5G Transport – Where Do We Start?

With initial 5G launches looming ever nearer, network operators are running out of time to make critical decisions about the transport network infrastructure that will underpin the low-latency, bandwidth-hungry services operators are hoping to launch and monetize.

And there's no shortage of decisions to be made, notes Heavy Reading principal analyst Sterling Perrin, who is hosting a 5G & Optical Transport workshop with executives from BT, ECI Telecom, Google and Orange on June 26 prior to the NGON & DCI Europe event in Nice, France (June 26-28).

"There's so much the operators need to consider and decide -- there are a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered," he notes. Some of the key debating points for all operators, and their partners and suppliers, include:

  • Optical or microwave in 5G access/aggregation networks? Optics is the go-to option to deliver the bandwidth and latency needed for 5G, but it's clear that microwave technology is going to play a role in 5G transport networks too. How, where and why will microwave be the most suitable option?

  • Killer apps? Which applications/services will emerge as operators introduce 5G capabilities and which will put the most strain on the transport networks in a 5G environment? The strain isn't limited to bandwidth and latency either, notes Perrin -- the capex strain of building the most appropriate transport infrastructure will also weigh heavy on operator shoulders.

  • What role will packet technology play in 5G? Will packet networking technology be able to take some of the strain and in what instances might that be appropriate, given the expected latency requirements of emerging applications?

  • When will 5G transport networks need to be deployed? Operators will need to plan and invest in their transport networks ahead of their 5G service launches, right? RIGHT?

  • Who will supply fronthaul transport technology to the operators? Will the RAN vendors deliver a complete package of baseband, radio head and fronthaul transport? Or will there be a role for best-of-breed optical suppliers that will be deployed alongside the kit from the radio access network suppliers? (This is going to be a very tasty discussion...)

    These are just a few of the many questions that need to be answered and, says Perrin, there's little sign so far of any consensus about pretty much anything. Maybe after June 26 we'll have a few answers -- though very likely the list of questions stacking up for the operator transport network teams will be just that bit longer.

    I'm looking forward to the workshop to find out what Perrin and his fellow operator and vendor speakers have to say.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

  • RituGupta 10/17/2018 | 9:39:17 PM
    Re: Regional Differences in 5G technology, I really think that things are getting a little bit out of hand. I mean, I can understand that it's important to work on what infrastructure we have if we want to be competitive, and the more efficient the communication channels are, the better it is for the economy to improve. The problem lies with adapting the new framework - isn't there a lot of changes in the infrastructure to begin with before we can start enjoying the rewards of the new system?
    kq4ym 7/9/2018 | 8:23:02 AM
    Re: Regional Differences The many variables for delivery will make for some interesting guesses and choices down the road, not the least as mentioned will be the antenna siting and maintenance issues for small cells and how government zoning or regulations may affect where they go and how effective they might turn out using higher frequencies with inherent shorter radio transmission distances.
    momar68 6/27/2018 | 11:34:11 AM
    T-SDN real challenges and business cases! While extending the SDN to transport layer is interesting conceptually. It impose significant challenges to vendors and operators while at the same time create some potentials.

    Seems to me it is just a buzz word these days to be in the news and show innovation by optical vendors rather than a real monetized used case.

    brooks7 6/25/2018 | 4:57:54 PM
    Re: Microwave has lower latency than fibre This does make a couple of assumptions:


    1 - That only signal amplifiers are required and not actual layer 2 or higher retransmission.

    2 - That the modulation schemes have the same group delay or encoding delay and that these don't actually dominate the transmission delay.


    petercf 6/25/2018 | 4:31:26 PM
    Re: Regional Differences Sterling,


    You are right and the discussions are centering around a set of characteristics that are not only country dependent by also operator dependent.

    E.g. do you deploy C-RAn with 24Gbps dark fibre with gNode base station hotels or small cells. Do you deploy small cells or mid-band macro's with MIMO or perhaps just 8T/8R - that's a spectral efficiency play.

    Finally there are a lot of challenges with cell sites and getting extra antenna on them cost effecttively.
    Duh! 6/25/2018 | 3:35:33 PM
    Re: Microwave has lower latency than fibre The speed of light in free space is greater than the speed of light in glass. For G.652 fiber, it is 204,331,835 m/s versus 299,792,458 m/s in a vacuum. The difference between air and vacuum is negligible. I understand that point-to-point microwave links from Chicago to New York have been built for the traders.
    Sterling Perrin 6/25/2018 | 3:01:47 PM
    Re: Microwave has lower latency than fibre I have not heard the argument yet that microwave latency is lower than fiber. Almost all of the discussion has been around 1. arguing that microwave is reliable enoough and 2. microwave can provide the needed BW.

    Is microwave exceeding the speed of light??
    petercf 6/21/2018 | 6:38:18 PM
    Microwave has lower latency than fibre Optical or microwave in 5G access/aggregation networks? Optics is the go-to option to deliver the bandwidth and latency needed for 5G - but microwave offers lower latency than fibre?
    Sterling Perrin 6/21/2018 | 4:55:53 PM
    Regional Differences Thanks Ray.

    I'm also very interested in undertsanding regional differences in how operators are planning for 5G transport. Verizon, for example, makes a strong case for C-RAN and NG-PON2. But are European operators interested in the same? Some of the early data we are getting indicates a wide range of preferences in architectures and technologies for 5G. But the services/applications story doesn't seem so varied by operators and region. If applications goals are similar, what drives the technology choice differences we are starting to see? Hopefully, we'll all get some insights next week!



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