Mobile World Congress Showcases the Evolving 5G Mobile Network

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By: Larry Loeb|

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The Mobile World Congress (MWC) taking place this year in Barcelona, Spain, is a time for players in the field to get together and gossip — just like what happens at any other major trade show. The roughly 100,000 attendees come there to see the glitz and glamour of mobile tech on full display. But splashy intros of new hardware from the likes of China’s Xiaomi and Korea’s Samsung won’t be happening this year: Both manufacturers have said they’ll skip the show. So, attendees will have to gossip about things other than hardware — maybe something like a 5G mobile network?

5G Mobile Network Gossip

Industry leaders will likely be gathering at the water fountain to trade predictions about the latest innovations in 5G. After all, it was at the 2015 MWC that CEO Chang-Gyu Hwang of South Korea’s KT Telecom first announced that KT hopes to “unveil the world’s first 5G services at a pre-commercial level” at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (WOG) in Pyeongchang, according to ITU News.

Of course, this WOG setup is a limited trial rollout that will use existing 5G technology. But don’t forget that it happens just next year. The time frame of the usually accepted 2020 rollout of “real” 5G networks in both Korea and Japan is rapidly coming closer, according to Forbes. There might just be some urgency in the chatter.

Functions and Capacity

5G promises not only to enhance audio and video communication by providing faster connection speeds but also to add many other functions at the same time. One of the major discussion areas is communication in the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT devices need to communicate to be useful, and 5G intends to give these devices greater functionality through wider bandwidths and lower latency.

Network operators realize they may end up with a capacity that exceeds the audio and video demand projected for 5G networks. Emerging IoT markets like Smart Cities Council could provide a great way to sell that capacity to IoT devices. The devices get portability; the operators get capacity usage.

Similarly, 3GPP, a global organization tasked with developing mobile standards, actively works on the specifications of how IoT devices can connect at the higher speed and bandwidth of 5G — but the work is ongoing and not yet finalized. Each of the member network operators has its own specific situation to address, which may not use all the features that are available in 5G. However, 3GPP hopes for basic interoperability between all 5G networks that will transcend borders and become a global standard.

NFV Bypasses Middleboxes

A 5G network would most likely rely on network function virtualization (NFV), in which more generic hardware than the middleboxes that networks were previously built on will perform at levels four to seven of the network protocol. This approach allows the usage of cloud services as functional network elements. NFV also gives a much better control of the individual items inside a network, so they can be reconfigured as needed.

NFV provides a reconfigurable approach to a network that will allow for rapid redeployment of the network’s elements in order to keep overall network uptime high. This is especially true when NFV is combined with the load balancing that can be done with a complementary software-defined network implementation.

Perhaps some network operator will take advantage of the MWC to announce how things are going.

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