Managing the 5G Hype Is Critical to Carriers

Denver -- Big 5G Event -- At this early stage of the 5G era, it's critical for mobile carriers to manage the hype around the next-gen platform among both enterprise customers as well as consumers.

The near future of 5G has, of course, plenty to do with engineering, but it's likewise important to prepare customers for what the technology will be capable of early on and to avoid creating "unrealistic expectations," Patrick Riordan, chairman, president and chief strategy officer of Wisconsin-based Nsight (Cellcom), said here Tuesday during a panel discussion focused on the next steps for 5G. "We need to tell the story better on what 5G is."

As labels like "5Ge" enter the marketplace, they can create a "placebo effect" that ends up falling short of what "true 5G" will be capable of, Riordan said.

For its part, Cellcom has been spent the last two years preparing to move from 4G to 5G, he said, noting that purchasing and building fiber is "critical" to that effort, and that for a company like his, which is focused on rural areas, it's also important to "work hand-in-hand' with suppliers on the deployment.

Sprint, meanwhile, is amid an initial 5G rollout that will hit nine markets before the end of the first half of 2019, Mishka Dehghan, vice president of 5G deployment at Sprint, said. She estimated that this early batch of work will enable Sprint to cover about 1,000 square miles with 5G. At this stage, Sprint has some proof-of-concepts announced related to 5G-powered smart city applications. "There is definitely a ton of interest in cities from across the country about what 5G can bring to their communities," Dehghan said.

For Cisco Systems, the next big step on the 5G path is to work with carriers on the deployment of 5G radios with a 4G core. That will follow with the early positioning of a new 5G core architecture and more work on how this core-level migration will be completed, Ian Campbell, CTO service provider mobility and automation at Cisco Systems, said.

5G "is a major re-architecture of the core," he said, citing the move toward network-slicing and installing more compute at the network's edge. Some initial introductions of a 5G core are expected to start next year.

Network virtualization will also be paramount, as it will help to drive costs out of the network and put carriers in a better position to create a profitable 5G business. "There will be no 5G without virtualization," John Baker, SVP of business development at Mavenir, said. He said many carriers he speaks to are still struggling with how to make a 5G business plan work.

He also estimates that the computer industry is some 15 years behind the mobile industry concerning deployment technologies, and that could greatly affect the deployment of effective edge computing architectures needed by 5G. To the computer industry, "everything is 19-inch rack-based," he said, believing that this will open up opportunities for others to rethink and develop processing technologies that are more optimized for the edge.

5G will support faster speeds, but carriers will also need to ensure that their mobile networks can keep up and don't become the bottlenecks. The industry is still data center focused, so more work needs to be done to enable redundancy and harden the edge of the new 5G network, Oded Sagee, senior director of embedded and integrated solutions at Western Digital, said.

Panelists also noted that 5G networks, and the low-latencies and abundant capacities they will support, will be deployed to reach small pockets and target specific early cases early on.

"It can be done one enterprise at a time," Baker said.

"It could be as small as a manufacturing plant," Riordan added, reiterating that the industry must avoid the "super hype" building on 5G and the perception that it will suddenly become available everywhere. "It's not going to happen that way."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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