommodation of an interactive environment that is going to be much more visual and contextually rich. A graphic from the Nokia white paper, “5G for Mission Critical Communication: Achieve ultra-reliability and virtual zero latency,” is useful. It illustrates that fact that it is not just bandwidth-intensive capabilities based on the use of Augmented Reality (AR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) or Haptic Communications, that will need networks that have a new version of carrier-class performance. Even those related to less bandwidth needy activities such as much of those associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) for things like smart cars, smart cities and smart homes, need both.
Figure-1: 5G Diversity of service, use case and requirements
Where the white paper picks up is in the details of the developments proposed to get us from where we are now, with a network that cannot possibly serve all of the above even moderately well, to a 5G future that has the agility, programmability, security and economy to get us from here to there and well beyond.
Building blocks for the ultra-reliable, virtual zero latency 5G network
As Juramongkol says, “5G will address important aspects of mission critical communication for services with extreme requirements on availability, latency and reliability.”
What Nokia is proposing, as detailed in the white paper, along with various use cases where such technology will be not just an enabler but a driver, are as follows:
Radio Access: Ultra-reliability is achieved by designing the radio access to include Diversity through redundancy links (Massive MIMO) and Multi- Connectivity, as well as Interference Management and user/service-optimized retransmission mechanisms. The introduction of Flexible Frame Structure can bring radio latency down to milliseconds.
Programmable 5G multi-service architecture: The key components come from Network Slicing, Programmable Networks, Network Resiliency and Mobile-Edge Computing. These building blocks will ensure that the network is flexible, reliable and optimized to bring content closer to users instantly.
Device to Device communication: Direct D2D communication will be an important communication method in 5G. It is characterized by short distance between communication devices, no user-plane processing needed by the network elements, and bypassing transport networks, which helps to minimize delay. An additional D2D link can be used as a diversity path to increase reliability or to extend network coverage, helping to improve availability.
They foresee a two phase approach to the development of their RAN and 5G multi-service architecture.
Phase 1: 5G radio access with Diversity, Multi-Connectivity, Interference Management and Flexible Frame Structure is likely to be introduced and integrated with the LTE (News - Alert) core network. Simultaneously, the programmable 5G multi-service architecture will introduce Network slicing, Programmable Networks, Network Resiliency and Mobile-Edge Computing (MEC).
Phase 2: 5G radio access will be integrated with a 5G core network without the need for an LTE anchor. In this phase, the end-to-end 5G system will meet the requirements of mission critical communication by supporting lowest latency with full mobility and highest reliability.
There is a very famous line from the movie, Field of Dreams, which says, “Build it and they will come!” Realities are that knowing what to build, in what order and creating an experience that really can be a field of dreams makes building it correctly from the outset, mission critical.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi