5G networks means different things to different people, but everybody agrees that it is about wireless connectivity solutions that will deliver services, enough bandwidth in any context and with different and multiples devices, always connected and inter-connected.

Consumers do not care how their communication services are delivered, simply that they are delivered when they want them and where they want them. This is not how things work today, and it will be technically challenging to deliver.

.In consequence 5G networks are expected to offer the opportunity to launch, efficiently and cost-effectively, numerous new services and allow an ecosystem for technical and business innovation. In addition, the 5G infrastructures will provide tailored network solutions specialized to support vertical markets such as automotive, energy, food and agriculture, healthcare, etc. It is at this point where innovation is born and is no longer a challenge but a business opportunity.

Development of 5G networks is driven by the fundamental challenges existing in the networks. The challenges can be grouped under three higher categories: enhanced and improved mobile broadband, Internet of Things (IoT), and critical infrastructure. In all these areas the innovation is going to appear, increasing the competition and generating disruptive business models..

1. The enhanced and improved mobile broadband

Contrary to the evolution of previous generations of mobile networks, 5G will require not only improved networking solutions but also a sophisticated integration of massive computing and storage infrastructures. It will mean the softwarization of the network y three important areas:

  • Softwarization in radio access networks:

The fundamental system requirement for 5G RAN is unprecedented agility in spatial, temporal and frequency dimensions, the introduction of software network technologies, would generate i) flexibility in spectrum management; ii) fine-grained network programmability; iii) dynamic provisioning of network slices; and iv) heterogeneous and dense deployments. As mentioned before, this is not the way things work today.

  • Softwarization in core networks:

The majority of the core network and service plane functions are expected to be deployed as VNFs in the 5G timeframe, thus running in virtual machines over standard servers, potentially on cloud computing infrastructures (i.e. data centers). The concept is opening a new world of opportunities for IT providers and represents as well a bigger challenge for companies like Cisco, Ericsson or Nokia.

The design of these core network functions will to some extent explore SDN principles, such as data plane/control plane split, fulfilling the envisioned SDN/NFV native architecture.

Softwarization can be flexibly deployed in different sites in the operator’s network, depending on the requirements with regards to latency, available transport, processing and storage capacity.

  • Softwarization in transport networks:

The softwarization of transport networks can act as a platform for applications, user services and network services to adapt the operation of the transport network to the needs of the RAN, and to provide more flexibility for the network.

2. Internet of Things (IoT)

The number of IoT devices is expected to grow dramatically, with sensors deployed for a wide variety of applications such as building security and automation, smart metering and utilities, infrastructure maintenance, automotive, health-care, and consumer electronics applications.

Gartner estimates that nearly 5.5 million new things were connected to the Internet every day in 2016, with a total of 20.8 billion IoT devices connected by 2020, which gives some sense of the scope of this market.

Mobile operators using licensed radio spectrum face stiff competition here, with numerous open and proprietary IoT protocols being developed for use on the unlicensed spectrum. Efforts are underway to develop variants of 4G technology designed for the IoT market, such as Narrow-Band IoT.

These technologies show us why the evolution of LTE toward a new type of network is mandatory. The opportunity exists for mobile operators and equipment vendors to design 5G to position their technology as a preferred solution for the wave of expected IoT connections. This opportunity is going the increase as solutions are combined with startup companies that can’t integrate efficient solutions with the network. It is in this field where innovation and collaboration mean differentiation.

▪Critical infrastructure

Public safety will be an important factor of next-generation wireless technology. 5G networks should be designed to have high levels of reliability and robustness when required. 5G will be an important key tool in supporting telemedicine, public safety or autonomous vehicles. One forecast estimates that driverless cars will account for 3 million 5G connections by 2025.

The extent 5G is relied upon for actual safety-related features (and not just in-car entertainment), will obviously be crucial

¿Where the innovation is going to be? 🔜 5G is about better end-to-end performance, better support for non-traditional applications, and innovation ecosystems that can support all the aspects that have been mentioned.

By consequence it is not necessarily about higher speeds or new air interfaces. Enabling 5G is about enabling M2M, high speed, customer experiences and more, more products solutions, tailor-made solution and services. It is about how the word has changed. With this idea the innovation can be anywhere and just depends the ability of the provider to integrate with the innovation ecosystem and if operators are capable to develop services with their customer.

Innovation is going to be one of most important issues of the next Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona. This year this topic is crucial for the industry.