5G Now! Enabling Profitability for Service Providers

As we engage with our customers and partners at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona, I cannot help but think of the major presence and disruptive technologies we have introduced with our 5G Now! announcement. From our Open vRAN to our technology demonstrations on mobile packet core, SON, automation, and our new access product lines with SRv6 network slicing capabilities, Cisco’s presence has been very positively received by both customers and analysts.

The 5G transition is front and center in our mobile providers’ minds, with the widely anticipated technology getting closer to becoming a reality, as evidenced by the successful demonstration of 4K and even 8K video over a 5G mobile network at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter games! In addition, we see a host of new applications and services being demonstrated here in Barcelona.

While both standards and technologies are continuing to evolve, 5G is expected to eventually outperform the current 4G networks by at least 10 fold. This dramatic increase in bandwidth, along with the ability to support low latency services over a massive number of devices, will enable exciting opportunities to transform our lives by offering truly immersive services. Our 5G investment in our transport portfolio is focused on three pillars: 5G service enablement, infrastructure evolution, and automation.

5G Service Enablement

5G is not just about more bandwidth, but together with service providers, we must make it about new revenue-generating services. Cisco’s innovation efforts in the 5G space are focused on this outcome for our customers.

This new generation of mobile technology will enable even stronger digitization in our daily lives by connecting us to information, data, and services whenever and wherever we need it. In order to maximize the benefits from this ground-breaking set of technology, the investment window is now open for mobile providers to make a difference. Not only do they need to upgrade the Radio Access Network (RAN), but they must also transform and simplify their IP networks – including transport, mobile core, and cloud solutions – in order to support the upcoming 5G services.

Let’s first have a look at the service requirements of 5G. There are three categories of services as defined by 3GPP: enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low latency communication (uRLLC) and massive machine-type communication (mMTC).

Each category of service has unique requirements essential to its applications that it mandates to the transport infrastructure. For example, eMBB requires high bandwidth and relaxed latency; mMTC requires low bandwidth and massive connection scale; and uRLLC requires high bandwidth, ultra-reliability, and ultra-low latency. Cisco’s 5G innovation is focused on making the network relevant to the applications using it in a programmable and scalable manner.

Infrastructure Evolution

Traditional network design will not be able to address 5G’s scale and dynamic connectivity requirements since RAN functions and content will now be distributed across multiple clouds (multicloud). The industry has agreed on Ethernet (E-CPRI, RoE) as the solution to solve the challenges of 5G Fronthaul cost effectively. Besides leveraging the stat-muxing capability of Ethernet, Cisco has further simplified the solution with a Cisco leading innovation – Segment Routing – that provides a flexible, location-aware, and function-aware transport network capability.

Cisco’s 5G transport vision is to enable mobile providers to build the most optimal and flexible 5G solutions rapidly. Hence, our focus will be on supporting a converged, “AnyG” transport that helps address growing distributed and dynamic workloads in 5G xHaul (Fronthaul, Midhaul, and Backhaul) networks.

This programmable “AnyG” radio transport will be foundational to support the evolution of Centralized RAN to Cloud RAN that includes decomposition of RAN – baseband unit (BBU) to virtualized centralized unit (CU) and distributed unit (DU), virtual packet core to control plane and user plane separation (CUPS) and services (DC, Cache).  What’s more, this solution also enables the support of Network Slicing, which requires service and location-based traffic steering starting from the edge of the network. This demands tight integration between transport and virtualized infrastructure under single service aware orchestration and automation framework.

Cisco’s existing mobile transport portfolio (ASR 9000, NCS 5500, ASR 907/903, and ASR 920) is ready for 5G Midhaul and Backhaul. We will continue to enhance these platforms as new 5G standards get finalized. Cisco is not stopping here – at MWC 2018, Cisco announced the Cisco NCS 500 series to address 5G xHaul (Fronthaul, Midhaul, and Backhaul) requirements. Cisco NCS 500 provides high-density of 1/10G, 25G and 100G interfaces within 1RU form factor to address various bandwidth needs. The Cisco NCS 500 series portfolio is built with enhanced timing and QoS features to address stringent 5G requirements. To add to that, the Cisco NCS 500 utilizes Cisco IOS XR, the industry’s most trusted Network Operating Systems (NOS). The abundance of features like zero touch provisioning (ZTP), programmability, model-driven telemetry (MDT), and SRv6 capabilities greatly simplify the operations of the highly-densified 5G network.

5G Automation

Now with all of the advancements described above, the exponentially increasing number of endpoints and applications, distributed architecture, and virtualization, it is impossible to efficiently operate these networks without strong network automation and orchestration. Leveraging our newly announced Cisco Crosswork solution along with Cisco Network Service Orchestrator (NSO), as well as new fabric controllers, we are building out a robust set of automation tools to simplify orchestration, management, and automation of the end-to-end solution.

In summary, the time for 5G is now! Service providers have to start evolving their networks, virtualizing network functions, and automating services. Cisco is your best partner in this journey, and we look forward to working with you to build many of these capabilities together.


Sumeet Arora

SVP Engineering

Core Software Group - US