The Challenges of Implementing 5G
5G is now a commercial reality, with adoption of the new standard forecast to grow rapidly in the coming years. The key features of 5G are its high data rate, low latency, energy efficiency, scalability, and enhanced mobility.
One of the most exciting aspects of 5G is its potential to enable new use cases and applications that go beyond telecommunications. These new industries will become huge customers for communication service providers (CSPs). For example, 5G is expected to provide a major boost to autonomous vehicles and vehicle-to-vehicle applications. 5G can provide the high bandwidth and low latency necessary for these applications while also being much more power-efficient than earlier generations of cellular technology. In addition, 5G is expected to transform the way the devices that make up the Internet of Things communicate with each other and with other devices on the network. Also, by providing high-quality, real-time video streaming, 5G could enable augmented reality applications that would enhance the smart city phenomenon.
However, as 5G technology continues to evolve, so does the list of challenges that CSPs must address to bring this next-generation wireless technology to market. Perhaps the most daunting task for carriers is building out the complex and dense networks required by 5G. In addition, keeping operating and maintenance costs low is essential for success in the 5G era. Low latency requirements are also a key consideration, as is dealing with new security issues that have arisen with the advent of 5G.
This blog will take a closer look at these challenges.
As we’ve all heard, 5G promises a lot. But to achieve these goals, 5G networks need to be very different from previous networks. They are dense and complex, with many small cells spread throughout the coverage area. And they require new types of radio equipment, which are more expensive and harder to maintain than the equipment used in previous networks.
One of the telecom engineer’s main challenges is designing and building the Radio Access Network (RAN). The RAN connects mobile devices to a core network, and it must do so quickly and without interruption. To accomplish this, the RAN must have a large capacity and be able to handle a large amount of traffic.
Densification of the network is a common theme across the industry. This refers to the concept of increasing the number of transceivers (radios) per unit area. The main reason for this is that as data speeds increase and users demand more bandwidth, it becomes necessary to have more base station sites which are near the user’s equipment (mobile phones, laptops, etc.). The result is a massive increase in traffic on the network which places a significant strain on resources.
Density has always been an important factor in network design, but it becomes even more critical with 5G. Small cells are key to providing the high throughput and low latency of 5G. The high frequency spectrum used for 5G also requires a higher density of cells due to path loss. Deploying more small cells can be a challenge, however, in terms of site acquisition, power requirements, and logistics.
To address this, telecom companies are turning to software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). NFV is based on the idea of decoupling networking functions from the underlying hardware, and instead running them as software on commodity hardware. This has several advantages, including improved flexibility, scalability, and resource utilization. NFV is already being used in several applications in 5G networks, such as network slicing, creating intelligence networks at the edge, and multiple radio networks/connections.
Nevertheless, such new techniques require a new operating model which is different and complex from its previous versions and need proper knowledge to develop the architecture that can serve network requirements. For example, for developing an NFV infrastructure for 5G networks, one should have detailed knowledge about server virtualization, networking, storage virtualization, and cloud computing along with good hands-on experience on specifics of telecom domain like EPC/LTE Packet core, IMS, etc.
Luckily, advanced software packages like DASCAD are making it easier for network operators to incorporate network layers into their planning, including optimizing for small cell locations.
The transition from 4G to 5G technology is a substantial financial undertaking. One of the main cost centers for 5G is the equipment needed to support it. This includes both the routers and switches that will support the higher bandwidths and densities required by 5G, as well as the new base stations that will be needed to provide coverage.
While the cost of 5G equipment has been declining, there are still other costs associated with operating a 5G network. Configuration work, for example, can be costly as it requires specialized skills and knowledge. Network testing and management also incur costs, as do software updates. In addition, the transition to 5G requires a major investment in new spectrum licenses.
As 5G technology becomes more widespread, these costs are likely to decline as well. However, for now, they represent a significant expense for 5G operators.
Ultra-Low Latency Requirements
5G infrastructure is being built to support a wide range of applications beyond traditional telecom. Some applications that have seen significant attention include the emerging market of devices that require ultra-low latency, meaning they have to operate in real time. This market includes a variety of applications such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and industrial automation. Legacy networks simply cannot handle this speed and volume of data.
There are several technical challenges that need to be addressed to meet these stringent, low latency requirements. For example, CSPs must consider the type of traffic that will be passing through the network, the physical layer infrastructure, and the routing protocols. The networks also need to be built with a higher density of small cell sites and use advanced technologies such as beamforming and massive MIMO.
Tools like iMeasure are growing increasingly sophisticated in response to these challenges. For example, iMeasure now includes new methodologies to precisely measure latency during the network planning process.
5G networks will present new challenges for telecom engineers in terms of both ensuring reliability and performance as well as safeguarding against potential cyber threats.
As mentioned, 5G networks will be highly distributed, with small cell towers located in densely populated areas. This increased density will require new consideration of potential cybersecurity risks. One such risk is the increased scenario of a Denial of Service (DoS) attack, in which malicious actors attempt to overload the network with illegitimate traffic, preventing legitimate users from accessing the network. Another risk is the possibility of data interception, as 5G networks will transmit large amounts of data over short distances.
Another security challenge is that networks will also be distributed in remote areas which creates new risks that also must be considered for proper cybersecurity. Some unique capabilities that need to be taken into account to mitigate this risk include:
- The ability to manage dynamic changes in the network environment
- The need for highly granular and real-time visibility into traffic patterns
- The ability to quickly identify and respond to anomalies
Consideration of potential risks is essential to mitigating these dangers and ensuring the success of 5G technology.
5G is a cutting-edge technology that promises significant benefits for telecom operators and customers alike. However, 5G networks are also very complex, and building them poses several challenges. One of the most significant challenges is the need to deploy a dense network of small cell sites. This places a great deal of strain on construction crews and equipment, and it also increases the risk of service disruptions. Another challenge is keeping operating and maintenance costs low. 5G networks require more frequent updates and monitoring than previous generations of wireless technology, which drives up costs. Finally, 5G networks must meet stringent requirements for latency and security. This is particularly challenging given the increased threat from cyberattacks. Despite these challenges, 5G represents a major opportunity for telecom operators. Proper planning and execution are needed to reap the rewards of this game-changing technology.