5G systems are poised to revolutionize the speed, reliability, and capacity of communication networks as we know them. This leap forward is a critical one for telecommunications companies in the midst of a digital transformation, and their success hinges on the technological gains provided by a combination of 5G systems and OpenStack clouds based on NFV architectures.
The Benefits of 5G Systems
Modern communication systems have evolved significantly since the days of switchboards and long-distance calls, but perhaps not enough: traditional, one-size-fits-all network architectures have fallen significantly behind in the past decade. Telcos need scalable networks that can fluidly adapt to meet shifting demands, and must prepare for burgeoning use cases featuring connected devices in nearly every industry. While traditional architectures have fallen short of meeting these demands, many of these needs are addressed through 5G systems.
But 5G is much more than an upgraded replacement for 4G LTE. It’s a new approach to infrastructure that introduces modularity and flexibility to an industry that’s previously been dominated by rigid, purpose-built hardware.
5G advances communication technology to meet changing demands in many important ways: higher data-throughput rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reduction, increased system capacity, and massive simultaneous device connectivity — all at a practical cost. However, in order to realize these gains, these systems must support a much wider range of devices regardless of their latency support, coverage area, etc.
And, the best part: 5G is nearly here. T-Mobile has committed to building a nationwide 5G network by 2020, which will make 100 mbps internet available to 90% of Americans. Verizon has already released its version of 5G (though it has been judged to be more of a beta than a “version 1”).
Bringing Internet Connectivity Everywhere
The speed of 5G will have ripple effects across many industries and geographies. For instance, the lightning-fast speeds will be delivered over wireless instead of T1, DSL, or cable, which means rural areas will now have access to high speed internet that they could not access via a wired connection. This is a bigger deal than you might initially expect: only 70% of rural areas currently have 10 mbps LTE download speeds, compared to 91% of urban areas. High speed internet access is critical to pushing rural industries — like farming and agriculture — to evolve. 5G networks stand to unlock that innovation, but it’s highly dependent upon how it’s implemented.
Better Coverage in Densely Populated Areas
Small cell deployments will be made more effective through high-speed internet, allowing lightweight, easy-to-mount network base stations to increase capacity and coverage in densely populated areas. Though their range is much shorter, they will be able to alleviate overloaded networks in cities and other densely populated regions.
Networking as a Service
Network slicing allows multiple virtual networks to be created on top of a shared physical infrastructure, so different types of applications and services will be able to run on shared infrastructure. This enables telecommunications companies to provide networking on-demand in the same way that we currently access other services on-demand, creating a user experience that’s indistinguishable from a physically separated network. Capacity and coverage can be allocated in logical slices to meet the specific demands of each use case, effectively reducing the need for companies to create custom networks for specific tasks or projects, and delivering connectivity in the most efficient way possible.
Why 5G Needs Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) allows telcos to reduce their dependency on proprietary appliances so that they can take advantage of new open source technologies on a broader scale and roll out new technologies and services in days, rather than months. NFV is crucial to modernizing telecommunications infrastructure, as it gives companies the power to make their networks as uniform as their data centers, leverage commodity hardware, and implement new automated services in an agile way.
This network virtualization is critical to meeting the anticipated traffic and device growth that comes as a biproduct of a 5G implementation.
However, the path to NFV is far from straightforward: the telecommunications industry is still ruled by regulations, complexity, and quality of service requirements. These pressures demand discipline and care from companies making the shift to NFV.
Overall, 5G systems will deliver an unprecedented level of interconnectedness. This next generation of network will connect with more types of devices faster and more seamlessly than ever before. Internet of Things (IoT) won’t be limited to city slickers and labs — everyday devices like utility meters and construction vehicles will now be able to leverage a powerful network to operate more efficiently than ever before.
5G systems built on NFV infrastructure will power the next generation of abstracted, efficient, and on-demand communication environments.