Next week in New York Light Reading will hold its first event dedicated to the 5G transport network -- a critically important topic that flies under the radar in the trade media and executive presentations, but which is fundamental to delivering 5G services.
The intent is to investigate the key issues facing operators as they seek to connect radios, cell sites, controllers and edge data centers to services, content and applications. At face value, the requirements are pretty simple: more capacity, lower latency, lower packet loss, and extremely accurate synchronization. And all at a much lower cost-per-bit than today's Carrier Ethernet services. The technical design and implementation, obviously, is much harder.
The half-day event -- 5G Transport & Networking Strategies -- is a stake in the ground for what we at Heavy Reading and Light Reading think will be one of the most important networking stories of the next ten years, drawing together access, the distributed cloud and advanced services. I will be co-hosting the event with Heavy Reading Principal Analyst Sterling Perrin. You can register here.
The workshop-style sessions will cover four critical areas:
- 5G services -- Investment in a new generation network is ultimately about the value it delivers to customers. More than any prior generation, 5G is services-led in the sense that application performance requirements are driving standardization, design and implementation of the new network. Interestingly, 5G can leverage advances already made by today's state-of-the-art software-defined networking (SDN) to deliver services. Micro-segmentation, for example, maps directly to the 5G network slice concept.
- The new RAN architecture -- The specification of the central unit (CU) and distributed unit (DU) in 5G in effect formalizes the Cloud RAN architecture. In addition to the classic RF over optical fronthaul and IP backhaul, 5G looks set to specify two new functional splits: a higher-layer split at the PDCP/Layer 3 that will run over packet transport and a lower-layer split (at Layer 1.5) that can run over eCPRI over optical. Fronthaul, and the related "crosshaul," between radio sites and controllers is, therefore, at the heart of the 5G transport discussion.
- Mapping 5G to edge data centers -- In a Cloud RAN architecture the radio controller is deployed at a hub location -- typically a redesigned central office or basestation hotel type facility. At the same time, to meet low-latency targets, operators are looking to distribute network functionality, content and application logic to the edge. The scene is set, then, to combine these trends into a new distributed service provider network architecture. 5G adds another dimension to edge data center networking designs already underway.
- Transport technologies -- To make all this possible requires connectivity, the event will, of course, focus on transport. Predominantly we expect optical -- dark fiber, active and passive WDM, NG-PON, Carrier Ethernet, and so on -- to be used, but also cable DOCSIS and wireless over high capacity microwave and perhaps free space optics, can play role. In time, even self-back-hauled radio designs may be viable. (See Building the 5G Transport Network.)
As ever with 3GPP, transport is not specified for 5G, but is merely assumed to exist. In practice, of course, it is fundamental to the architecture, to the performance of the 5G radio itself, and to delivery of services to customers. Join us in New York for this inaugural 5G Transport & Networking Strategies event.
Hope to see you there.
— Gabriel Brown, Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading