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By David Turkington, Head of Technology, GSMA
The significant news from the 5G sector is that the ITU-World Radio Communication Conference 2019 (WRC-19) has approved the global allocation of spectrum in new millimeter-wave frequency bands at 26GHz 40GHz and 66GHz. This has been a long process, with ITU-WRC spectrum meetings only every four years, arrived after a great deal of planning and preparation. Now, the real work starts for national regulators to assign them and rolling out network upgrades to take advantage of them.
These new frequency bands allow operators to expand significantly the throughput and capacity of services, which in turn, will lead to new services being deployed. Currently, these bands are used for satellite or point to point links; however, with the financial might of the mobile industry driving 5G technology enhancement, these bands become more valuable. Value is derived from standardization leading to widespread adoption, improvements in efficiency, and new capabilities that are all driven by economies of scale.
5G launches are ongoing in the APAC region, Korea being the first to launch commercial 5G service with over 4 million users by the end of 2019. Now Australia and the Philippines (fixed wireless) have launched 5G networks, with many more countries planning launches in the coming months, and Chinese operators launching commercial service on November 1st, 2019.
There is a growing interest in the private 5G enterprise market – some governments are issuing spectrum for private networks that will be used in a range of industries. 5G is particularly suited to industrial and manufacturing Internet of Things (IoT) applications, and mobile operators are natural partners to bring the know-how and experience to build solid enterprise solutions.
5G networks can be built in several different configurations classed as either standalone (SA) with only 5G radio access technology and core, or, non-standalone (NSA) with an existing 4G network. Each configuration has pros and cons, and almost all initial network rollouts will be initially NSA, overlaid on existing 4G networks.
A common feature of 5G networks will be a virtualized core and software-defined networking (SDN) which supports service-based architecture. The virtualized network functions (VNF) will run on a telco cloud computing infrastructure rather than on bespoke network elements as is currently typical in telecom environments. Software-defined networking architecture decouples the network control from the packet switching functions and allows the traffic switching fabric to adapt to traffic flows dynamically. This will bring challenges and opportunities for the industry for testing, deployment, and scaling up capacity. A new architecture paradigm for operators, virtualization expertise will be highly sought after in addition to fundamental networking and telecom experience. Cloud infrastructure suitable for telecom operations will require very high standards of performance at scale.
The big benefit of all this transformation is that new services can be added much more easily, quickly, and cost-effectively into networks – no longer will they require some sort of platform as the cloud is the platform combined with network slicing capability, which effectively allocates dedicated network capacity to various applications or services.
GSMA supports operators’ ongoing transition to 5G with projects addressing 5G technology, mobile security, network economics (infrastructure cost & energy saving), and other initiatives. GSMA convenes the industry, representing our members’ views on a range of policy, regulatory, spectrum and standardization issues. In the APAC region, GSMA has initiated various programs to address the industry concerns, including the APAC Cybersecurity OpenHub for security topics, the APAC 5G Forum for all things 5G, and APAC IoT Partnership Project for the diverse IoT ecosystem.
GSMA brings industry leaders, telecom companies, and the wider industry sectors together at MWC Barcelona, MWC Shanghai and MWC Los Angeles global events, and smaller, regionally focused, Mobile 360 Series events.