THE RISE OF 5G AND ITS IMPACT ON SOFTWARE

Key 5G features and new use cases call for modernization of telecom software

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Consumer and enterprise markets are shaken by the rise of the 5G technology. It brings higher data transfer speeds and enables new use cases in IoT, manufacturing and extended reality. In this blogpost, we sum up some of the recent developments in 5G and how they relate to various business applications.

Remarkable growth

2023 ended with a total of around 1.6 billion 5G mobile subscriptions globally. This is an increase of 607 million from 2022 to 2023, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report. 5G is the fastest growing type of mobile subscription for the period. The report predicts this rise to continue with 23% CAGR until 2029.

Globally, approximately 280 service providers have initiated commercial 5G services, with over 40 having deployed or introduced 5G standalone networks (more on the standalone versus non-standalone approach in the following paragraphs). The predominant 5G services include enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Fixed Wireless Access (FWA), gaming, and various services based on augmented reality and virtual reality. Naturally, mobile network data traffic also grew. Ericsson reports a 33 percent increase from Q3 2022 to Q3 2023.

How come 5G penetration is beating the odds against economic uncertainty and geopolitical tensions? The answer lies in its inherent features.

Key capabilities of 5G

Unlike its predecessors 2G, 3G and 4G, the 5G technology possesses some unique characteristics. One such differentiator is beamforming, i.e. network antennas are focusing the radio signal right where it’s needed accounting for peaking demand and/or user density. This is in stark contrast to the previous wireless data transmission standards where the signal arrives equally everywhere (like switching on a light bulb). Below are some of the key features of 5G as described in the Cellnex Telecom white paper 5G Technology Digital Transformation of Society:

  • Speed. Data transfer rates can reach 10 Gbps. This is the so-called enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB).
  • Global coverage. Providing network services even in isolated areas is possible thanks to beamforming that enables the signal to follow users.
  • Dense connectivity. 5G allows to interconnect up to one million devices per km2
  • Very Low Latency. Application response time is up to 1ms.
  • Energy efficiency. Up to 10 years’ battery life on IoT devices.
  • High availability at 99.999% of the time.

Use cases go well beyond the everyday end-consumer needs. European R&D projects seek commercialization of 5G with mobile private networks (MPNs) for industrial and shop floor connectivity as well as edge services. Plans include seamless transition from one antenna to another without blind spots. At the same time, the system should maintain network throughput at the necessary level to avoid limiting the factory equipment. These are all prerequisites for next-generation manufacturing.

Network standards matter

Before discussing how all this relates to software products and services, an important note on the infrastructure. Most mobile operators first began rolling out 5G non-standalone (NSA) networks. It means delivery of some 5G capabilities like higher speeds using the existing 4G infrastructure. This facilitates the better use of the available LTE base.

In contrast, standalone (SA) 5G comes with a different network approach called 5G Core, a cloud-native architecture primed for use cases requiring low network latency. It means software applications can be heavier and rely on improved connectivity. More powerful than 4G, 5G SA allows for network slicing, i.e. establishing several logical networks on top of a shared physical asset base. This way network operators can simultaneously serve occasional visitors to a particular corner of the network as well as traffic-heavy local consumers. The latter could be, for instance, people live-streaming sports events from their phones or end users watching 4K video content on some of the popular video apps.

5G implications for telecom software

Network services providers should take a closer look at how 5G affects their software. Deploying network slicing, for example, requires adjustments to both operations support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS). These must be adaptable and swift to facilitate dynamic slicing. Essential functions such as setup, supervision, invoicing, and ensuring service quality need to be in harmony with the fluid characteristics of slicing offerings. Effectively overseeing and upkeeping network slices is vital for providing a smooth experience to customers.

New software is already being developed to meet new technology demands of communication services providers. ITIDO engineers, for example, participate in the creation of a new software solution catering for the service inventory view of telecoms that rely on Nokia products. Based on Java and the super-fast Neo4j database, this is a cloud-native solution entirely geared towards use cases in 5G environments.

If you find your journey into modern network technology a challenging experience, drop us a line to help you master the software side of 5G.

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