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5G Wireless: Is Your IT Network Ready for the 5G Transition?

5G wireless is the subject of part 2 in our series of Where do You see Network Convergence and Internet of Things( IoT) Affecting your Business in the Next 2-4 Years? In part 1, we examined how LED PoE Lighting was one of the three areas to impact enterprise structured cabling infrastructures. To thoroughly address 5G, we’ll be discussing “In-Building Wireless” (IBW) and “Cellular Enhancement” planning—which are crucial considerations with the pending development of 5G technologies and the success of your smooth 5G network transition. We will also cover what network infrastructure changes you can make now to further facilitate 5G readiness.

5G is coming and the effects of the way people and business will communicate are going to a whole new level” – Lori Garland – Commscope

Cisco’s white paper, Laying the Foundation for New Technologies, Use Cases, and Business Models, illustrates the time frame and 5G’s new capabilities and features that can take enterprise networks to new heights of efficiencies and seemingly unlimited possibilities.

 

However, ISPs and carriers are moving at an unrelenting and rapid pace. Verizon expects “some level of commercial deployment” of 5G to begin in 2018, much earlier than the 2020 5G standard adoption date. Intel is now continuing its 5G tests, having had much success with deploying an IoT-enabled 5G commercial network infrastructure at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Other carriers, such as AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile, already shared their aggressive 5G rollout plans at the 2018 Mobile World Congress earlier this year.

It’s important to realize that 5G is not another 3G to 4G jump in speed. Rather, it is part of the 4th Industrial Revolution, enabling and incorporating complex technologies, such as network convergence and IoT, which require careful planning and design for both legacy and new building applications. For greenfield business enterprise buildings, for example, the design-build of the 5G cabling infrastructure, IT converged network, virtualization, and the most robust wireless network, needs to be a unified mission between the design-build company, architect, contractor, IT department, and operations.

Why the architect and contractor? Cisco and many industry analysts uphold that 80% of cellular traffic now occurs indoors, where the outdoor network has difficulty reaching.

When you combine this growing usage trend with the introduction of more environmentally friendly construction material, such as E-Glass, which acts as an impenetrable barrier for cellular signals, we have a perfect storm of in-building mobility demand within an antagonistic environment. Therefore, In-Building Wireless and Cellular Enhancement, as well as other key infrastructure requirements to support the specific goals of the enterprise, need to be planned prior to construction. Playing catch-up after building construction can lead to significant opportunity losses and cost savings, as 5G needs to be weaved within an optimal IoT and converged network infrastructure. The next section briefly describes some of the important technologies and use cases to consider for your 5G planning and evolving IT network.

The Wireless Industry has Banded Around Four Primary Technology Use Cases for 5G:

(1) Enhanced Mobile BroadbandThus far, 5G proposes to provide 10 to 100 x the number of connected devices, 90% reduction in network energy and 1,000 x the bandwidth capacity of 4G with just 1millisecond (ms) or less of latency, while delivering up to 10Gbit throughputs per user. According to TechTarget’s article, New 5G wireless technology trials spark enterprise interest, in which Will Townsend of Moor Insights & Strategy is quoted, current 4G and 4GLTE mobile devices can exchange data from 100 Mbps up to 1Gbps. With 5G’s technology promise of peak speeds up to 10 Gbps, “that kind of massive improvement in speed over 4G is the key to unlocking the advantages of 5G wireless technology.”

5G also promises much lower latency—less than 5ms with the ultimate promise of 1ms or less. Though latency reports vary, many disclose that 3G response times are typically around 120ms. 4G’s latency is typically half of 3G, between 15 and 60ms, with an average 45ms.  For the user, 5G’s 1ms latency is a completely imperceptible response time!

