5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks, which has been in development for many years. 5G is currently being tested in pre-standard field trials, with standards-based rollouts around the world expected as early as 2020. According to the Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance, 5G promises the following improvements over the current 4G standard:

  • Significantly faster data rates
  • Much lower latency
  • Support for billions of ‘things,’ such as sensors
  • Support for self-driving cars

With all that promise, there is significant action in the marketplace as carriers ramp up their investments in testing infrastructure and chip-makers look to jump in to provide the technology for consumers.

5G is the next generation of mobile networks, which promises significantly faster data rates and far lower latency than 4G.

Although testing and design efforts are under way, one thing holding back development is a lack of finalized standards. Observers believe that the set of 5G standards will start to appear in late 2018 and early 2019. Initial standards will be circulated to industry players, where field trials will take place, then the standard will be modified and testing will continue.

Transitions like this take time. The 4G rollout in the U.S. took almost a decade from initial conception to broad market availability. And although some carriers have said 5G could make it to market as early as 2018, it’s likely that it will be sometime between 2020 and 2025 before it is widely available.

This kind of shift is complex to orchestrate. Not only will the technology in the mobile infrastructure (including the wireless networks that connect the towers and the mobile devices) have to be reconfigured or redesigned entirely to accommodate the demands of 5G, but all new chips and devices will need to be available for consumers to take advantage of the new capabilities.

And, perhaps most importantly, to make sure 5G works as expected, wireline networks will need to be as efficient as possible.

That’s where Ciena comes in, with its expertise in wireline networks from radio towers to data centers, and everything in between. The mobile network infrastructure is already shifting from legacy TDM-based MBH networks to packet-based Carrier Ethernet MBH networks. This is good timing, because Carrier Ethernet is a perfect medium to accommodate 5G traffic in many parts of the overall network.

Another trend that will accommodate the 5G transition is the move to Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). These technologies and services are now permeating infrastructure around the world, which will help wireline networks adapt and evolve in step with 5G developments.

Ciena’s product portfolio offers a flexible set of platforms for Carrier Ethernet service delivery and aggregation, designed to anticipate the demands of 5G operations. The portfolio addresses macro and small cell-optimized solutions that contain costs, are rapidly deployable, and offer the ultimate in OAM tooling for proactive service management.

These interoperable and MEF-certified platforms improve wireline providers’ ability to confidently deploy, provision, and manage cost-effective 5G services that offer scalability, reliability, QoS, and service management. Combined, these service features significantly accelerate and automate scalable Ethernet and optical service creation and activation.

Ciena’s solutions offer the following advantages:

  • Scalability: Ciena offers wireline providers the ability to scale to extremely high capacity, in granular steps. Virtual switching technology and simultaneous support for multiple encapsulations on the same port provide the greatest flexibility and interoperability with existing and emerging technologies.
  • Reliability: Ciena’s product portfolio provides Ethernet and optical flexibility and transmission reliability, with an array of protection mechanisms that simplify the provisioning and ongoing maintenance effort, reducing operations costs.
  • High QoS: Superior QoS controls, traffic management, and built-in OAM tools provide predictable and highly reliable service delivery.

With Carrier Ethernet, backhaul providers can interconnect multiple sites over a single reliable and cost-effective network to provide guaranteed, scalable services that are compatible with their growing suite of IP and Ethernet applications.

Using Ciena’s service delivery switches at small and macro cell sites, backhaul providers can tag or classify traffic for differentiated services or different applications. Customer satisfaction and loyalty are ensured via strong SLA guarantees based on a rich set of QoS and traffic management techniques, combined with sophisticated diagnostic OAM tools.