The Future Digital World Depends on Unified Fixed Network Standards
By Atul Dalakoti, Executive Director of FICCI and Center Founder of BRICS Center for Economic Cultural Research and Services
I still remember when I travelled for work or even a holiday in the past, I needed to carry at least two mobile phones and a handful of SIM cards from different countries. This was a situation for many many years. But now are we are getting ready again for resuming global travel and a single 5G-enabled mobile phone is quite enough to meet all my communication requirements for both personal and official travels.
The rise of F5G
5G is not only about mobile phone connectivity and speed, but more so about an aligned approach based on an industry consensus. The hallmark of the 5G era in wireless is a single globally unified set of standards, unlike an analog signal era with eight competing technical standards. For the fixed network industry, ETSI released the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G) standard in 2020, which solved the initial problems of fragmentation and unclear generations. As 5G coverage is increasing very rapidly, much more work needs to be done and a greater industry consensus needs to be achieved to take F5G to the next level of development.
F5G provides 10 times the bandwidth of 4G; 10 times the number of connections, from home to appliances and gadgets, and an ultra-broadband application experience featuring high reliability and near zero waiting time. This has resulted in fully achieving digital transformation of entire industries. Ever since F5G was established as the generation of fixed networks two years ago, concerted efforts have been made across the industry to accelerate the development of optical businesses. At the same time, both carriers and enterprises have pushed the digital transformation of industries. Gigabit networks and FTTR (fiber to the room) are improving home broadband quality, and fiber connectivity is being adopted by more and more industries.
Agreeing to a global standard cannot and should not be the responsibility of one company or organization, and any agreed standard needs to prioritize the wider benefits of economic development and the needs of all of society rather than short-term politics. Otherwise, it would have long lasting impact on the whole telecom industry and affect companies in the new economy seeking to create cutting edge technologies. For example, at the 19th Huawei Global Analyst Summit (HAS) in 2022, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman Ken Hu announced a vision for F5.5G, proposing to increase bandwidth, coverage, and network experience by more than tenfold over the F5G standard, and recognizing the increased expectations on fixed network in terms of volume, speed, and performance.
The announcement comes almost exactly two years after Huawei launched the F5G industry network. As a key member of the fixed industry, Huawei follows the pace of standards organizations such as ETSI, which invites global fixed network industry players, both upstream and downstream companies, to join the F5G industry organization.
Huawei’s initiative aims to create an ecosystem to help fixed network industry to thrive and create amazing effiencies that would guide the digitialzed world to create products that help humankind in its pursuit of excellence.
During HAS, Informa Tech held the “F5G Evolution Summit – Promoting Industrial Prosperity,” to discuss industry cooperation in fixed 5G.
Luca Pesando, Chair of ETSI ISG F5G said, “ISG F5G develops smoothly with its publication of F5G Release 1 in the first mandate. Now is the right time to discuss the evolution of F5G to the next level “F5G Advanced” in its second mandate.”
Martin Creaner, the Director General at WBBA (World Broadband Association), emphasized the need to create “an independent broadband roadmap to support the needs of the future services and applications of 2030 and beyond” and build an “industry consensus, setting action plans, conducting business research, and defining the future generations of broadband.”
Why F5.5G and where would it be used?
So what is the value of advancing F5G and why does it matter if we don’t have unified standards?
Applications and products and services that were once considered to be the future are fast becoming reality. For example, our fixed networks need to be ready to support ultra-high definition video streaming, e-health, cloud office, online education, online entertainment, virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR). Next generation fixed networks are essential for complementing and supporting the 5G/Wi-Fi 6 wireless networks being deployed across the world, as well as supporting the growing number of cloud services that require high bandwidth and/or low latency connections. The multi-gigabit access capability of the F5G not only serves home users, but also extends to the entire industry including office, manufacturing, services, and other businesses, enabling the digital transformation of society. Fixed networks can be deployed in factories, mines, docks, and oilfields to implement industrial automation. Automation machinery and robots with precise control can replace manual labor, achieving efficient and automated unmanned factories. Fixed networks can be extended from large enterprises to SMEs and companies to provide them with various private line interconnections and cloud access. Fixed networks can be made available in many hotels, providing business travelers with anytime, anywhere office experience when traveling. All these initiatives are going to be helpful in decreasing the carbon footprint of organizations and individuals.
According to the World Economic Forum, the influence of digital transformation on industries could be worth in the region of US$100 trillion over the next decade. These scenarios have high requirements on latency (ultra-low, down to microseconds), reliability, security, and green, low-carbon development. To meet those requirements, connectivity technologies need to evolve very quickly.
Take education as an example. Fixed networks can be extended from dedicated education networks to offices, classrooms, labs, teachers’ apartments, students’ dormitories, and even desks, and from colleges and universities to secondary schools, primary schools, and professional education institutions. This can provide teachers and students with various teaching/learning tools, such as cloud-based education, online learning, offline learning, cloud-based textbooks, cloud-based notes, and multimedia teaching, to implement book-free and schoolbag-free education.
The whole education industry would be totally transformed.
How standardization will help
As increasingly widespread reliance on fixed networks with increased networking demands highlights the importance of unification and standardization. Take smart cities for example. One of the key use cases for F5G is all-optical smart cities. Deterministic connections with 1 ms or less latency are at the heart of all-optical smart cities. A booming digital economy also relies on the transport capacity of 5G and F5G networks and the computing power only achievable through AI and cloud computing. This fusion of advanced networking and computing has a direct impact on the digital economy. The next step for smart cities is to create intelligent twins, which will place many more demands on the network for increased precision without delay.
With industrial digitalization becoming more ubiquitous, we need to look beyond F5G. This is why, during the Huawei Global Analyst Summit 2022, Huawei’s Ken Hu introduced the F5.5G standard and stressed its importance going forward.
From 2025 to 2030, the computing networks used for industrial digital transformation will require five times more bandwidth, 10 times more connections, and microsecond-level ultra-low latency. They also call for 50G PON, Wi-Fi 7, 800G, L4 Autonomous Driving Networks (ADN), deterministic low latency, optical fiber sensing, and green and low-carbon development. This has increased industry demand for networks that perform even better than F5G. As proposed by standard organizations like ETSI and WBBA, jointly with operators such as Globe Telecom, MTN Group, and Huawei, F5.5G, would help meet these added requirements and in comparision with F5G, offer enhanced capabilities of speed, connections, and latency.
As the fixed network beyond F5G follows the trend of the past, I am afraid we could easily end up with competing different standards. In an environment where requirements for wireless connectivity keep growing we might reach a stage that standardization might be the biggest roadblock in the smooth development of the industy. I am convinced that considering the gains for all the parties concerned, we need to join hands and collaborate on building a new generation of fixed network standards.
The time to do that is now.
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Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.