Three Keys to Success: Preparing your mobile network for 5G.

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While much of the focus in the press on 5G has been around the definition of a new radio interface and the architecture to support such, it is increasingly evident that if 5G is going to deliver on its promise, it must be accompanied by an organizational transformation, where traditional boundaries are increasingly blurred. Virtualization, orchestration, slicing and automation will be core capabilities that cut across conventional domain siloes to deliver assured 5G service.

5G Radio Network Evolution


Delivering the hyper-dense 5G outdoor network is going to require a combination of conventional macro sites and higher frequency small cells, working in combination to provide the coverage and capacity required to deliver the pervasive mobile broadband service. However, with some estimates predicting that over 200 small cell sites per square kilometre will be required, an integrated xHaul solution is going to be critical, blurring the boundaries between traditional RAN and Transport domains

Furthermore, 5G’s new radio will be the first time that 3GPP has applied virtualization techniques to the RAN, defining an internal RAN split between a distributed unit that can be realized as a physical network function (PNF), and the centralized unit that can be realized as a virtual network function (VNF). However, unlike when virtualization has been applied to other mobile functions, the impact of the characteristics associated with the transport network between PNF and VNF components will have a critical impact on how much functionality can be centralized in the VNF. This will likely mean that RAN operations, including functional splits and VNF workload placement, need to be intelligently orchestrated taking into account transport network instrumentation.

5G: Bridging indoor and outdoor environments


For 5G to be successful, it needs to flourish in an environment where, even today, over 80% of mobile data is being consumed indoors, and where Cisco’s VNI is predicting that by 2020 only 4% of mobile data will be consumed “on the go”. Therefore, 5G needs to effectively bridge the hyper-dense outdoor domain with the digitized enterprise, that today is using Wi-Fi to support its business needs and vertical value chains. With an increasing proportion of businesses wanting to serve all employees, contractors, partners and visitors, irrespective of carrier affiliation, network sharing will become a crucial capability for indoor 5G deployments. Importantly, whereas conventional sharing approaches that use individually licensed spectrum have led to high barriers to adoption, new spectrum allocations, including lightly-licensed and unlicensed, offer 5G systems the opportunity to better serve the digitized enterprise.

Multi-technology, multi-operator, multi-vendor, multi-spectrum and multi-domain are set to become the new normal for the 5G network, download Cisco’s eBook that describes how to prepare your mobile network for 5G.

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Mark Grayson

Cisco Fellow

Cisco’s Emerging Technologies & Innovation Group