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5G mobile networks

Creating future-forward networks that can evolve for the next generation of mobile network technology.

Faster services, lower latency, increased availability, and improved reliability. That’s the 5G promise to existing mobile communications. The big question is, how can network operators upgrade their infrastructure and deliver on the promise while maintaining profitability?

The Big 3

No. 1

Architecting a Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) comprising different cell types, including WiFi cells, small cells, and venerable macro cells. The intelligent and strategic use of these cell types will result in a highly flexible 5G mobile network architecture optimized for significant, overall performance gains.

No. 2

Upgrading network infrastructure, including virtualizing the Radio Access Network (RAN) and Evolved Packet Core (EPC), and upgrading the radio and air interfaces, and segments interconnecting air- to land-based/mobile backhaul network.

No. 3

Leveraging Ethernet rates from 1GbE to 100GbE (and 400GbE within a few years), where the chosen rate will depend upon projected traffic demands of each WiFi, small, or macro cell or the core node that aggregates traffic from a bunch of different cell sites.

What’s next

It’s important to lay fiber now to small and macro cells, wherever and whenever possible, if these cell sites are to be upgraded to 5G in the coming years. The copper- and air-based mobile backhaul options simply cannot scale to the immense amount of backhaul traffic that’ll be generated by a 5G RAN. Fortunately, 5G is intended as an overlay to existing 3G/4G mobile networks, meaning that for existing cells that won’t need to be upgraded to 5G in the future, using air- and copper-based backhaul options are viable options for today, and tomorrow.

The future of 5G will change everything in terms of network performance and enabling an incredible amount of new services, although exactly what the new 5G network will actually look like is still up for debate. Some of the innovative new services that will eventually ride over the 5G network of tomorrow have not even been dreamed up yet.

Industry insights

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) recently issued its “Trends in Telecommunication Reform 2016” report, which confirms ongoing capital investments related to fiber infrastructure that’s expected to reach a staggering $144.2B between 2014 and 2019. One of the primary drivers for this immense capital investment into fiber infrastructure deployments comes out of thin air, in the form of tomorrow’s 5G radios.

Ciena Insights

5G mobile networks will significantly affect both the wireless and wireline side of the global network infrastructure, as airborne bits jump to and from terrestrial wireline networks. The main aspirational performance goals of 5G—listed below—are heavily predicated on the availability of fiber, and lots of it, to 5G-capable cell sites.

  • Up to 1000 times increase in bandwidth, per unit area
  • Up to 100 times more connected devices
  • Up to 10 Gb/s connection rates to mobile devices in the field
  • A perceived network availability of 99.999%
  • A perceived 100% network coverage
  • Maximum of 1ms end-to-end round trip delay (latency)
  • Up to 90% reduction in network energy utilization

Mobile backhaul network upgrades are taking place all over the world, converting legacy copper-based backhaul-serving cell sites to packet-based transport over fiber, enabling far higher capacities to best future-proof mobile backhaul networks. The increased adoption of 4G LTE and LTE-Advanced mobile network technology is accelerating these fiber upgrades, which can and will be leveraged by future 5G networks, given the almost unlimited bandwidth that fiber-based networks offer.

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