It’s easy to forget what communications life was like before 4G. Since its introduction around 2010, mobile subscribers using 4G have enjoyed excellent connectivity. They can stream music, videos and movies, even while conducting video chats.
But over the next few years, the rollout of 5G networks around the world will usher in exciting capabilities that are much more advanced and promise to boost commerce. In its report entitled “Study on Socio-Economic Benefits of 5G Services Provided in mmWave Bands,” the GSMA, which represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, predicts that “by 2034, 5G can be expected to generate US$2 trillion in GDP globally and US$588 billion in tax revenue.” All industries—agriculture, mining, financial services, public services, manufacturing and more—are expected to benefit.
Due to 5G’s higher connection speeds, mobility and capacity, as well as its lower latency, this next-generation network is expected to enable innovative software for a range of advanced applications. The GSMA identifies several key use cases, including:
- Remote object manipulation, which lets surgeons perform microscopic surgery from remote locations
- Industrial automation, which allows artificial intelligence (AI)- and machine learning (ML)-enabled robots to collaborate to improve production line efficiency using data analytics
- Virtual and augmented reality, which enables workers to learn how to operate new equipment using holograms rather than physical equipment
- Next-generation transport connectivity, which can lead to improved commute times and reduced pollution through use of streaming and real-time data to optimize travel routes
Software-defined infrastructure drives 5G
These services won’t appear overnight. Communications service providers (CSPs) will continue to support existing networks while they invest in new infrastructure to support 5G.
In a recent blog, Jean-Pierre Brulard, VMware senior vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), writes: “For CSPs, it is a major undertaking, which is why it is likely that rather than a pure 5G network, the majority of people will see a blended approach, where 4G is available to deliver basic services, and 5G introduced for specific tasks. It is therefore critical [for CSPs] to have what’s known as the telco cloud. This is software-defined technology that supports both current 4G and lays the groundwork for 5G.”
The telco cloud uses a common architecture that simplifies a CSP’s infrastructure so it can be a foundation for deploying new services. CSPs use the telco cloud to connect their existing environments with private, edge and public networks.
The telco cloud is based on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), which streamlines the design and deployment of networking services and automates their operation. VMware helps CSPs like Vodafone create new revenue streams, open new industry opportunities, drive down costs and improve overall customer satisfaction by enabling them to become nimbler and more responsive.
VMware provides an optimal infrastructure for all telco applications and services: custom built, packaged, virtualized, cloud native and software as a service (SaaS). With this infrastructure, CSPs can deliver those applications securely to any endpoint across a telco-distributed cloud, including private and public cloud, branch/edge, micro data center, gateway or end user.
5G creates new possibilities for enterprises
Becoming 5G-ready isn’t an opportunity only for CSPs. 5G provides huge possibilities for businesses to deliver new services and applications, allowing them to reimagine how they engage with customers. Imagine restaurants delivering freshly prepared food via drones, for example.
According to Brulard: “With 5G, enterprises can access the levels and speeds of connectivity they need to take advantage of the game-changing technologies—such as Internet of Things (IoT), edge computing and AI—that are going to shape the next stage of the digital revolution.”
Processing IoT and AI in an accelerated 5G world means computing, storage and networking need to be done closer to the end user, an approach that is poles apart from the traditional data center method of data processing. The voluminous amount of real-time data generated by the IoT and AI makes it inefficient to stream to a cloud or data center for processing.
A more efficient solution is to implement edge computing, which processes data closer to where it is generated. VMware EdgeTM, for example, is a software-defined edge platform that enables providers and IT teams to run applications and analytics anywhere, with consistent infrastructure and operations from edge to cloud. Organizations can remotely manage, monitor and secure thousands of locations and millions of diverse devices. This helps to ensure the rapid delivery of the latest apps, containers and infrastructure updates via granular over-the-air lifecycle management.
Such a robust infrastructure will help CSPs and businesses fulfill 5G’s potential to significantly enhance quality of life. 5G can lead to better, accelerated access to healthcare and education, and people can enjoy safer driving conditions and reduced pollution, among other digitally fueled benefits.