Fixed Fifth-Gen Networks Hit the Ground Running
Industry discussion around 5G has raised the profile of high bandwidth and low-latency applications. These include HD and ultra-HD video streaming, requiring network bandwidths up 300 Mbps, and cloud gaming.
Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) gaming and other applications can require both high bandwidth and low latency. Fixed fiber networks can offer significant benefits for these applications when combined with Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE802.11ax), which will reliably support multi-gigabit speeds within enterprise, residential, and public spaces. The general demands on enterprise and residential access networks is changing quickly with cloud-based services and greater homeworking requiring higher speeds and more symmetric access networks.
Fixed line networks have always supported higher bandwidths and greater availability than mobile networks, and this should continue with the right investment in full-fiber solutions using the latest technology. Through the development of LTE and 5G technology, wireless networks have seen significant investment and delivered huge increases in bandwidth and capabilities. These developments have been largely coordinated through three industry bodies; the ITU, 3GPP and GSMA and have been universally adopted.
The architecture of LTE and 5G wireless infrastructure is evolving to take advantage of network virtualization and deliver differentiated services through technologies such as network slicing. By comparison fixed network development has been driven by separate industry groups focused on optical technology, access network architecture, interfaces and the Wi-Fi solutions needed to connect fixed networks to mobile devices in the home and office.
Efforts to define solutions for fifth generation fixed networks (F5G) have accelerated with work already progressing in key areas and a trebling in the number of members since the launch of the ETSI ISG F5G in February 2020. Next-generation fixed line networks are needed to complement and support the 5G wireless networks being deployed across the world and support the growing number of cloud services requiring high bandwidth and/or low latency connections. The ETSI ISG F5G industry specification group is aiming to open up new opportunities that will use full-fiber connections (FFC) to drive enhanced fixed broadband (eFBB) and deliver a guaranteed reliable experience (GRE).
The ETSI ISG F5G is studying the fixed network evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile networks and communications. This is expected to open up new opportunities by comprehensively applying fiber technology and expanding the reach of fiber to everything, everywhere. There are many business areas that can benefit from full-fiber connectivity and smart solutions including education, healthcare, finance, energy, transportation, and manufacturing. Industry 4.0 applications will require many connections and bandwidths from a 100 Mbit/s to 10 Gbit/s and above.
The timing of this initiative is opportune with the reach of copper connections reducing as bandwidths increase, bringing the “last mile” connection down to a few metres and users in some areas receiving Gbps services and others struggling to reach 20 Mbps. New technologies such as 10G PON, Wifi 6, 200/400G WDM, OSU-OTN, and E2E network slicing are becoming available and next generation fixed networks can also benefit from many of the developments made to support 5G mobile including open interfaces and multi-access edge computing (MEC). The ETSI ISG F5G group now has more than 40 members and has already started work on six key areas including a new architecture and framework to define next-generation fixed networks.
The ETSI ISG F5G initiative is an opportunity for fixed network stakeholders – operators, suppliers and users – to understand the services needed, analyse the current status and develop strategies and solutions to maximise the return on investment from fixed line networks. These developments will enable synergy and coordination of network infrastructure, virtualization and cloud services across transport, access, and CPE in all industries verticals, including telcos and enterprises, and deliver enhanced quality of experience to users.
About the Author
Simon Stanley, Analyst At Large, Heavy Reading
Simon is Founder and Principal Consultant at Earlswood Marketing Ltd., an independent market analyst and consulting company based in the UK. His recent work has included investment due diligence, market analysis for investors and business/product strategy for semiconductor companies.
Simon has written extensively for Heavy Reading and Light Reading. His reports and Webinars cover a variety of communications-related subjects, including SDN/NFV, LTE, 40G/100G/400G components, ATCA, MicroTCA, multicore processors, switch fabric chipsets, network processors and packet-optical silicon. He has also run several Light Reading events covering next-generation networking components and ATCA.
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