Unleashing 5G Services with a Dynamic Transport Network
You are in a field, playing 5G AR/VR laser tag with your friends. Instead of an open featureless field (that you can still see so you don’t trip) you are fighting in the labyrinth of King Minos of Crete. You cannot shoot through the walls, and the game penalizes you if you walk through them. Besides your foes, you also need to keep a sharp lookout for the Minotaur. However, things aren’t going as smoothly as when you played the same game in a special arena with all the content locally cached. Image rendering is slower and fuzzier, and reaction times when firing are not accurate. If only you and your friends had faster, lower latency connections to the Internet servers driving the game. Damn, you’d be willing to pay for that.
You’re at a football game (I’m imagining NFL variety). On entering the stadium, a booth advertises a “Live the Game” package. It delivers replays from multiple angles to your phone, and even allows tapping into individual players’ head cams. Even better, if you have a 5G phone, and for a small additional fee, you can do this all in brilliant 4K video. You lay out the money for the 5G package. After the game, you think to yourself that you can’t wait for this to be offered for any game, anywhere, anytime, 5G add-on service.
You are sitting in your office surveying a bridge for damage after a major storm. Your field tech released the drone and you are in middle of the scan. You remark to yourself how much things have changed from when you did this manually a few years ago. Still, it isn’t perfect. The resolution is only so good that your tech needs to take photos of suspect areas, and the drone controls are often sluggish. You’d have no trouble convincing management to pay for a next generation 5G drone and remote control service package, when they come out, for better resolution and pinpoint control.
So once 5G comes out, shouldn’t this all be possible? The problem is there are obstacles to delivering all of 5G’s service capabilities end-to-end. We can create tunnels with specific performance characteristics through the Radio Access Network (RAN) for the different services. However, there may be bottlenecks in the end-to-end connectivity to the content or application provider that inhibit the 5G user from getting the desired or expected performance.
These bottlenecks could lie either in the telco transport network connecting the RAN to the public Internet, or within the public Internet itself. However, net neutrality regimes prohibit ISPs from doing anything within the public Internet that is service-specific. Consequently, it’s up to the telco transport network to provide the solution to the 5G performance bottleneck problem, or as good a solution as possible.
Looked at another way, the transport network has an opportunity to provide “premium connectivity services for a price – delivered on a per-use basis” to the mobile/5G mass market.
The good news is, that transport networks are achieving new levels of flexibility and software control that make dynamic allocation of shared resources possible, which is a pre-requisite for delivering dynamic connectivity. This includes capabilities, such as dedicated queues for different traffic types, centralized traffic-engineered segment routing, flexible allocation of hard resources, such as optical channels, and sophisticated cloud-native SDN algorithms (moving over time to AI/ML) to control all the moving parts.
Moreover, a solid technical and economical basis exists in the mobile/5G realm for this model:
- Mobile uses IMS (IP multi-media subsystem) for dynamic allocation of resources to services.
- Mobile, as the largest media for Internet use, will create demand for preferred connectivity services.
- Mobile broadband packages are metered, laying the groundwork for 5G users to pay for tiered connectivity services.
- Mobile users consume traffic and services on-the-fly and on-demand, making the network much more agile and dynamic by design.
- 5G’s distributed architecture lends itself to resource pooling for dynamic services.
When you combine dynamic transport network capabilities with all of these favorable mobile/5G aspects, the conclusion is that telcos have a solid technical and economic basis to build the desired solution.
Telcos can leverage a dynamic transport infrastructure to engineer a solution based on statistical sharing of resources, to deliver preferred connectivity dynamically, and on a per-service use. Another way to look at this is that telcos become an intermediary, connecting the shared resource architectures in the 5G RAN and Core, with their own shared resource solution. As 5G mobile users become the largest group of Internet users, this suddenly makes time-sharing of these transport resources economically feasible. This could never have been the case for fixed services or single mobile service mass market.
The end-user benefits from a guaranteed high-speed experience for an incremental fee. It is also feasible that the content or application provider can subsidize the preferred access cost.
This is a golden opportunity for telco transport providers serving mobile operators. It leverages 5G to create a new source of revenues through tiered pricing for connectivity services. Moreover, once these dynamic connectivity mechanisms are in place for 5G services, telcos can extend this approach and associated benefits to all mobile and fixed-access users. People will be able to enjoy high-definition video, lightning response time for gaming, or experience real-time virtual reality, wherever they happen to be.
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