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5G

Fifth-generation fixed network initiative hits the ground running

Industry discussion around 5G has raised the profile of high-bandwidth and low-latency applications. These include high-definition and ultra-high definition video streaming, requiring network bandwidths up 300Mbps, and cloud gaming. Virtual reality and augmented reality gaming and other applications can require both high bandwidth and low latency. Fixed fiber networks can offer significant benefits for these applications when combined with Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE802.11ax), which will reliably support multi-gigabit speeds within enterprise, residential and public spaces. The general demands on enterprise and residential access networks are changing quickly as cloud-based services and more widespread homeworking require higher speeds and more symmetric access networks.

Fixed line networks have always supported higher bandwidths and greater availability than mobile networks, and this should continue with the right investment in full fiber solutions using the latest technology. Through the development of LTE and 5G technology, wireless networks have seen significant investment and delivered huge increases in bandwidth and capabilities. These developments have been largely coordinated through three industry bodies – the ITU, 3GPP and GSMA – and have been universally adopted. The architecture of LTE and 5G wireless infrastructure is evolving to take advantage of network virtualization and deliver differentiated services through technologies such as network slicing. By comparison, fixed network development has been driven by separate industry groups focused on optical technology, access network architecture, interfaces and the Wi-Fi solutions needed to connect fixed networks to mobile devices in the home and office.

The ETSI ISG F5G initiative spurs the right investments
Efforts to define solutions for fifth-generation fixed networks (F5G) have accelerated. Work is already progressing in key areas, and there has been a trebling in the number of members since the launch of the ETSI ISG F5G in February 2020. Next-generation fixed line networks are needed to complement and support the 5G wireless networks being deployed around the world. They are also needed to support the growing number of cloud services requiring high-bandwidth and/or low- latency connections. The ETSI ISG F5G aims to open new opportunities that will use full fiber connections to drive enhanced fixed broadband (eFBB) and deliver a guaranteed reliable experience.

The fixed network evolution improves quality of experience
The group is studying the fixed network evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile networks and communications. This evolution is expected to provide opportunities by comprehensively applying fiber technology and expanding the reach of fiber to everything, everywhere. There are many business areas that can benefit from full fiber connectivity and smart solutions, including education, healthcare, finance, energy, transportation and manufacturing. Industry 4.0 applications will require many connections and bandwidths from 100Mbps to 10Gbps and above.

The timing of this initiative is opportune since the reach of copper connections is declining as bandwidths increase, bringing the last mile connection down to a few meters. Meanwhile, users in some areas are receiving Gbps services but others are struggling to reach 20Mbps. New technologies such as 10G PON, Wi-Fi 6, 200/400G WDM, OSU-OTN and E2E network slicing are becoming available. Next-generation fixed networks can also benefit from many of the developments made to support 5G mobile, including open interfaces and multi-access edge computing (MEC). The ETSI ISG F5G now has more than 40 members and has already started work on six key areas, including a new architecture and framework to define next-generation fixed networks.

The ETSI ISG F5G initiative is an opportunity for fixed network stakeholders – operators, suppliers and users – to understand the services needed, analyze the current status, and develop strategies and solutions to maximize the ROI from fixed line networks. These developments will enable synergy between and coordination of network infrastructure, virtualization and cloud services across transport, access and customer premises equipment. In all industry verticals, including telcos and enterprises, such strategies and solutions will deliver enhanced quality of experience to users.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— Simon Stanley, Analyst at Large, Heavy Reading

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