What do the networks of the future look like? In a Total Telecom panel discussion, experts from Huawei and ABI Research explained how network transformation must happen today to deliver the Target Networks of 2025
Throughout 2020, despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, 5G rollouts have continued at an impressive pace around the world. Now, in 2021, 5G is maturing in both Eastern and Western markets, with industry discussions around the new technology going beyond the consumer market, with much more emphasis on its potential impact for enterprises.
Indeed, it is the increasing digitalisation of industries across the world, in part accelerated by the pandemic, that is becoming a major driving force for network transformation. In a recent panel hosted by Total Telecom, Huawei’s Chief Architect of Network Transformation at Huawei Carrier Business Group, Andy Li explained how it is enterprise applications for 5G, not the traditional consumer market, that holds the greatest opportunity for operators.
“We are seeing more and more digital applications in traditional industries, such as 5G factories and 5G ports”, explained Li. “The customer is changing, and the service type is also changing. The application scenarios are changing too. For the sake of future opportunities, we suggest operators start network preparations today, by changing the network planning from a traditional traffic-centric to a service-centric.”
His colleague, Jennifer Zhang, Huawei’s VP of Global Network Marketing & Solution Sales Department, agreed, arguing that operators need to adopt this future-oriented mentality, targeting future milestones and working backwards from there.
“As Rome was not built in a day, network transformation cannot be completed overnight,” she said. “Carriers must imagine standing in 2025 looking back at the present. They need to balance technological evolution, time to market, network scale, and the construction costs. Both the long-term and short-term benefits and the priority of investment should be considered.”
But with network requirements changing so quickly, where can we begin when it comes to network planning? For Huawei, the target network for 2025 will have five key components.
A GUIDE to the Target Network 2025
Gigabit Anywhere: 5G is set to take customer experiences to the next level, whether in the form of video services moving from HD to 4K and even 8K or facilitating virtual and augmented reality. But these data-heavy use cases will put the networks under strain. For customers to truly enjoy a 5G experience, they will need seamless gigabit network coverage and quality.
Ultra-Automation: As the scale and complexity of networks increases, manual operation will simply become unfeasible. Intelligent automation must be integrated within the network, able to make fast and accurate data-driven decisions to reduce the burden on manual operators.
Intelligent Multi-Cloud Connection: As digitalisation accelerates, both large enterprises and small-to-medium enterprises are shifting to a multi-cloud strategy, using cloud services from various cloud providers simultaneously, both private and public. The target networks of 2025 must be able to handle this multi-cloud functionality intelligently, utilising AI to efficiently manage and optimise the use of multiple cloud providers.
“An enterprise having deployed a campus-based network that’s completely isolated from the public network will want, at a certain stage, to expand its services to the public network. For example, for workers traveling outside the campus and so on,” explained Dimitris Mavrakis, senior research director at ABI Research. “So, many operators are currently designing these systems and trying to understand the implications of not interfacing with these new business models. This is happening across the world, certainly in China, in the US, in Europe, in many other areas. Many of these applications and the systems will be deployed on the public cloud sooner or later.”
Differentiated Experience: It is becoming increasingly clear that customers will pay more for better and more reliable experiences, when the network can be configured to their specific needs. This is the case for network slicing, for example, which will provide 5G customers with end-to-end network and performance customisation, isolation, and quality assurance.
“Deterministic technologies such as network slicing are becoming mature, which will enable operators to monetise their network capability much better,” noted Andy Li.
Environmental Harmony: Finally, in the telecoms industry and the world at large, there is an increasing onus on businesses to achieve carbon neutrality and structure their growth in a sustainable way. As network complexity increases and the amount of data traffic goes up, networks are going to consume more energy, and this is a major challenge which needs to be overcome. From innovation in technology to sustainable development strategies, building a greener network is a key concern for the future.
But achieving this GUIDE framework in today’s networks is no simple task. We must remember that different markets have different levels of development and requirements, meaning the ways in which these key metrics can be realised by 2025 in one market may be far more advanced than in another.
“It’s very important to consider market effects and even macroeconomic effects for this target, and perhaps take a step-by-step approach for many of these networks rather than applying a common approach for the target network across the market,” said Mavrakis.
But regardless of market specifics, the pandemic has shown that network requirements can change rapidly, meaning that thorough planning for the network’s future evolution has never been more important.
“We can see that even in the current era with the pandemic and many other restrictions, all of the requirements of the network and operators are constantly changing,” said Mavrakis. “I think that this process [of trying to refine future networks] is a vital one, especially these days.”
When asked to provide examples of this future target network methodology in action, Andy Li demonstrated the concept of Intelligent Multi-Cloud connection with Huawei’s partner China Telecom Ningxia. In the operator’s network, Huawei’s intelligent cloud network solution has allowed for network slicing and SRv6 technologies, meaning individual customers can be delivered virtual private network services, as well as connecting to multiple clouds, including the hybrid cloud and OTT clouds. The solution also offers customers a unified portal, providing one-stop services for both cloud and network services, available directly through an online purchase. Finally, it allows for visualised services, allowing the customer to see network performance instantly, in real time, including bandwidth, latency and even packet loss.
“It is very important for industrial customers’ experience, for example, that if a fault occurs, customers can report the fault and view the troubleshooting progress online in real time,” explained Mr Li.
Network requirements are changing, and their future success is far from guaranteed. Action must be taken now, to ensure that the networks of the 2025 is competitive and can rise to changing expectations of our digital world.
“To enable all of these features, the network planning needs to happen today and that’s what we’re seeing across the market,” said Mavrakis. “We’re seeing the next step of the 5G revolution both on the radio domain — what does it take to have more energy efficiency, higher capacity, and more efficient systems in general? — but also in the back end, with virtualisation, with intelligent network orchestration, and much more.”
“To conclude from an analyst point of view, this is a very interesting time.”
You can watch our full interview with Jennifer, Andy and Dimitris from the link above