Unlocking Growth Potential for Wholesalers
With a next generation transport for 5G
5G represents a huge business opportunity for operators able to offer wholesale transport solutions to the mobile network operators (MNOs). This can be existing mobile backhaul (MBH) wholesalers evolving their current 3G and 4G MBH portfolio. It can also be new, alternative network operators, who wish to monetize the capacity and reach they have on their fibre infrastructure.
Previous mobile generations focused on providing capacity, connectivity and coverage for best effort mobile services. In this type of network a relatively dumb, nailed-up mobile backhaul (MBH) network is all that is required to connect the core services/applications to the radio resources. With such a simple transport network MNOs used purely economic factors to decide whether to lease or build the MBH transport. These decisions were normally on a cell site by cell site basis resulting in a MBH network that is a patchwork of self-built and leased transport.
Fibre-connectivity - an opportunity for transport wholesalers
Initial deployments of 5G will again focus on providing connectivity and coverage, but at a much increased capacity. Achieving the capacity uplift requires a dramatic increase in the number of cell sites which, in turn, will require a greatly expanded MBH network providing high capacity connectivity to all these new cell sites. This opens up a huge business opportunity for traditional network wholesalers who wish to evolve their current 3G and 4G wholesale solutions to include 5G. It also opens up business opportunities for alternative network operators who have deployed a fibre infrastructure for their own needs, but want to monetize any spare capacity they have on this newly installed infrastructure.
Beyond fibre connectivity- an opportunity to move up the value chain
But 5G is not just about delivering enhanced mobile broadband, and over the next few years MNOs will look to expand their service portfolio. Initially this could be with new services that use the enhanced mobile broadband capability but add extra capabilities. For example: AR/VR mobile gaming which will require low and deterministic latency. Or location based services which will require highly accurate time synchronization.
At the same time MNOs can use 5G to provide ubiquitous, managed connectivity for IoT devices. This will allow them to enter new sectors like smart health, smart transportation, smart cities and critical industries all of whom require ultra-high reliability, deterministic behavior, and in many cases ultra-low latency.
A little further out, the existence of ubiquitous, manageable, highly reliable, low latency wireless connectivity will open up many new services, including the much debated autonomous vehicles.
Supporting the latency, reliability, determinism and connectivity demands of these new services drives the need for a change in the mobile architecture. A much more dynamic network is required, which allows core services and applications to be disaggregated and virtualized. So they can be instantiated whenever and wherever they are required in the network (e.g. closer to the edge for low latency services). This flexible architecture also extends to the radio resources and the radio units (RUs), distributed units (DUs) and centralized (CUs), which are located to maximize the efficiency of the network as a whole.
To support this new mobile architecture, today’s static MBH network must evolve to provide the dynamic, deterministic, assured connectivity required to link the radio resources to the applications and services. Wholesalers that are able to offer this next generation transport network as a managed service will be selling a high value, much needed, product to the MNOs.
Programmable, sliced, multilayer, transport solution for 5G
To meet these transport challenges, wholesalers require a service-aware transport solution that is able to provide the dynamic, determine, assured connectivity required to support 5G services.
With 5G supporting the delivery of assured services with extremely different service policies and parameters (e.g. latency, determinism, reliability, bandwidth, jitter, etc.). A different network could be built for each service type, an expensive approach. Alternatively, a single network could be built to meet the needs of all service types, but this would require massive overbuilt of compute, connectivity and capacity, again an expensive solution. So 5G standards propose a technique that allows multiple virtual networks, called network slices, to be created on a single transport infrastructure.
With a next generation transport network, a range advanced transport technologies are used to create these network slices. With this approach, the level of isolation between the slices is configurable. So a mission critical service type requiring complete isolation from all other services types could use OTN or wavelength slicing. But a best effort service where only the QoS and service details need to be isolated could use soft isolation approach like Enhanced VPN or segment routing. With the soft isolation approach, many service types can use the same network assets, reducing cost, but this also means that if another service overloads the network, it will impact all services not isolated from it. Conversely, with the hard isolation approach, a service type has assets reserved solely for its use, this ensures complete isolation from the behaviors of all other service types but increases cost as the assets are not shared. These solutions offer a range of approaches that allows the level of isolation to be chosen by the wholesaler to meet the operational model of the MNO for each of the service types it supports.
True multi-layer assets mean wholesalers are able to offer both packet and optical transport connectivity as leased services. Programmable assets mean that the solution is dynamic enough to evolve as the MNOs transport requirements change and multi-layer optimization techniques ensure the wholesaler’s network is always at an optimal level of utilization and performance. Wholesalers can support multiple MNOs on the same network by using advanced network slicing technologies to completely isolate one MNOs network from another’s.
To learn more about ECI’s 5G Solutions, click here.