5G-Advanced networks are the bridge to 6G (Reader Forum)

The much-hyped 5G network rollout has hardly begun in earnest. Even though the technology was first launched in South Korea five years ago, much of the world is still yet to benefit from its lower latency, higher reliability, and blazing data transfer speeds.

Carriers have used the term “5G” broadly, in some cases leading to misaligned expectations from consumers and enterprises. In most cases, those consumers are experiencing non-standalone 5G, a stronger connection that is still relayed over 4G LTE architecture that has been in place since the early 2010s. GSMA reports that only 47 out of roughly 1,600 operators worldwide had launched standalone 5G networks as of January, more than half of which are in Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Once additional standalone 5G networks are built, they’ll begin to usher in the next great wave of connectivity: 5G-Advanced (5GA), an interim networking solution. 5GA is likely to have a substantial impact on telecommunications two or three years from now — before the 6G transition fully gets underway seven to 10 years from now.

5GA promises greater network optimization and performance, which could lead to improvements in latency from 20 milliseconds at a 99.99% reliability level to just 1 millisecond at 99.999% reliability. These improvements can lead to more seamless and dependable communication for applications that rely upon an instant and reliable data transfer. Another notable promise is improved mobility by reducing handover times from one cell tower to another with near-zero interruption. 5GA will unlock new use cases, give way to new business models, and create new revenue streams for existing businesses.

The gaming sector will be a clear beneficiary of 5GA networks, especially massively multiplayer online (MMO) game developers that require players to maintain robust connections with zero latency. Live broadcasts from remote areas where mobile connectivity is the only option will also benefit from 5GA’s increased performance and reliability. So will any company that uses augmented and virtual reality to supplement events, like concerts or sporting events.

Those examples just scratch the surface. Let’s take a deeper look at some capabilities 5GA will provide that will change the business world.

Scalability of sensors to modernize supply chains

Logistics seem simple enough when you consider one product traveling from manufacturer to consumer. Scale that journey up to the size of the global economy — the International Monetary Fund estimates it’s $109 trillion this year — and operations quickly become unwieldy.

Supply chains are turning to internet of things (IoT) devices and sensors to help manage tracking and visibility. 5GA can offer more precise cellular-based positioning, enhancing global logistics. According to GSMA, low-cost IoT support is the second-largest priority among operators for 5GA networks.

Operators across the global supply chain can create innovative solutions that track and validate shipping containers from manufacturing to warehousing, through waypoints, and to ports of entry. They can rely on 5GA and blockchain technologies to log and validate each leg of the journey, allowing for precise machine-learning opportunities to assess impacts to arrival forecasts and link third-party event data related to weather and local civil disruption.

With 90% of non-bulk cargo worldwide transported via containers, 5GA may enhance cost, security, and performance for IoT-enabled supply chain optimization. IoT devices on a 5GA network could help show where a container is and has been, and enable operators to act quickly if any fraud or criminal activities have occurred along the way. 5GA’s promise of greater bandwidth will even make it possible to attach a tracker to each individual item traveling from one location to the next, ensuring we always know where it is.

Network slicing

Operators are in the early days of offering slices of their network as private and public options for specific functions. With 5GA, they can offer finer-grain slicing to support more use cases and offer premium services or premium bandwidth.

For example, retailers have plenty to gain from network slicing, which can help segregate data traffic within the store, such as customer devices, smart SKUs, IoT devices that check inventory levels and sale prices, and more.

Segmenting the network with greater precision gives operators the ability to create new revenue streams and get more value from their 5G investments. According to GSMA, operators see network slicing capabilities as the top benefit of standalone 5G networks, even more than ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) support.

Bringing compute closer to devices

The past few years have shifted where compute power happens. It used to be on premises until the pandemic forced most people into remote working environments, leading to a surge in cloud computing. The steady pace of innovation within devices gives them plenty of CPU power, too.

With 5GA networks, operators can offer cloud-computing services alongside cell towers, giving enterprises the option to run containers closer to the mobile end users. These containers, likely powered by Kubernetes, combine CPU, GPU, and storage that don’t need to exist in a central cloud so the end user can take advantage of their devices’ low latency and high performance.

The reliability and speed of 5GA can reduce the latency introduced by sending packets across the internet like a virtual private network (VPN) would require. Instead, you’re hitting a tower that’s within an internetwork packet exchange (IPX) network that an operator manages, bringing compute closer to devices.

An interim step that powers more connections

As we await the full arrival of 6G networking, 5GA will push the boundaries of what enterprises and consumers find possible.

It stands to enable a higher density of connections with minimal interruption by providing unprecedented network optimization and performance enhancements. In short, it will unite our world, and all of us, more closely than ever before.

Comments are closed.