Large venues, like stadiums and airports, may be some of the first places 5G networks are implemented. However, with customers and employees demanding access to new and better technologies, colleges/universities, healthcare facilities, industrial and energy enterprises, large corporate campuses and others spanning virtually every vertical industry will not be far behind. It cannot be overemphasized that companies upgrading their existing networks and those constructing new buildings should plan now to support not only today’s mobile demand, but also deploy the network infrastructure to support 5G, which is only a few years away.

(2) Internet of Things (IoT)—Gartner predicts there will be more than 20 billion “things” for the IoT by 2020; everything from applications that allow wireless control and monitoring of lighting, HVAC, and security surveillance to “smart city” applications that monitor traffic, sprinklers, lighting and other aspects of city operations. CommScope anticipates that one outcome of 5G will be to deliver 1,000 times more bandwidth than 4G in any given area, and that the location density of 5G cell sites will be five times that of 4G. 5G networks are being designed to support a diverse set of IoT use cases by implementing a configurable, virtualized core that will be radio technology agnostic.

Some forward-thinking enterprises starting to prepare for 5G wireless technology, according to TechTarget’s interview with Townsend, “are appointing C-suite leaders and other IT managers to look at the internet of things and other potential applications that can take advantage of 5G capabilities.” “Having someone focus on the technology … right now is the best way to prepare.”

(3) High-reliability, Low-latency Networks— For industries, such as financial services, energy/utilities, and healthcare that require low latency and high reliable throughput, there are entirely new and exciting possibilities. For healthcare facilities, telemedicine and life-saving remote surgery using virtualization are just a few examples of how IP and IoT enabled 5G technologies are set to improve our daily lives.

Much publicized in the media are other potential applications including self-driving cars and drones in which collision avoidance systems will require one-millisecond latency. It’s unclear how much a self-driving car will rely on the network versus on-board processing, but navigation and remote diagnostics will certainly rely on the network. Self-driving vehicles, such as forklifts, can improve productivity and cost savings in industries such as maritime ports of entry, manufacturing, and warehousing. On the human level, this self- driving, self-navigation technology can also bring new freedom and independence for the handicapped. And the use cases and innovative ways to use 5G for enhancing the customer and internal efficiencies for the enterprise goes on and on, limited only by the imagination.

(4) Network Slicing—Of all 5G attributes, many IT managers are most enthusiastic about network slicing. For enterprises, network slicing allows IT to run multiple logical networks as virtually independent business operations on one common physical infrastructure. Slicing empowers IT by having each slice represent an independent virtualized end-to-end network that can be controlled, provisioned, and prioritized by different performance requirements, such as reliability, latency and throughput. Let’s consider an enterprise’s IoT and mobile broadband applications. For IoT, there would typically be a large number of devices, but each device may require low throughput, whereas mobile broadband may utilize less devices, but each device may be transmitting or receiving high bandwidth content, such as HD video and large download requests.

Keeping in mind that each slice serves a different business service or function that has different transmission requirements, let’s consider a healthcare example. Eventually there could be possible slices for telemedicine, telesurgery, and certain emergency department services that require real time mission-critical high-reliability, low-latency and high-throughput, while other slices, such as more routine staff workstation functions, could be prioritized and provisioned by IT with higher latency and less throughput.

What Enterprises and IT Should Do Now to be 5G-Ready

It’s clear that 5G and its related technologies of IoT and network convergence is redefining today’s traditional networks, taking the enterprise network to new heights in productivity, cost savings, efficiency, and customer/tenant satisfaction. If you’re a building owner of a multi-tenant building, for example, and you’re not positioned to provide your tenants with the latest IoT, converged network, and latest wireless advancements, they’ll go to a smart building that does. Plus, that smart building would have implemented energy saving and other IoT-converged network, and 5G wireless technologies for low total cost of ownership, as well as Capex and Opex savings for superior building management. The exciting aspect of IoT, network convergence, and 5G is that you can design, customize, and build the perfect network for your needs. You are no longer limited with cookie-cutter design-builds.

Ultimately, the 5G vision will be realized in the converged network in three fundamental ways: through densification, virtualization and optimization of the network.

