5G: What is it, and how will it enable the future for you and your business?
What the heck is 5G? We’ve been hearing so much about it over the past couple of years, about how it is poised to change the way in which we work and play, but what is it really? Now that its rollout has begun in earnest in many parts of the world, it’s all the more important to gain a deeper understanding of the capabilities of this technology, and the way in which it will affect businesses of all kinds.
5G represents a fundamental paradigm shift compared to mobile communication networks of the past. Recognizing the implications of the technology, the potential it engenders, as well as comprehending the details of its technological implementation will go a long way in enabling you to take full advantage of 5G for you and your business.
Unlike previous generational iterations of mobile communication networks, 5G is not all about delivering voice and data to smartphones, even though 5G service to cellular telephone devices is obviously part of it. By the mid to late 2020s, 5G smartphones are expected to compose an exceedingly small, and arguably insignificant part of the 5G ecosystem. 5G will primarily be used to interconnect tens of billions (or more!) of devices through an increasingly ubiquitous network presence to deliver innovative applications and services across all business sectors. With its unprecedented network performance thresholds, 5G will enable many applications that only several years ago would have been considered science fiction.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you, it is not.
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Delivering network connectivity at the performance level expected from 5G will enable a multitude of applications. This includes things like smart cities, smart agriculture, smart supply chains, smart transportation systems, automated and assisted driving, medical healthcare, arts and entertainment applications, and the Internet of Things, to name only a few. But this is not even scratching the surface. Sensors and data collection can be combined with artificial intelligence, business analytics, and statistical engineering platforms to deliver predictive analysis for all kinds of applications, including financial as well as natural disaster plans.
All of these applications are not always readily perceivable and require a deeper level of understanding in order to appreciate their potential.
Technologically, 5G is largely based upon the innovations and strides made in the past, especially those involved with 4G and LTE networks. Notwithstanding their similarities, 5G makes significant advances in both the core network as well as the wireless air interface delivering mobile connectivity.
One of the constructs that describes this functionality in detail is the 5G protocol stack. This protocol stack defines the operation of the technology in detail, and empowers 5G’s innovative capabilities. Understanding its functionality enables technical personnel supporting 5G networks, as well as professionals designing applications to be supported by 5G application, to take advantage of the full potential of the technology.
Similarly, 5G employs a radically different core network, with virtualized network functions (VNFs) running on commercial off the shelf servers. This is a fundamental shift from previous mobile communication networks, which typically employed separate physical standalone devices to deliver these network functions. The primary advantage of VNFs is the instantaneous increase or decrease, or modification of resources to these virtual devices to dynamically adjust their performance based on the current requirements.
A technological examination of 5G would not be complete without mentioning the various rollout strategies available to telcos. Getting that all important 5G icon in the status bar of your mobile phone as fast as possible is of utmost importance to telcos. This can be done quickly using the 5G non-standalone (NSA) architecture, which employs the 5G air interface, but maintains the 4G core network architecture. This makes telco marketing departments happy, but does not deliver the full 5G potential promised by the technology. It is however the most financially viable upgrade path that is taken by most telcos, ensuring early 5G rollout while keeping costs low, and giving telcos time to bring their core networks up to par with the rest of the 5G infrastructure.
Eventually, these NSA implementations will give way to 5G standalone (SA) networks which will deliver the full-fledged 5G feature set, but for the most part, any significant employment of these networks are still several years away.
In order to be able to harness the power of this new and innovative technology, it’s important first to understand what it is and what its potentials are. In our upcoming bootcamps titled 5G: what is it, and how will it enable the future? and 5G Technical Primer, we’ll go over a history of mobile communications, and find out where 5G fits in. We’ll take a look at its capabilities and technical characteristics, and we’ll examine how these will enable applications of all sorts and how these applications are in a position to literally change the world.
We’ll also take a real world look at where we are today as far as 5G rollout goes, what applications have already been deployed, and what innovations are still several years away. In the technical primer bootcamp, we’ll take a deeper dive into the technical aspects of the technology including protocol stacks, network communication, and the wireless air interface.
All in all, we hope to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of 5G and its expected impact on the world in general, and on your business in particular.
Learn more and sign up for our Bootcamp through a Skillsoft Percipio Free Trial.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lazaros Agapidis is a Telecommunications and Networking Specialist with over twenty years of experience. He works primarily with IP networks, and his expertise extends into telecommunications services and infrastructure from both an enterprise and a service provider perspective. In addition to his numerous vendor certifications, Lazaros has a solid online presence as an expert in his field, having worked in both public and private sectors within North America and in Europe. He has enjoyed sharing his practical experiences for over a decade through his thoughtful and engaging telecom and certification training classes.