5G-Advanced will change the way we slice, automate and power the network
5G-Advanced will make extended reality (XR) truly mobile, helping fuse our digital and physical worlds. It will bring hyper-sensitive positioning and resilient timing to mobile networking, creating many new opportunities for services beyond communications. It will open the door to new industries and set the stage for completely new categories of mobile devices. These are just a few of the examples outlined in Nokia Chief Technology and Strategy Officer Nishant Batra’s recent blog post on how 5G-Advanced will transform the network in four dimensions: experience, expansion, extension and operational excellence.
The examples above encapsulate the first three of those dimensions, or E’s, highlighting those 5G-Advanced capabilities that will be tangible to the consumers, enterprises and industry. But there is a fourth E that might not be so obvious or relatable to the world at large but is equally as important to those running these networks. We are of course talking about operational excellence.
Operations may not be the most exciting aspect of networking from an outsider’s perspective, but a well-run network is both vital to operators and their customers. 5G-Advanced will hone the operational performance of 5G, adding new degrees of robustness and resilience to the network. It will provide new analytics capabilities, which will, in turn, enable greater levels of network automation. It will refine and enhance network slicing – one of 5G’s most important service innovations – granting unprecedented management and customization capabilities to operators and customers alike. Finally, 5G-Advanced will be a milestone in the energy-efficiency evolution of networking, as 3GPP has made minimizing power consumption a major focus of mobile standards from Release 18 onwards.
So, in this final blog post in our four-part series on the 4 E’s of 5G-Advanced, let’s take a detailed look at how operational excellence will shape networking in the future.
5G-Advanced takes slicing to the next level
5G-Advanced will bring major improvements to the way network slices are configured, managed and controlled, allowing network operators to offer the most granular levels of service to their customers. 3GPP will define new features in Release 18 that will provide service continuity across network slices, allow operators to configure slices for specific geographic areas or zones, extend slice functions across roaming partners networks and provide much finer control over how individual devices use slicing services.
These new 5G-Advanced capabilities will enable a bevy of new slicing operations features and functions – and provide a much more seamless experience for slice customers. For instance, a user connected to a slice operating in the C-band might begin using a sophisticated AR application that requires dependable real-time connectivity to function properly. Knowing the C-band slice isn’t fully adequate for the app’s needs, the network could hand off the AR session without interruption to a mmWave slice that would easily support bounded low latency with the required reliability.
5G-Advanced will also provide enhancements that support different slicing features for different geographic areas depending on the infrastructure available. For instance, a network operator could provide enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) capabilities to customers nationwide and additionally offer ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) to those same customers in specific zones. In such an example, a logistics company could track its fleet across the country, and upon entering denser urban areas, more sophisticated URLLC-based features would kick in, such as autonomous driving, vehicle to everything (V2X) and real-time route synchronization.
Other Release 18 enhancements would give more flexibility to both devices and the network in how they manage slicing features. Roaming customers would be able to access the same or similar slice capabilities from their home networks while on visited networks. Operators could control when specific devices or classes of device have access to a slice, allowing them to manage user behavior more effectively. Operators could even set limits on the number of devices that could access a slice at any given moment to meet specific customer agreement guidelines and manage traffic in the slice.
5G-Advanced analytics leads to increased automation
The unsung heroes of network operations are analytics. By collecting network-and device-related data, operators can build statistical models and make predictions about device traffic and user behavior that can improve network performance and ensure smooth end-to-end network operations. Most importantly, the better analytics an operator can produce, the closer they get to the holy grail of network operations: full automation.
3GPP is placing a heavy focus on analytics in Release 18, providing more accuracy, better handling of data collection and storage, and finer granularity of location information in 5G-Advanced networks. This will greatly improve on the analytics capabilities over Release 16 and Release 17, giving operators unprecedented control over functions like customized mobility management for devices, traffic routing assistance, defining appropriate QoS setting, guaranteeing service-level agreements for slices and optimizing slice selection based on load.
One of the verticals where Release 18 analytics features will impact network operations is so called “predictive QoS” or “predictive connectivity” in the context of cellular-vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) communications. By linking vehicles and road users to each other and their surrounding infrastructure, C-V2X is a vital technology enabler that will reduce traffic fatalities, improve road safety and help increase traffic efficiency and sustainability on all roads. C-V2X-based network communications will also pave the way to cooperative automated driving.
In order to provide optimized connectivity to vehicles, C-V2X need to understand and manage the changing QoS levels along their routes. 5G-Advanced will provide the predictive tools that will allow C-V2X systems to understand QoS requirements down to the street level, allowing them to predict and adjust network behavior accordingly. For instance, if a car driving in a cooperative automated mode exits a freeway into an area with lower network reliability, it would be informed of the new QoS conditions and automatically react according to the vehicle’s safety policies.
Another way analytics can streamline network operations is in roaming cases. When a user roams onto a new visited network, that network likely has no information on the user. The visited network, however, wants to understand the device’s usual mobility patterns, typical communication patterns and overall expected behavior, just as it would with its home users’ devices. 5G-Advanced will make it easy for home networks to share analytics with visited networks as soon as users establish connections. This will allow the visited networks to optimize their service for every roaming user.
Building a more Earth-friendly 5G
A key element of operational excellence is sustainability, as more energy-efficient and environmentally viable networks not only provide more cost savings but also meet the industry’s growing social responsibilities. At Nokia, we strive to minimize our carbon footprint by minimizing greenhouse gas emissions while maximizing our carbon handprint through processes that have a positive impact on the environment. As 5G becomes more pervasive, expanding into more industries, geographies, use cases and frequency bands, its environmental impact will grow unless checked. Consequently, 5G-Advanced is looking at new ways of minimizing energy consumption in the network.
3GPP is developing a new energy consumption model for 5G-Advanced, focusing on the base station and radio access network, which draws the vast majority of the network’s electricity. The study will investigate techniques for minimizing power use on both the uplink and downlink as well when the network is dynamically transmitting data or passively waiting in standby. The ongoing work even evaluates the possibility of balancing performance against energy efficiency in different 5G-Advanced scenarios.
A more energy-efficient radio access network will make 5G-Advanced networks more operationally efficient, as will the new slicing and analytics capabilities we detailed above. And while these enhancements may not capture the public imagination, those capabilities will ultimately help enable big-ticket use cases like XR everywhere and self-driving cars that will captivate the world. In short, operational excellence is key to building the networks that will help the world act together.
Interested in learning more about 5G-Advanced? Check out our 5G-Advanced page.