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The extent to which the current European Union vision of fifth generation networks will be realized remains unclear. The good news is that the vision is breathtaking. The bad news is that the vision is breathtaking.

Telcos have a spotty record where it comes to next generation network visions.

That vision is that 5G will integrate networking, computing and storage resources into one programmable and unified infrastructure.

Some might say that would be the culmination of a multi-decade movement towards a unified “communications and computing” best exemplified, for example, by cloud computing, where the computing infrastructure and communications infrastructure are hard to extricate.

That is explicit in calls for a network protocol that features “dynamic usage of all distributed
resources,” as proposed by the 5G PPP. That is only part of a vision that incorporates flexibility, spectrum efficiency, sustainable, scalable, energy efficient access across optical, cellular and satellite networks.

As envisioned, 5G will heavily rely on emerging technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Fog Computing (FC).

The plan explicitly calls for use of frequencies above 6 GHz, to support end user bandwidth as much as 1,000 times more than is available today.

The caution is that telecom companies have had major issues when rolling out new “next generation networks.” Failure is more common than success. Recall that ISDN, broadband ISDN (ATM) and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) all were seen as “next generation network” protocols.

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