At minimum, here is what you should do now to be 5G and IoT ready:

  • Upgrade or build a highly scalable future-proofed campus-wide backbone for the high-speed and significantly high-bandwidth demands of IoT, convergence, and 5G.
  • Begin converging your network now; consider a PON-POL (Passive Optical LAN) infrastructure that facilitates convergence
  • Optimize and secure your existing data center or new-build for the influx of potentially massive IoT-related data traffic
  • Implement PoE and LED lighting today for significant in-building energy cost savings (see Blog 1)
  • Begin virtualizing your network, taking advantage of cloud-based technologies, since 5G incorporates Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) for network slicing and other operations
  • Build the most robust, zero-downtime, wireless infrastructure now

Bullets 1 to 5 are self-explanatory. In the next section, we address the crucial topic of preparing your in-building wireless infrastructure for 5G, including innovative cellular enhancement solutions.   Ultimately, the 5G vision will be realized in the converged network in three fundamental ways: through densification, virtualization and optimization of the network.

Solutions for the Most Robust In-Building Wireless System for 5G Readiness

Cellular telephony was originally conceived as an outdoor technology, with base stations and antenna equipment designed to operate at high power over long distances. Earlier in this 5G discussion, we mentioned that 80% of cellular traffic now occurs indoors, and often the existing outdoor network is inadequate for perfect reach. With IoT and 5G, the amount of traffic originating indoors is positioned to grow even further; possibly exponentially depending on the specific enterprise’s goals and requirements. Therefore, to usher in 5G successfully your current wireless network needs to be the strongest possible, especially since Wi-Fi and 5G will probably coexist for an extended period of time.

Therefore, it is essential that you continue to optimize your current wireless network, upgrading to upcoming IEEE 802.11ay standards. Moreover, it is vital that your wireless network maintains strong signal integrity amid the many impenetrable barriers, such as concrete, metal, and new environmentally friendly building construction materials (e.g., E-Glass), as well as the natural terrain surrounding the building(s) like mountains, utility towers, highway overpasses etc.

It is becoming increasingly important for businesses to recognize the need for IBW coverage and to also make the best decision with regards to what type of solution they should deploy. Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) and Small Cells are two technologies designed to supplement the macro network with indoor coverage. Typically, active DAS distributes standard base station signals across a network of antennas spread throughout the coverage area. Small cells, on the other hand, are self-contained devices that include low power miniature base stations, radios and antennas that can likewise be deployed around a building where coverage is needed, but also allows for some physical integration with the building network / Wi-Fi.

Lastly, Premiere offers a third solution when IBW deployment cost may be prohibitive, or where a building owner does not require the same level of service delivery quality. These smaller coverage installations can usually be supported with a simple Cellular Booster system, and do not require the same level of RF design or Carrier Coordination for a much quicker installation period.

In conclusion, Premiere Communications & Consulting, Inc. considers “In-Building Wireless” (IBW) and “Cellular Enhancement” to be crucial for the smooth transition to 5G within the converged network and IoT-enabled infrastructure that will affect many businesses over the next 2-4 years.  It is important for our clients to understand their internal cellular requirements and their specific environment so that the proper solution can be evaluated and deployed. Also, Premiere Communications & Consulting sees the need for deploying the most robust in building wireless system on the most robust physical layer infrastructure, so that as 5G takes hold our clients can leverage all the future uses, as well as maximize the existing flow of data…immediately… today!

Mobility is here to stay. And as the next generation of transmission, such as 5G, is adopted, we want to help our clients understand how to make the best decision today in order to support their business processes tomorrow.  Please contact us , so together we can plan, design, build and maintain your long-life IoT and 5G-ready network. For new-builds and greenfield deployments, we welcome the opportunity to work with your architects and contractors, pre-construction, in order to design and build your most efficient and reliable IoT and 5G converged network.

 

 

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Matt Knowles

Matt Knowles