The deployment of 5G has been long anticipated for its exciting benefits: faster speed, better performance, lower latency, and a much more reliable service. However, we rarely talk about the importance of the network infrastructure behind 5G, which needs to be able to continuously support millions of devices at once. And yet, according to a survey released by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) in 2017, fiber is considered as “very important” for the backhaul portion of 5G networks by 83% of 5G operators. 

Let’s have a look at why fiber infrastructure is deemed as essential support for 5G deployment.

Transfer of Real-Time Data

One of the advantages of 5G is that it supports IoT and Big Data, both of which rely heavily on real-time data transfer and collection that occurs 24/7. Decisions are being made automatically based on this data, therefore lower latency and higher bandwidth levels are required in order to ensure that the data goes to where it’s supposed to be at a quick pace. Fiber is the right cable choice to support such a high level of bandwidth and thus, facilitate this data transfer.

Increasing Network Demands

Due to this continuous data transfer that occurs around-the-clock, there are many more demands that the network has to satisfy: full wireless network coverage and higher network availability levels, as well as lower latency and higher bandwidth levels that we mentioned earlier. This is caused by the growing number of people and the devices they carry. However, there is another layer of connectivity that we may not be aware of: devices that are not controlled or managed by humans, such as smart LED lighting fixtures and surveillance cameras. These devices connect directly to the network and operate independently. By bringing fiber closer to the edge of the network, stadiums and arenas will be able to take advantage of the improved bandwidth and capacities brought by 5G.

Higher Radio Frequency and Small Cells

In order to achieve the expected performance levels for 5G networks, more small cells/nodes and mobile edge computing will be required to eliminate any network bottlenecks. The deployment of these nodes often utilize the mmWave spectrum which relies heavily on fiber-cable networks for its backhaul portion. In addition, compared to pre-existing mobile networks, 5G uses much higher radio frequencies to handle larger amounts of data. These frequencies have very short ranges, therefore additional “cells” covering a small area must be installed throughout a venue. 

To provide multi-gigabit service to the users at applications that require access to 5G networks, these cells re-distribute the signals from network carriers either through the air or via a direct path, which disperses them through a wide area. Based on its application, the cells may take the form either femtocells, small cells, enterprise radio access networks (RAN), distributed antenna systems (DAS,  or Cloud RAN (CRAN). Without the cells, carriers will struggle to reach indoor areas.

 

To conclude, fiber is the most preferable choice for 5G due to its scalability, security, and its ability to handle the vast amount of backhaul traffic being generated. This is because fiber can handle 5G’s increased speed with lower attenuation, is immune to electromagnetic interference, and offers practically unlimited bandwidth potential. In addition to being the best option for network backhauls, fiber is also better due to its fronthaul portion of the network. 

As mass-deployment of 5G continues to occur, the demand for fiber is likely to ramp up as well. To be able to keep up with 5G bandwidth demands, ensure that you have the right fiber optic cable system in place to support all of the 55G capabilities when they arrive. As the leader in fiber testing, VIAVI Solutions offers the industry’s most complete range of fiber test solutions. VIAVI’s umbrella of interactive tools, testing capabilities, and solutions will help you to thrive, no matter which industry or region you’re working within.

About The Author

Shirley Lim

Channel Marketing Manager - APAC

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