What’s So Special About 5G & Network Slicing?
The 5G network is a big deal. How big? So big, that TechSpot compared it to the jump from 56K dial-up to cable internet, which was huge. And while not everyone is exactly sure what 5G will look like, the underpinnings of the technology are already starting to be deployed and they’re very exciting, especially for our telco customers – who are currently trying to figure out what it means for them, how it will affect/help their business and what they can expect from the next generation of connectivity.
In terms of numbers, Ericsson, a leader in the world of 5G, says that “with global mobile data traffic expected to grow eight times by the end of 2023, there is a need for a more efficient technology, higher data rates and spectrum utilisation. New applications such as 4K/8K video streaming, virtual and augmented reality and emerging industrial use cases will also require higher bandwidth, greater capacity, security, and lower latency. Equipped with these capabilities, 5G will bring new opportunities for people, society, and businesses… Previous generations of mobile networks addressed consumers predominantly for voice and SMS in 2G, web browsing in 3G and higher-speed data and video streaming in 4G. The transition from 4G to 5G will serve both consumers and multiple industries.”
What is 5G?
First, let’s define some terms. 5G is the fifth generation of wireless communication and it describes some networks that are coming online right now.
The first thing that most people will notice about 5G is it’s significantly faster speeds than those on 4G networks. The 5G performance standard calls for a peak download speed of 20 Gb/s, compared to the 4G standard, which calls for a peak download speed of 1 Gb/s. Of course, it’s rare for a user to experience the peak download speed. But the increase in speed is ambitious and very appealing.
Along with that speed comes increased reliability. 5G is built to handle a huge number of simultaneous connections on the same network, without significant penalties in speed. As the world becomes increasingly connected through IoT devices, this becomes ever more important.
IoT is a strong area of focus in the 5G network. With up to 24 billion IoT devices to be connected to the internet by 2020, networks need to be able to handle a huge amount of data from a variety of device types.
Much of this increased speed and reliability comes from the use of new radio frequencies. By using higher frequencies than 4G, 5G towers will be fighting through less interference. And they can also be tuned directionally, allowing for more targeted coverage.
All of this means that end customers are likely to be attracted to 5G like moths to a flame. Expect a huge demand on telcos to respond quickly when customers want to replace their home broadband with 5G wireless networks.
What Is Network Slicing?
Possibly the most interesting innovation in 5G, however, is network slicing.
With 5G, companies will be able to build networks with different (software-based) functionalities on top of the same network infrastructure. Each of these networks is called a “slice.”
This sounds a lot like existing QoS and DiffServ technologies, but it importantly differs in key ways that give mobile network providers the power to segregate traffic based on specific characteristics.
A common example points out the difference in network requirements for self-driving cars and mobile browsing. Autonomous vehicles need extremely low-latency connections, but also don’t require much throughput. Mobile phone users can handle higher latencies, but will need significant amounts of bandwidth.
Mobile network providers can optimise for both types of traffic with network slicing. Two completely self-contained networks can be built on a single physical infrastructure, each optimised for its specific type of traffic.
The ability to slice networks like this also opens up business opportunities by letting network providers rent out slices to clients when they need a specific type of connectivity.
In short, network slicing is a new and really interesting way to both increase speed and offer a wider array of services to mobile customers.
How Can Telcos Benefit?
This is the question that many telcos and company executives are asking right now.
The advantages of increased speed and reliability are obvious. Your employees, executives, products and services will all be better connected to the information they need. Faster uploads and downloads, better connectivity and more access to information being generated by IoT is good for everyone.
The benefits of network slicing, however, aren’t as immediately clear.
If you’re a mobile network provider, it’s an opportunity to rent out smaller slices of your network to make more money. But what if you’re not a network provider?
Part of network slicing comes back to speed and reliability. If the software-based network that you’re using is better optimised for the type of traffic that you’re sending, you’ll get better performance. And slices can be optimised for many traffic types. So, if your company uses different types of devices, 5G should get you better service.
And there’s the possibility of prioritising lower-cost slices for traffic that doesn’t need huge amounts of throughput or speed. For example, you might choose a slightly slower slice for email, since it doesn’t usually require low latency or a huge amount of data.
Continuing that example, you’ll be able to use email tools (such as email apps) that are optimised for 5G. For example, we’re working on a user interface prototype that will help telcos and their customers get deeper insights into their 5G data usage. And better insights can translate to decreased costs, right?
When Is 5G Coming?
You have probably seen “5G” splashed across your telecom news feeds for some time now, because the groundwork for 5G is already being laid, with 5G standardisation accelerated by the first 5G New Radio (NR) standard finalised in Dec 2017 and completed in June 2018, plus selected field trials being conducted over the last two years.
A few big telcos (through vendors such as Ericsson) will be offering 5G mobile networks in 2018, but we won’t see the full extent of 5G’s power until around 2020.
The GSMA estimates that we could see nearly 1.5 billion 5G connections by 2025. Of course, the exact dates will differ based on where you’re located. For example, Telstra is saying they’ll offer 5G in Australia by 2019. China is already working to deploy some of the world’s first fully functional 5G networks.
Collaborative Innovation in the 5G Era
Here at atmail, we’re very excited about the upcoming transition to 5G and about our opportunities to work with telcos and service providers as an innovative partner in the 5G transition. We want to help telcos innovative their 5G-data-inspired email platforms, as well as grow and monetise their email platforms.
Yes, 5G represents a big change and just like our telecom customers, we’re expanding our atmail roadmap in anticipation of the 5G rollout.
So, if you’re looking for a platform partner to join you on the 5G journey, we’d love to hear from you here.
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With 20 years of global, white label, email expertise serving telecommunications and hosting providers across every continent, you can trust us to keep your email platform secure, reliable and private. We offer user-friendly, white labelled, cloud hosted email with 99.99% uptime and your choice of US or (GDPR compliant) EU data centres. If you want to stay in-house, we offer on-premises webmail and/or mail server options. We power 170 million mailboxes worldwide and our customer satisfaction rating is 99%.
So, if you’re looking for a trusted email services provider to manage your customer email for you, so that your technical team can hand over email management and get back to core business, we can help.
Written by Dann Albright and Andrea Martins