One of the recurrent themes of Wireless Watch, and of Rethink’s wider RAN research and forecasting, in 2018, has been the way that 5G will drive a very different kind of network.
Profound changes to the way a mobile network is planned and deployed, and the equipment it uses, are not all about 5G. The key trends Rethink tracks in this area, such as densification, virtualization and white box networks are not specific to 5G, and a few operators have started to deploy them in earnest in 4G networks.
However, all these trends will start to achieve critical mass because of the new requirements of 5G use cases – for flexibility, energy efficiency, unprecedented capacity and ubiquitous, reliable coverage. To deliver all that, while also achieving significantly total cost of ownership, and supporting broader digital transformation and telco cloud initiatives, will certainly require a whole new approach to networking.
It will not generally be seen in the first wave of 5G deployments, which are pursuing conventional applications with conventional architectures. But as new services, from critical IoT to immersive content and Tactile Internet, start to become commercial realities, we will see the new networks roll out.
As the end of the year approaches, and real 5G looms on the horizon, we round up the latest developments which will help to create a ‘true 5G’ mobile network architecture, supporting MNOs and other players, in the early 2020s.