If you are heading to the 2017 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, there will be no better place to see 5G technology come to life than the show floor at this annual confab. Nearly every vendor exhibiting has some type of 5G product or service to showcase.
Most of the existing 5G trials deal primarily with the 5G New Radio (NR). Companies like Ericsson, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Intel have all talked about 5G NR and are working closely with operators to demonstrate this technology.
But some vendors caution that the 5G backend network is equally important as the radio but isn’t getting the attention — at least not yet.
“The edge is critical because it will be the first point in the backend network that will deal with all the new traffic and the new high-speed radio traffic,” says Bala Thekkedath, director of marketing of NFV at HPE. “This is where you rationalize what traffic needs to go back to the network and what has to have the lowest latency.”
Thekkedath adds that although there are lots of 5G trials occurring now, he doesn’t believe the real impact of 5G will occur until 2021. “I think the evolution of the edge is just easing into it.”
HPE recently released a 5G white paper based upon a survey the company did with service providers. The survey found that most service providers view 5G as an opportunity to further their digital transformation. They also know that software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are going to be critical to rolling out 5G.
But some vendors say the current trials really don’t show how 5G can be delivered with current SDN and NFV implementations. While there have been some demonstrations of network slicing, there is no standardization, says Hayim Porat, CTO of ECI.
He adds that while the goal of 5G is to create dynamic networks, for now dynamic networking is still “science fiction.”
Instead, Porat believes that 5G is pushing carriers toward collaboration between fixed and mobile networks. “It’s more than just a faster network,” he said. For operators to really get the full benefits of 5G, it will require them to shift resources and deliver services on demand. That’s only possible with network slicing. “When that happens you open up a new domain of services,” he adds.
And while the show floor at MWC will likely be filled with demonstrations of 5G NR, Porat believes the real meaningful discussions will not be about latency and speed, but about network slicing and the next phase of 5G.