Verticals: At the End of the 5G Rainbow, Part 1
Service providers around the world are moving to 4G LTE networks, gaining spectral efficiency and realizing cost savings as they support the exploding mobile data demands of today. But 74% growth in global mobile data traffic in 2015, coupled with M2M/IoT, means there will be 11.6 billion mobile-connected devices outstripping the number of humans on the planet by 2020 (Source: Cisco).
The pace of change in how we communicate, the expanding capabilities of the devices available to us, and the aggressive innovation embodied within non-traditional services in the Internet are fundamentally changing many business models. Voice and SMS have exploded into real-time collaboration, document sharing, mobile video chat, smart wearables, and augmented reality.
Mobile networks that have traditionally provided access as the service to consumers are now enabling connectivity to a wide range of services delivered to and from smart objects, connected vehicles, cloud applications, and – of course – people (whom we hope have always been smart!).
The challenge and opportunity of the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things is the ecosystem of physical objects, devices, vehicles, buildings, and all kinds of other objects that embed electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity. As a byproduct, these objects collect and exchange vast quantities of information, generating a wealth of actionable insights made available through big data analytics.
The Challenge: To support billions of highly connected devices, a network infrastructure is needed that not only is highly scalable in terms of its capacity, but can also optimally handle the differing service needs of various IoT verticals. Latency, bandwidth requirements, scheduling of consumption, and service priority are widely variable for these IoT applications, so a “one size fits all” broadband network does not align well. Today’s IoT applications shoehorn themselves into existing 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks, but this is the early-adopter era; for mass adoption, we need a more adapted and suitable solution.
The Opportunity: To create a network platform that supports a diversity of potential use cases called logical network slices, which will enable optimized experiences of the network to be made available to specific services. This approach takes the idea of virtualization as applied to the data center in the development of cloud services, and applies it to the radio network. Thus, slices of the radio network can be associated with specific services and can exhibit specific characteristics of latency, bandwidth, and security.
The 5G slices of network spectrum can be logically applied to vertical segments for IoT/M2M purposes.
Just as virtualization enables resources within a data center to be partitioned and dedicated to specific applications, the 5G network slices allow the same infrastructure to address things such as IoT data collection, mission-critical real-time inter-vehicle control interactions, or medical information, emergency, or government services. Further, this transition also sets the stage to leverage traditional enterprise features and applications such as skills-based routing to tie IoT capabilities back into more personal, more intelligent responses. To do this, the network service architecture needs to be carrier grade and secure, scalable, and elastic to match these expectations.
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