5G promise is overrated, for now

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While 5G will deliver significant improvements in network latency, capacity and bandwidth, many of its envisioned applications and services will not happen before the second phase of rollout, which is expected in the next few years.

This was the word from panellists participating in a round table discussion titled: "5G: Forget the hype; it's time to explore what's happening today."

The dialogue, which took place this week at the NetEvents EMEA IT Spotlight conference in Barcelona, Spain, was chaired by Ian Keene, research VP at Gartner, and focused on the promise and expectations of 5G.

The panellists were Kevin Restivo, research manager, European enterprise mobility at IDC; Joel Stradling, research director of global managed and hosted IT services at research firm GlobalData; and Atchison Frazer, worldwide head of marketing at security firm Versa Networks.

While 5G will eventually enable applications that hold the potential to transform everyday life, open new business opportunities and enable new business models, the full range of planned 5G capabilities will not be available during the initial 5G launches and will be implemented in a phased approach over the next few years, they noted.

"We talk about great opportunities and great technologies expected from 5G, but the question is: are organisations really able to deliver these technologies to clients in the promised speed and level of agility?" Keene asked the panellists.

"While 5G presents exciting possibilities in the applications it will present, the hype is that some of these applications will come now, but in reality, they're not coming yet. There is a phased approach between the future promise of what 5G will eventually enable and what is actually ready to be realised today," said Stradling.

"Another issue is the development of a full set of communication standards for 5G, which demands a much higher data rate, ultra-low latency, high reliability and security."

According to a 5G use case and adoption survey run by Gartner, 60% of global organisations have plans to deploy 5G by 2020. Organisations expect 5G networks to be mainly used for Internet of things (IOT) communications and video, with operational efficiency being the key driver.

In terms of 5G adoption, end-user organisations have clear demands and expectations for 5G use cases, but the panellists stressed the importance of being realistic about what they can expect from 5G applications, and when each capability will be available for both consumers and the ecosystem.

Accelerating the telco ecosystem

There are three distinct use cases for 5G: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and fixed wireless access, mission-critical applications and massive IOT.

Restivo pointed out 5G presents a remarkable revolution for the telecommunications sector, with eMBB, the technology expected to bring the next evolution to 4G LTE mobile broadband services, bringing faster connections, higher throughput and more capacity for mobile services.

"As far as the opportunity of 5G in the telecoms sector is concerned, we're talking about a major evolution in future. However, a lot of what we're seeing now in the initial 5G launches is actually 4G-plus deployments. The telecoms companies have marketed 5G networks as an access hub or a control hub that will allow seamless connection to devices, but a lot of those applications are actually associated with the second iteration of 5G as I see it.

"We'll have to wait a while before we see many of the marketed technologies showcased at events such as the Mobile World Congress being available on a commercial basis," noted Restivo.

Frazer believes the future of communications will drive new 5G security requirements, because of concerns around securing new network architectures.

"If you're going to manage the network and offer additional services that will increase return on investments, decrease customer churn and introduce a different customer experience, one has to consider that this will create a threat landscape that is different from previous networks," he explained.

In 2018, Wipro released a cyber security report that raised 5G security concerns. The report lists IOT as a major avenue for attack, since 5G enables IOT to be much larger than on previous networks.

The future of communications will drive new 5G security requirements, because of concerns for new use cases and safety around new network architectures, Frazer asserted.

5G edge computing

5G software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) mobile edge computing and network slicing will drive innovative virtualisation services, creating new expectations for high-performing networks and services, stated Stradling.

"5G is a mere wireless link and nothing more. What will revolutionise 5G is its fusion with edge computing and SD-WAN. And this is what will really help telecoms firms to move up the value chain.

"For instance, Vodafone has partnered with Juniper Networks in a deal that will see the vendor's SD-WAN offering added to Vodafone's enterprise-focused SDN portfolio.

"Juniper's offering is based on universal customer premises equipment, allowing for multiple virtualised network functions to be delivered from a single device," concluded Stradling.

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