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5G: are we trying to run before we can walk?

 

 

If service providers aren’t prepared they could face not being able to carry the huge levels of traffic required by the host application to any and all of its possible destinations.

Noise about 5G is certainly getting louder, with predictions that by 2025 the number of worldwide connections is set to hit 1.4 billion. As demand for services and applications increase, service providers are struggling to keep apace – the industry has yet to fully implement a working and reliable 4G experience for users – which begs the question: how can operators monetize 5G sufficiently and provide the end user with the customer experience they demand?

The explosion of mobile data over the past 5 years has taken the overall global figure to around 3.7 exabytes per month. In 2015 alone, mobile data increased by 74 per cent. The growth of streaming services, such as Netflix, and consumer’s growing use of apps – all underpinned by the expectation of having a high-speed data connection at all times – is behind this demand. Consumers now expect to be ‘connected’ and the proliferation of multiple connected devices including self-driving cars and delivery drones are driving this trend, putting pressure on service providers to take the lead in the race for 5G.

Similarly, 5G’s support of IoT is another key driving factor for its high demand; after all, Gartner estimates that the amount of connected IoT devices will reach 26 billion by 2020. From wearables to the internet connected things, such as smart meters, it is hoped that 5G networks will be faster but also a lot smarter, enabling them to cope with the increase in user demand.  Three claims that it is ready to implement an overhaul of its network, which is likely to cost hundreds of millions of pounds per year over several years, to meet the demand for data as it prepares for 5G to be introduced. 

Despite this data ‘demand’, there is still work to do in identifying the right business models and revenue opportunities to monetise 5G roll out. With 5G theoretically 40 times faster than the hypothetical limit of 4G, it will take a great deal of expensive upgrading of the current infrastructure to fulfil its claims. Implementation of 5G will be vast and although progress has already been made, making roll out a reality by 2020 presents immediate infrastructure challenges to the industry.

It is evident that the infrastructure overhaul will be huge – and expensive. The 5G roll out will require the current mobile networks to be more wired and the applications running on 5G need not just high bandwidth but low latency.  Similarly, service providers must ensure have the correct protocols in place to unlock the potential of 5G.  They will need to ensure they have an effective Stream Control Transmission Protocol (SCTP) solution in place for Diameter signaling. As implementations begin to roll out, the growth of Diameter will continue to accelerate so the need for a good transport layer should be a priority. If service providers aren’t prepared they could face not being able to carry the huge levels of traffic required by the host application to any and all of its possible destinations.

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