Lauren Womack

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With the growing demand for technologies to improve our lives in ways both large (telemedicine and self-driving tractors, for example) and small (smart thermostats, smoothly streaming entertainment experiences, and the like) communications service providers (CSPs) need to deliver fast, seamless service across their networks.

According to the recent report Harnessing the 5G Consumer Potential Study, the worldwide 5G network market could be worth USD 31 trillion by 2030 and CSPs could earn a total of USD 131 billion in direct revenues from 5G-enabled digital services, with almost 40 percent of this revenue coming from enhanced video and immersive media. Obviously, CSPs want to maximize these projected new 5G-based revenue opportunities.

Effective ROI for 5G applications and networks requires CSPs to offer ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (URLLC) and support for enhanced mobile broadband, mission-critical communications, and the massive number of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in use while anticipating their exponential . Industry forecasts predict 3 billion 5G subscriptions by 2025. 

Currently, most 5G networks use a non- architecture linking an LTE core to new radios that support 5G frequency bands, allowing CSPs to leverage 3G and 4G existing investments while gradually rolling out broader 5G capabilities. However, many carriers are also now deploying standalone 5G networks based on a new cloud-native 5G core, allowing them to extend virtualized technologies out to the radio access network (RAN) and distribute cloud-based services out to the edge. “5G standalone represents a paradigm shift, since it is effectively designed to build a network that is cloud-ready, including a new set of functions that are desegregated and adapted to a flexible, service-based architecture.” noted NETSCOUT Associate Vice President of Product Management Paolo Trevisan at the company’s annual conference.

As LightReading’s Karen Brown wrote in 5G Signals New Challenges with Network Monitoring & Performance: “Indeed, assuring network monitoring and control becomes more critical as the industry transitions from the initial non-standalone 5G framework that relied on a 4G network core to a fully 5G standalone scheme. The non-standalone scheme helped to speed adoption of 5G, but the standalone upgrade provides the real payoff for operators, offering edge compute and cloud native capabilities. This lays the groundwork for consumer applications such as low-latency artificial reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) video and cloud gaming, and it supports new and potentially lucrative enterprise applications with faster response times thanks to 5G standalone’s network edge elements. 5G’s ability to blend a wider range of wireless spectrum including cellular, unlicensed and licensed mid-band and millimeter wave (mm Wave) frequencies also gives operators new opportunities to deliver more flexible hybrid fixed and mobile services with expanded reach and data speeds.”

Managing 5G Open Architectures

The complexity of 5G networks presents significant management challenges for CSPs, who are looking for the most effective and cost-efficient way forward. In the past, RANs were built with all the components coming from a single network equipment vendor. This approach has proven to be excessively expensive and does not readily lend itself to the innovation necessary for 5G. Instead, the industry has been pushing and adopting , which ultimately will be required for 5G to reach its maximum potential. Standalone 5G continues to open the network by using virtual networking architectures such as software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), containerization, and 5G network slicing, which allows CSPs to meet service-level agreement (SLA)-specific requirements for connectivity, speed, and capacity. And 5G is fast. How fast? From 10x to a predicted 100x faster than 4G.

The best way to assure service and security across such architectures is to use packet data for real-time visibility across all layers of the network—from physical, to virtual, to cloudified services and automation. This includes all dependencies in an open architecture, with an end-to-end view of all components in both physical and virtual multigenerational networks.

5G Ready Now Powerpoint Slide

Using a software-based approach to gain visibility into a CSP’s network environment and conduct real-time analysis of 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)-based packet data to generate smart data at its point of collection is key to monitoring the health and security between all components. And injecting machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) investigatory routines into this smart data elevates the analytics possible from such IP traffic data into actionable intelligence to guide network operations, engineering and marketing decisions, and provide fuel for the orchestration layer to achieve automation.

Because of the dynamic nature of 5G development and the complexity of these networks, it makes good sense for CSPs to look for a single source of truth to create the holistic visibility necessary for 5G security and service assurance. And rather than relying on in-house efforts, CSPs would be well-served by selecting an independent vendor that offers an affordable software-based approach to end-to-end visibility.

Read the Paper “5G Ready Now! The Fourth Industrial Revolution – 5G/IoT”

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