Think 5G and already people think of technologies and breakthroughs like Massive MIMO, beamforming, network slicing, Gigabit-speed throughput, near-zero latency and applications like autonomous vehicles, remote healthcare, IoT and Industry 4.0. But not many people will think of what goes on ‘under the hood’ of a 5G network to make all that happen. And some might even question whether it will happen at all.
To address this last point, it will. 5G is growing ever closer to commercial reality, with operators worldwide undertaking critical testing - in particular, now that the 3GPP-approved 5G NR standard can be applied - to see how the technology will address requirements of scale and capacity in a massive way as applications evolve and new business cases emerge.
The momentum Nokia has witnessed in its trials with more than 50 operators around the world underlines how they recognise the opportunities 5G will bring them. However, they also recognise that 5G networks will have to support billions of devices and machines, as well as millions of network nodes - an unprecedented volume and scale requiring existing infrastructure and components to evolve rapidly. To this end, ease of deployment and the management of the total cost of ownership of 5G networks are top priorities for them.
This is why Nokia has developed ReefShark, a brand new chipset we announced last week, that will dramatically ease 5G rollouts. ReefShark – named after one of the most agile members of the shark family - will reduce the size, cost and power consumption of each cell site, while simultaneously boosting intelligence and processing performance to enable networks to handle the complexities of myriad connections within the 5G network.
By incorporating ReefShark chipsets into their networks, operators will gain the huge network performance improvements needed to unleash the full potential of 5G. ReefShark is, in many respects, a natural development of silicon chip technology, which has evolved and diversified beyond, simply, ‘the computer’, to provide computational power to all manner of vertical applications. And I’m particularly proud that it was developed in-house, following on from decades of innovation in silicon within Nokia and Nokia Bell Labs and it sets us apart. We can now provide all parts of an end-to-end 5G solution, so that operators can focus on how to transform their own service offering for 5G. Much has been written about new business opportunities, delivering against a number of needs the 5G network will create: ubiquitous, yet discreet; scalable to be both infinite and personal; flexible, adaptable and agile, and yet also more powerful than a network has been possible to be so far; and – essentially – efficient, both in terms of its operability but also in its energy usage.
Network flexibility is key: a network must adapt to efficiently provide the capacity and services required by 5G users, devices and applications, drawing on the cloud – not only a centralized cloud, but a distributed cloud edge architecture. This network must be fast and intelligent, able to dynamically connect every kind of device, seamlessly and also taking into account the co-habitation of LTE and 5G, as well as unlicensed and shared spectrum in wireless and wired domains.
Powerful advances in chipset technology will drive these new networks. Last June, we announced another silicon innovation in enabling these networks – the FP4 network processor, which allows service providers and webscale operators to implement IP networks with supreme scale, security and functionality. And now, our ReefShark baseband system-on-a-chip variant will provide unprecedented baseband performance, with the dawn of a terabit Nokia AirScale base station. This will meet the expected leap in traffic consumption that will result from exponential growth of broadband consumption, either by consumers, enterprises or industry.
Beyond performance and capacity, optimizing the network to maximize resources and provide the best subscriber experience is a constant challenge but with embedded artificial intelligence, ReefShark applies realtime machine learning too, exposing data instantly that allows network operators to automate the network at non-human speed.
We talk about 5G in superlative terms – “massive scale” and unimaginable data speeds – a lot like we talk about sharks. Last week, Nokia unveiled the power behind all this, and just how to take the bite out of 5G deployment.
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