In Business Model, Internet Access, Mobile

Many decades ago, a senior engineering executive at US West, the telephone company that became Qwest and now is part of CenturyLink, pointed out that US West “buys networks,” not components or even systems. It might be even more true, once fifth generation networks are commercialized, that large service providers will be assembling networks.

The reason is that it is inconceivable proposed fifth generation networks can meet their design goals without full and intimate interworking of computing architectures, backbone networks, data centers and cloud computing resources, mobile and fixed access networks.

As radical as it might seem, fifth generation mobile networks now have a design goal of eradicating the difference between access speed between fixed and mobile networks. Equally important, 5G thinking includes one millisecond end to end latency that will force a rethink of how all networks are designed and where computing activities occur.

Those requirements show how hard it will be to clearly delineate “cloud computing” from “big data” from “access networks” and “computing architecture.”

LIkewise, it will be hard to separate “fixed” from “mobile” access or “network functions virtualization” and “software defined networks” from “networks” in general.

With the caveat that we might be overly aggressive in terms of our expectations for fifth generation mobile networks, a new International Telecommunications Union group  looking at 5G fixed infrastructure shows just how much might be changing.

ITU has established a new Focus Group to identify the fixed network requirements for 5G.

The ITU notes that its IMT 2020 program already envisions “wireless communication to match the speed and reliability achieved by fibre-optic infrastructure.”

As others note, the next generation of potential apps will require extremely low latency–with a goal of one millisecond, end to end latency as the 5G design goal.

“One-millisecond end-to-end latency is necessary for technical systems to replicate natural human interaction with our environment, a goal that experts say should be within reach of future networks,” the ITU said.

“Air interfaces and radio access networks are progressing rapidly, but there is a need to devote more attention to the networking aspects of IMT-2020,” said ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao.

“Today’s network architectures cannot support the envisaged capabilities of IMT-2020 systems,” said Chaesub Lee, ITU Telecommunication Standardization Bureau director.


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