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Preparing for the 5G facelift

Earlier this year The Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance (opens in new tab) set the timer on a 5G countdown, stating that in order to meet business and consumer needs, it must be rolled out and active by 2020. Although we have seen some 5G initiatives being trialed in markets with mature networks - such as South Korea and Japan, it’s still very early days for 5G in Europe.

The ITU (opens in new tab) only expects to set out its initial vision statement and standards in early 2016, and in many parts of Europe most operators have barely even scratched the surface with 4G. Mobile operators are experiencing patchy geographical coverage and still focusing efforts on driving an increase in subscribers.

Powering 100 to 1,000 times the speed of 4G, there is set to be a long menu of benefits that 5G will unlock for businesses. The hottest topic of all is how 5G will expand the opportunities for enabling the Internet of Things (IoT) smart cities. But what specifically will this mean for enterprises?

The office will become hyper-connected, offering high bandwidth data networks. Ubiquitous 4K video streaming, multi-conferences and instant high speed transfers will be within reach. For the existing 4G wireless cloud-based offices, these will become super-charged, with higher storage capacities and shorter latencies.

Much like the connected home, offices will become much smarter and the workforce itself will become further connected with devices ranging from mobile phones, tablets and wearables, to a new generation of connected medical devices. Even how we use vehicles will face a radical transformation. Connected and driverless cars and buses will be introduced to help reduce the number of accidents, lower costs and counter emissions.

Take a regular office block; the levels of connectivity will need to funnel three distinct areas, for example:

  • Connectivity – 10,000 intelligent M2M sensors and remote controls could be used within the building – meaning that support is needed for a high volume of devices, but the application only needs to run at low speeds with no mobility requirements.
  • Mobility – you could have 2,000 smartphone users within the building – all of which will demand high speeds and full mobility at any one time.
  • Operations – say that 1,000 employees park their connected car in the basement – again to ensure they are effective, full mobility and speed is essential at all times.

This growing diversity of connected devices means that networks will need to have the strength to effectively handle a very high number of connections – whilst also managing both low and high bandwidth intensive applications. The deployment of SDN and NFV will be essential for the successful roll-out of 5G, creating the highly flexible network infrastructure needed to support these requirements.

It will also require a different approach for improving indoor coverage. Today more than 80 per cent of traffic is indoors, but buildings still rely on outdoor radio nodes for connectivity – an approach that tends to lead to poor indoor coverage. That’s where small cells will come in (opens in new tab) by eliminating this ‘coverage gap’ and enabling us to connect people & things – and the new applications they depend on – both indoors and outdoors.

That said, in order to achieve wide-scale adoption, we are still seeing some barriers to outdoor and indoor deployment. As illustrated by analysts, access to sites, and backhaul are the top main challenges for operators. Generally Mobile Operators who own the licensed spectrum do not want to pay for new investments into specific buildings, unless there is a major client paying for it.

We need a disruptive model to make investment attractive, such as corporate landlords wanting to entice new business occupants that will lead the charge for implementing better ‘coverage’. Having helped connect more than 23,000 enterprise offices, large public venues and data centers, Colt understands that delivering mobile enterprise services (or Value Added Services) is more than just a question of coverage or availability.

Working early with the right trusted partners who understand your business inside out, and that have the skills and experience dealing with civil requirements, network services specialists and partners will ensure that you are one step ahead of the competition in the approach to this new technological era.

Aaron Partouche, development director, Colt Technology Services (opens in new tab)