My wife loves cooking. She frequently consults her favorite blog full of creative ideas for delicious meals and gets inspired to try a new recipe. Next comes shopping for tasty food products from her preferred suppliers. Finally, the preparation process is guided by a recipe already evaluated and verified by a wider community with their combined cooking experience.
(My role in all of this, by the way, is mostly limited to selecting a nice wine.)
It’s all very different from my lunchtimes as a student! The refectory in my university was a kind of last resort to ensure survival. To be fair, the quality was okay. But you couldn’t expect special services like a selection of several meals or customization for personal taste.
Those are two very different models for serving a meal. When we look at current design practices of mobile networks, we can also identify two strategies that follow the principles outlined above.
Proprietary vs. multi-vendor
There’s the legacy approach with an opaque and largely proprietary network design, supplied mostly by a single vendor. This is highly optimized for providing a plain connectivity service to mobile users. However, if the customer needs a more sophisticated service such a connecting a very high number of devices with lowest latency or if data needs to be processed in close proximity to its source, this model falls short.
In this scenario, the mobile services customer is like me in my student days down in the refectory. We both know that the service will be good for our basic needs, but what if we require more?
With 5G, mobile network services are extending from mobile users to IoT and industrial devices. A wide range of fixed and portable network components such as cameras, sensors, valves, relays and others provide real-time information to industrial control processes. Mobile services will require low latency and will need much higher scalability and reliability as well as architectural flexibility. Many use cases will also require data processing close to the data sources such as sensors, cameras and machines, among many others.
5G has been architected to provide for all these options. However, the mobile network needs to be developed and implemented in way that makes best use of these technical possibilities. There should be recipes with pre-evaluated “network meals” that describe how to combine best-in-breed technologies to meet any specific customer need.
5G innovation requires an open environment with contributions from leading technical experts.This service creation effort will have to build on the specific expertise of many different players. Following a disaggregated networking approach, open ecosystems are key to leveraging the true potential of 5G networks. Companies with experience in networking, application hosting, network virtualization and network operation, alongside those with expertise in end-customer operations, need to join forces. They can combine their individual competencies through open interfaces in a network production factory optimized for end-customer applications.
However, a proven and validated recipe is the best starting point. This is why industrial alliances such as TIP, Open RAN or governmental funding are at the core of the most promising multi-stakeholder networking projects. These alliances have the ability to specify, develop, implement and verify new services. Thereafter, these blueprints will serve a wider networking community. They are also used by technically leading companies to further optimize network ingredients such as hardware components or software modules.
At ADVA, we’re playing a key role in several of these ecosystems and making our core expertise available for a range of beneficial mobile applications.
Cooking or network integration – the basic pattern for creating exciting new services is similar. The birth of a new offering is the critical phase. This is where the UK government comes into the picture. Supported by the Levelling Up Fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Support, a series of Future RAN projects is creating a new ecosystem for a diversified 5G supply chain with leading technology suppliers. These initiatives are addressing the most complex aspect of 5G service innovation by jointly developing a new edge brain, which is essential for fast, agile, low-latency services.
As explained above, this innovation should not be done by a single company in a dim, closed lab. It deserves an open environment with contributions from leading technical experts. ADVA and our partners are taking a first step and building a 5G multi-national innovation hub for the mobile edge in the UK. And we’re sure that the blueprints for new mobile services will attract further players to join, develop even more momentum and drive innovation that we can barely imagine.
Coming back to my wife. Recently she rustled up an Indian Dal dish, which she’d found on “Captain Cook.” She followed a true disaggregated approach with best-in-breed ingredients pre-evaluated by a wider community. It’s a recipe for success in the kitchen and in 5G networks.