Mavenir is focused on accelerating software network transformation and redefining network economics for communications service providers (CSPs). It offers an end-to-end product portfolio across every layer of the network infrastructure stack. From 5G application/service layers to packet core and RAN – Mavenir leads the way in evolved, cloud-native networking solutions enabling innovative and secure experiences for end users.
Here, Sanjay Bakaya, Regional Vice President, India & South Asia, Mavenir, talks about 5G network infrastructure, and the challenges associated with it. Excerpts:
V&D: How will 5G networks improve densification over 4G LTE, and what are the benefits ?
Sanjay Bakaya: 5G cellular technologies will provide consumers with data rates up to 10 times higher than 4G/LTE. The architectural requirements of 5G demands low latency for connected devices in time-sensitive areas.
To meet this goal for effective communication, we require higher number of sites to be deployed over a smaller foot-print, but connecting significant amount of devices. By providing larger number of sites with higher throughputs and low-latency communication, we can meet industrial demands for critical applications like mobile robots, video surveillance, in-vehicle infotainment, etc.
V&D: How can operators invest in new equipment that would support spectrum bandwidths, laying fiber optics cables, and help in development of cellular transmission technology?
Sanjay Bakaya: The biggest challenges, which operators are facing, with respect to 5G today, include:
Spectrum availability and network deployment feasibility: Spectrum will remain a critical resource in 5G and its availability and cost will have a major impact on a network operator’s ability to create a robust business case. The move from 4G to 5G will give rise to a large amount of new use cases. Their feasibility will depend heavily on the type and amount of spectrum network operators have or are able to secure in future auctions. That’s going to be a crucial factor in determining the subset of use cases each network will be able to economically support.
Strategy use cases and business model: The operator will have to understand its DNA – i.e. the specific strengths and capabilities it possesses – as an essential step to determining the most relevant strategy, use cases and business model that they can support to accelerate the next generation of network growth. That understanding is also essential to predict the likely financial implications, including the pressures on traditional revenue, opportunities to find new models and the investment required for the business and service strategy.
Device innovation and technology breakthroughs :5G brings some considerable technical challenges that will require innovation and technology evolution. The move to 5G will herald the start of a new post-smartphone era, with a shift to purpose-built services delivered either through the IoT or surrounding the smartphone as part of a whole new world of devices. These will require specific product and technology strategies to support the new use cases they create.
Network deployment approach: Once they’ve decided on a strategy for 5G, operators need to decide what their approach to network deployment needs to be. The deployment model and approach required will look very different depending on the spectrum networks have and the densification and coverage that they need for their target use cases. The use of mmW frequencies will require breakthroughs in network designs and 5G small cells will also require a new approach towards regulation and deployment planning.
Architectural and platform innovation: New architecture and platforms will also be critical to support the deployment and operation of 5G in both the RAN and core network. The choice of these will be largely driven by the concept of virtualization and what level or type of cloud a network is implementing within its core network. Continuing to pursue disruptive technologies will be essential and business success with network slicing will require a new operating model.
Operational complexity: As they deploy their network, the ability to apply intelligence and automation to drive a leaner operational capability will be a crucial factor. Network and IT architectures merging, and end-to-end services-based operations predominating will require a complete transformation of stacks, processes, people and automation.
V&D: Why are some operators opting for low-band 5G spectrum instead of the so-called mmWave technologies?
Sanjay Bakaya: Demand for higher data throughput has been increasing day by day with the current 4G / LTE technology where the operators are still struggling to provide seamless experience on LTE network due to poor radio conditions in some areas. The low-band spectrum has longer wavelengths than spectrum on the higher side, which allows it to be more robust and travel longer distances at the expense of bandwidth.
Due to the efficiency of low-band spectrum to cover a larger segment of devices the operator can deliver the seamless experience to customer to meet the current demand of cellular and IoT use cases at the expense of upgrading the infrastructure for ultra high speed provided by mmWave spectrum that involves huge capex investment and hyper densification requirements.
V&D: It is said despite 5G offering a significant increase in speed and bandwidth, its more limited range will require further infrastructure. How can this be overcome?
Sanjay Bakaya: 5G, by the way, will initially use frequencies between Sub 6Ghz ranging upto 300Ghz for wireless broadband communications and more as the below Sub 6 Ghz frequesncies mainly used by 2G/3G/4G technologies today. The advantage of using such high frequencies is that there is a lot of mmWave bandwidth available for new 5G services.
It is also much easier to develop massive antenna arrays a a reasonable size with higher frequencies. There are trade-offs, however, because the signal penetration and range at 28Ghz or higher gets shorter and more subject to line-of-sight and foliage concerns. For instance, 5G services are at range of upto 1,500 feet (500 meters) in line-of-sight with very large wall penetration losses and generally be targeted for hotspot deployments and not nationwide deployments. Hence, as a next phase the 5G will evolve to below Sub 6Ghz deployments to cover more wider areas and nation-wide coverage.
V&D: How can we have better 5G antennae, that currently handle more users and data, but beam out over shorter distances?
Sanjay Bakaya: One important aspect of 5G is its ability to use mmWave spectrum from Sub 6Ghz and above to 100 Ghz, and eventually higher. This differs from previous cellular technology deployments, in which lower frequencies had significantly better propagation celluar technology deployments, in which lower frequencies had significantly better propagation characteristics than higher frequencies.
5G can address such a wide range of spectrum thanks to massive MIMO, which exploits the fact that a higher frequencies, wavelengths are shorter. At these higher frequencies, antenna elements can be closer to one another, resulting in more antenna elements. The greater number of antenna elements in higher bands enable more tightly focused beams that can compensate for the otherwise poorer propagation of the radio signal.
V&D: How can 5G help industrial cases of ultra low latency applications?
Sanjay Bakaya: A growing number of mission-critical applications have stringent communication performance and reliability requirements. Communications with vehicles, high-speed trains, drones and industrial robots are just a few examples of applications where wireless must meet either high reliability (for example, <10-5 packet drop rate) or low latency (for example, ~1 ms) requirements, or both at the same time. These applications frequently have strong security requirements, too.
To meet all of these requirements, 5G combines URLLC with enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) services under a unified 5G air interface framework. To achieve the 1-millisecond goal, the basic problem that needs to be addressed is the end-to-end network latency.
This is the time period from when, for example, an Internet of Things (IoT) sensor transmits data to the point that processing is complete at the back end of the network, and the subsequent communications are generated by the network in response and received at the sensor. In this process, URLLC shortens by reducing the user plane latency through the communication from application processing at device modem to the application processing in base station modem.
V&D: How crucial will be standards-setting and spectrum allocation for 5G networks? It has not even started in some parts, though!
Sanjay Bakaya: The standard-setting process is important because it will determine not just how 5G networks are built, but also how money flows between participants in the 5G ecosystem. The 5G standards suite will build on existing 4G LTE standards and provide flexible interoperability for the various flavors of 5G with legacy 4G and 3G systems (which will continue to operate for some time, particularly in developing market countries).