5G is the fifth-generation of wireless broadband technology and is poised to revolutionize the networking industry by providing an unimaginable level of innovation. The first commercial launches of 5G products and services are rolling out this year and the recent Ericsson Mobility Report estimates that by 2023 there will be 1 billion 5G subscriptions, accounting for approximately 20% of all mobile data traffic.
5G will kick off with enhanced mobile broadband as its first use case. For example, with faster connectivity, it is possible to develop a new radio access network (RAN) for mobile phones. A CloudRAN or Centralized-RAN (C-RAN) can be developed leveraging cloud computing and 5G networking to provide a new centralized radio RAN that is based on cloud computing and helps to resolve capacity and coverage issues. But more on C-RAN later.
We see 5G as being a transformative force, offering not only enhanced mobile broadband, but also enabling a huge volume of machine-to-machine communications based on its ultra-reliable and low-latency network. Which is why Equinix is ready for whatever 5G has to offer.
How 4G and 5G differ…
There are some real enhancements to 5G networks from 4G:
- 4G wireless networks mostly focused on the availability of raw bandwidth, while 5G is aiming to provide pervasive connectivity to lay the groundwork for fast and resilient access to the internet users, whether they are on a top of a skyscraper or down under a subway station.
- 5G networks are not going to be a monolithic network entity and will be built around a combination of technologies: 2G, 3G, LTE, LTE-A, Wi-Fi, M2M, etc. In other words, 5G will be designed to support a variety of applications such as the Internet of Things (IoT), connected wearables, augmented reality and immersive gaming.
5G also enables a number of other technologies and allows service providers to deliver new network-as-a-service offerings:
5G the cloud in IoT
The combination of 5G cellular and cloud technologies will provide substantial richness in capacity, flexibility and functionality to mobile network operator IoT service offerings. 5G and cloud services (centralized and edge computing) will allow carriers to offer competitive services in a manner that non-cellular IoT network providers cannot replicate, such as 5G network access to IoT-based IT technologies and clouds solutions.
Cloud RAN, also called Centralized RAN (C-RAN), is a new network architecture for the next-generation 5G mobile network infrastructure and has attracted a great deal of attention as one possible way to efficiently centralize computational resources:
- In C-RAN, multiple sites are connected to a central data center where all the baseband processing is performed.
- C-RAN has the capacity to carry out the optimization, configuration and adaptation of the network with software control and management through software-defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).
- C-RAN helps to bring down operational costs and improve network security, flexibility and controllability.
Communications Service Provider (CoSP) Cloud
The communications service provider (CoSP) cloud brings the flexibility, scalability and responsiveness associated with the cloud to the entire CoSP value chain, making it easier to develop, launch and provision new services that support 5G networking:
- Cloud architectures are agile and CoSPs can flexibly provision 5G and other networking services where and when they need them.
- Virtualized network functions can sit in the data center, at the edge (close to the customer), or in-between the data center and the edge, depending on the use case, workload needs or customer value.
- Any upgrade in the network, such as going from 4G to 5G, promises to increase the capacity and capability across the network because resources can be flexibly allocated and reallocated in line with demand. As a result, it’s no longer necessary to upgrade every point in the network to meet the expected future peak demand, as when using traditional proprietary hardware devices.
Equinix prepares for 5G data centers
New 5G capabilities can be used by service providers to extend their reach for their enterprise mobile customers. Enterprises can harness wireless-based technologies such as the IoT and provide new services to mobile users. By leveraging a vendor-neutral colocation and interconnection platform, both can seamlessly access rich network and cloud ecosystems that support 5G networking.
For example, on Platform Equinix®, the Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric™ (ECX Fabric™) allows service providers and enterprises to take advantage of 5G mobile networks when accessing private, public, hybrid and multicloud infrastructures, while improving network and application performance over low-latency connections. The ECX Fabric also directly, securely and dynamically connects distributed infrastructure and digital ecosystems globally on Platform Equinix via software-defined interconnection to enable access to network and cloud services wherever our customers are on the fabric.
The Equinix Performance Hub is based on a core set of vendor-agnostic components—a router, firewall, VPN terminator and load balancer—and efficiently deploys IT resources at the edge, closest to 5G mobile users.
As 5G takes the mobile industry by storm, we see our customers using this high-speed mobile technology along with the cloud in new ways that will probably surprise us … but we’ll be ready for it.
For more information, check out our Platform Equinix Vision paper.