How MNOs can prepare for 5G in India
The most discussed topic in the ICT world today is 5G. What is the role of spectrum and radio densification, Cloud-RAN, and so on? How to build a profitable 5G business case for the Indian market? Ciena India’s Digvijay Sharma details below.This article was original published on ET.com
The essential 5G promise is to enable next-generation applications and use cases by delivering more capacity, lower latency, and much higher reliability. The higher bandwidth (connection throughput) will provide enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) connectivity, initial use cases on most 5G deployments, allowing a much better video or gaming experience on smartphones and new fixed-wireless access possibilities. The support to higher device density will fuel massive machine type communication (mMTC), connecting billions of devices and accelerating the Internet of Things (IoT). The lower latency and higher reliability will unlock ultrareliable low-latency communications (URLLC), boosting critical applications in telemedicine, autonomous vehicles, AR/VR, emergency services, and many more, with new opportunities and challenges for Telecom Service Providers (TSPs).
To fulfill this promise, telecom operators must look into the critical aspects for 5G’s successful deployment mentioned below:
- Evolution of mobility infrastructure
- Evolution of new networking infrastructure
- Creation of differentiated services for a profitable business model
Not to forget, each aspect’s success factor comes with its own set of challenges which
- Network rollout complexity
- Availability of internal 5G technology expertise
- Security threats
- Spectrum availability
- And an open ecosystem for network interoperability, be it devices or infrastructure
Addressing these key challenges will require TSPs to begin critically evaluating an “as-is” state to a “to-be” state. Here are some insights on some of the aspects in question.
While 5G spectrum auction is slated for early 2022 in India, there are two ways to look at the role of spectrum in 5G, after the spectrum allocation. The first method is that existing spectrum supporting 2G, 3G, 4G technologies can be reframed or shared with 5G through Dynamic Spectrum Sharing, to provide narrowband 5G coverage (broad coverage, but limited throughput increase). Secondly, new spectrum to be acquired in the midband and millimeter wave ranges will be utilized to deliver higher bandwidths. However, signals in higher frequencies have more limited propagation, meaning a more limited cell coverage area, which will require mobile operators to further densify cell sites. Thus, mobile operators will need to:
- Complement current macro cell sites’ coverage by densifying with small cells
- Keep cost and Radio Frequency (RF) radiation in check
- Ensure low power cells and macro cells are properly coordinated to reduce interference
Adding numerous radio sites to ensure 5G bandwidth capabilities will pressure costs, time to deploy, and radiation emission – all factors clearly impacting OPEX and CAPEX.
Introducing 5G in the networks will be a gradual process, involving new spectrum, new vendors, new architectures, and new cell sites. Selecting platforms capable of addressing the shifting requirements of a constantly evolving network will be the key to future-proof the network modernization investments.
How will operators optimize CAPEX and OPEX and create a profitable business, given the radio densification requirement?
5G deployments can be planned in accordance with the mobile operators’ spectrum strategy, last mile availability, and network architecture. To improve network performance while lowering total cost of ownership, operators can leverage strategies and solutions such as:
- Centralizing baseband units (BBUs) - sharing computing resources among multiple radio sites, reducing space and power at cell sites, and minimizing truck rolls while improving cell coordination
- Splitting BBUs into distributed and centralized units for further pooling and cost optimization with better network management
- Leveraging flexible xHaul routers capable of supporting combinations of fronthaul, midhaul, and backhaul at cell sites and C-RAN hubs
- Packetizing proprietary Common Public Radio Interface (CPRI) radio interfaces with radio over ethernet (RoE IEEE1914.3) or CPRI to ORAN Lo-PHY conversion, for fronthaul efficiency
- Deploying network slicing, i.e., providing performance-guaranteed services over a shared physical infrastructure, by logically separating the network (virtually) for different use cases, enabling new revenues from these premium services
How can Indian MNOs optimize their 5G journey?
Operators have invested heavily in their current mobile networks and will upgrade their existing infrastructure to make the most of their existing resources. Introducing 5G in the networks will be a gradual process, involving new spectrum, new vendors, new architectures, and new cell sites. Selecting platforms capable of addressing the shifting requirements of a constantly evolving network will be the key to future-proof the network modernization investments.
Cloud RAN (C-RAN) will play an increasingly important role, reducing total cost of ownership and improving coordination & control of radio resources for enhanced performance. 5G originally was defined by 3GPP to be cloud-native and leverage virtualization, and C-RAN is functionally meant to help 5G use cases to be more scalable, versatile, elastic and cost optimal.
To accelerate and de-risk their 5G journey, operators must look for opportunities to partner with vendors who can seamlessly integrate the global and local realities - global experience with local development of products and solutions. The local equipment and terrain expertise combined with local manufacturing will also create a complete circle towards the ‘Make In India’ vision.
In conclusion, 5G rollout will be phased, and operators will need to rely on flexible transport platforms capable of enabling their gradual evolution. Network solutions that can carry them towards more open, virtualized, and centralized network architectures. Investments that will support network slicing and the offering of premium services. A consistent and adaptive path that leads to fulfilling the integral promise of 5G.
To know more about how Ciena is helping operators realize their full 5G potential, watch a detailed discussion with our experts below.