Challenges of a Successful 5G Deployment
The deployment of the 5G network is a complex process. There are layers of complexity to it, each intertwined with the next, which makes it essential for service providers to understand the implications of every decision.
Here are four main challenges that network operators will need to overcome for a successful 5G deployment.
There is no doubt that major wireless providers will eventually have viable 5G networks sooner than later. Everybody is excited to capitalize on this new technology and exploit the hype as soon as they can. However, there is a difference between how fast we can provide 5G and how widespread 5G networks will be upon their deployments, which largely depends on device availability. In fact, 4G LTE has existed for a while now – yet, even today, the 4G/LTE coverage maps still have gaps in many countries. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that once 5G is deployed, not everyone will be able to access it.
In order to accelerate 5G deployment, we need to have 5G-capable devices to be mass-produced fast enough in the market. However, 5G brings some considerable technical challenges that require a specific innovation & technology, which are still scarce as of today. This scarcity is caused by design challenges for the front-end filters, heating concerns due to the huge power consumption needed to transmit in high-frequency bands, and a significant performance impact for higher data rates and bandwidths. Furthermore, 5G deployments have extremely complex device-based testing requirements, with a large number of scenario combinations needed to understand and quantify device performance, and device interaction with the network.
Spectrum 5G Network Deployment Challenges
5G will be deployed in two frequencies: low (e.g. 600MHz, 700MHz, 2.6GHz, 3.5GHz) and high (e.g. mmW: 15GHz, 24GHz, 28GHz, 39GHz), which come with various scopes and challenges.
For one, sub-6GHz spectrum requires lower site density in order to ensure the delivery of blanket mobile connectivity. However, doing this will sacrifice the narrower available bandwidth which, consequently, peak throughputs of Gbps order of magnitude. Moreover, mmW 5G deployments have significant challenges from propagation characteristics and dependencies due to external factors such as vegetation, building materials and weather. These deployments allow high capacity for only short distances, thus jeopardizing the delivery of consistent coverage.
Architectural and Platform Innovations
In order to ensure the successful deployment and operation of 5G in both the RAN and core network, it is critical to develop new IT architecture and platforms to support it. The choice of these is largely dependent with the concept of virtualization, as well as what level of cloud a network is implementing within its core network. It will be essential to continue pursuing disruptive technologies, and a new operating model will be required to maintain business success with network slicing.
Testing the 5G Network
5G has a massively larger bandwidth, which demands a much denser fiber fronthaul, midhaul, and backhaul network. This translates to not only more fiber cables and end points, but also a higher order of multiplexing (WDM), which increases the complexity and scale of fiber testing. As a result, testing tools such as Visual Fault Locator will not suffice to validate fiber signal integrity. Technicians may be able to see light at the other end, but no way to validate a specific wavelength path.
Furthermore, testing for the right power levels will require different sets of instruments in a WDM system. Many will drive more MPO connector deployments, which will require an MPO light source and an MPO tester. With significantly more MPO and WDM deployments, consequently the fiber field installations will be a lot more complex. This increase in the number of fiber and types of connections will drive the need for service providers and contractors to develop easy-to-use fiber test instruments with integrated test process automation to scale 5G deployments.
The key to a winning strategy, which is satisfying 5G high-bandwidth & higher cell-site density demands, is to future proof your infrastructure and be prepared to deliver flexible and agile wireless networks. Having the right test solutions for maintaining fiber networks is the key in delivering high quality of service for your customers. Since 2013, VIAVI Solutions has been an early driver in 5G adoption and we continue to deliver innovative and cost-effective 5G testing tools to customers. Check out our comprehensive portfolio of 5G Test Tools and learn what makes VIAVI a stand out among other 5G testing companies.