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Optical/IP Networks

December in New York: Time to talk 5G transport

Among the 5G discussions and public debates, the role of the transport network often gets short shrift. But we know that 5G requires a tight melding of 5G radio and transport technologies far beyond any previous mobile generations. And a recurring theme in discussions with network operators is that the transport network has to be ahead of the RAN evolution. Using the old Wayne Gretzky adage, transport teams have to "skate to where the puck is going to be." Being Wayne Gretzky is not easy.

For these reasons, Heavy Reading colleague Gabriel Brown and I conceived the 5G Transport Network & Strategies event focused on bringing radio and transport teams together to hammer out the 5G evolution specifically for the transport network. The event debuted in New York City in 2017, and after a two-year run as a virtual event, the event returns in-person to its home in New York on December 6th. Gabriel and I are thrilled to be back.

Interestingly, some of the themes we covered in 2017 still apply, such as transporting eCPRI, centralized RAN and fronthaul, and timing and synchronization in the 5G network. But the major difference is that the discussion has evolved from tutorials of "what is it?" to "how do I practically implement this in my specific network?" I expect we will have a lot of debate on the pros and cons of radio over Ethernet versus eCPRI conversion and addressing end-to-end timing distribution through both internal and wholesale networks. These are important details within the topics.

5G transport has also evolved into completely new areas. Disaggregated and white box routers are now a commercial reality, and operators need to understand how they can reap the benefits while maintaining their highest performance functions (such as segment routing for network slicing). Pluggable optics for 5G networks will also be a key topic – from the radio all the way through access and aggregation, including coherent pluggable optics.

Last but not least, we will discuss the future of cloud metro and the 5G network edge. Here, "blue sky" visions of the future are abundant, but transport teams have a particularly difficult challenge as they try to skate to where the puck is going.

As always with Light Reading events, we enlist the help of leading network operators to guide and share their views on what's needed. This year, we will be joined by executives from Verizon, US Cellular, American Tower, ZenFi (now part of BAI) and others. Major transport vendors will also weigh in. These include Ciena, Ericsson, Fujitsu and Juniper.

Heading into 2023, there are a lot of questions and a great deal to be decided on regarding the transport network. We hope you will be able to join us in New York on December 6th and contribute to this essential dialogue.

For anyone interested in the future of open RAN, the event is colocated with Open RAN North America on December 7-8.

This column is sponsored by Light Reading Events/Informa Tech, LLC.

— Sterling Perrin, Senior Principal Analyst, Heavy Reading

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