At the end of last month, the inaugural 5G World event took place in London. Over two days packed with presentations, discussions and demos, this conference and exhibition event focused on the next exciting chapter of mobile communication: 5G. The event was also an opportunity for me to participate as a speaker, and share Amdocs’ vision and capabilities in a panel discussion on Test & Measurement for 5G networks.
All panel participants agreed on the high-level methodologies required to address the challenges of 5G, which include concepts such as antenna array beam-forming. There was also unanimous agreement on the assertion that network performance analysis and optimization cannot be reduced to a one-off activity. Still, this ongoing activity remains more meaningful and less arduous than the endless rock-carrying toil of Sisyphus (which I used as a metaphor during the discussion).
The reference to the changing mobile network landscape as networks and IT converge was one of the points that made Amdocs’ message stand out in the discussion. Indeed, the unique asset of combined network and IT expertise, which is technology as well as operational process related, will be key in the new mobile communications era. Similarly, the ability to make the most of equipment-agnostic software solutions and partnerships also resonated highly with the panel’s audience.
Interestingly, the 5G World attendees’ views about 5G reminded me of the days that preceded the advent of 4G (LTE). And judging from those present at the event, one could even say that their views were similar to the mix of opinions about 3G in the late 90s, when 2G was at its prime.
In more detail, the event was attended by enthusiasts, people who expressed more reserved views and a few skeptics. In the latter camp, there were some who saw small capability differences between 5G and evolved 4G networks. This brought back memories of the heated discussions that took place a few years ago between HSPA+ and LTE technology proponents. (Perhaps, it is a mobile technology introduction “law” that such arguments must take place with every new “G”…)
Despite attitude similarities, there were also notable differences compared with the past. For example, the haste to launch – any flavor of – 5G in some countries raised concerns about fragmentation and interoperability issues due to lack of standardization.
Furthermore, there were repeated references to partnerships and to an ecosystem that should now include OTT players as well as companies from other industries (verticals). Unlike its predecessors, 5G appears to focus more on use cases than specific technology characteristics. In these terms, the majority of discussions and presentations at 5G World revolved around automotive, industrial, health and other exciting 5G applications.
Many attendees emphasized the increased importance of software, including open source, solutions. Indeed, the role of software in network automation and better decision making through (big data) analytics was a common theme. A similar point holds true for the use case specific network operation – or slicing – and what this means for end-to-end performance management in 5G.
So, is 5G closer than many of us think? Well, there is no definitive answer yet. But similar to the geographical proximity of the 5G World event to Amdocs’ office in Hammersmith, 5G may be just around the corner…