Wednesday, 23 January 2019 09:24

NETSCOUT PREDICTS: 5G TRENDS FOR 2019

Written by NETSCOUT

Our 5G experts have a few predictions to help you successfully navigate the 5G journey in 2019

 

There’s no doubt that the low latency, high bandwidth of 5G will be a game-changer in today’s rapidly transforming digital world. However, service providers need to be smart when it comes to planning and rolling out this multimillion investment. Our 5G experts have a few predictions to help them successfully navigate the journey in 2019.

Prediction 1: 5G will drive virtualization in 2019

Momentum is building behind 5G, and the US and South Korea are leading the charge with the rollout of the first commercial networks. Trials are taking place in every major market worldwide, and Verizon and Samsung have just announced plans to launch a 5G handset in early 2019. Expectations for 5G are high – the next-generation mobile standard will underpin mission-critical processes and innovations, including telemedicine, remote surgery, and even driverless cars. However, vast sums of money will need to be spent on network infrastructure before any of this can happen, and it's the mobile and fixed carriers who will be expected to foot the bill. This is compounded by the fact that many of the aforementioned 5G use cases have yet to be defined, so carriers are being asked to gamble on an uncertain future. 

So, what will the 5G future look like and what will it take to get us there?
One thing is for certain - 5G will drive network virtualization. In 2019, we will see an increasing number of carriers commit to deploying virtualized network infrastructure to support 5G applications and services. Without virtualization, it will be ‘virtually’ impossible to deliver 5G. This is because 5G requires virtualization both at the network core, and—critically—at the network edge. Puns aside, the days of building networks to support single use cases such as mobile voice and data or home broadband are behind us. If 5G is to become a reality, then the networks of the future will need to be smart and automated, with the ability to switch between different functions to support a range of use cases.

Prediction 2: 5G just can’t ‘contain’ itself 

As virtualized network architectures are rapidly adopted to support 5G in 2019, we expect to see containers emerge as the de-facto platform to run new applications and workloads.

The excitement around 5G is building as we hear more news about network deployments, trials and handsets. However, one 5G-related issue that hasn’t yet been crystallized is what form 5G software and innovations will take, and how these new services and applications will be deployed into the network. Unlike 4G/LTE network infrastructure, the architectures that support 5G are virtualized and cloud-based, so the smart money is on application developers, mobile operators, and equipment vendors using microservices, and in particular containers, to drive 5G evolution.

It makes sense to use containers to support 5G as they will provide operators with a flexible and easier to use platform to build, test, and deploy applications that is now also becoming more secure. This is vital for the development of 5G services at a time when the use cases for 5G are still being defined. Operators will need to be in a position to spin up services as needed to support different use cases, and by using containers it will be possible to serve customers quickly and efficiently.

Prediction 3: 2019 - The year carriers come to grips with 5G security

The benefits of 5G are clear: The new communications standard will offer carriers and their enterprise customers faster network speeds and performance, ultra-low latency, and greater efficiencies. General discussion around carrier trials and deployments tends to focus on increased speeds and the new innovations that 5G will enable, but security rarely comes up. That’s all about to change with 5G security set to become a big issue for the industry and a major talking point in 2019. 

To date, it appears that 5G security has almost been treated as an afterthought rather than a critical aspect of network development. However, behind the scenes this is an issue that the carriers take very seriously. The situation for carriers has altered dramatically, because in a 5G domain, the attack surface becomes much greater. Consequently, the number of opportunities for malicious players to exploit vulnerabilities increases.

This is partly due to the adoption of virtualized network infrastructures that will allow carriers to scale and meet the demands of 5G, but also because 5G networks will be configured to support a wide variety of industrial and business use cases. This means that going forward, carriers will be responsible for managing mission-critical systems and devices in addition to handling high volumes of sensitive data. In a 5G environment, there will be a strong emphasis on securing smart factories, automated production lines, and fleets of driverless cars. The network security stakes have suddenly got a lot higher.

Prediction 4: Operators will ‘scale or fail’ to meet the 5G demand in 2019

5G will be faster, smarter, and more efficient than 4G, but in order to meet demand and to support new architectures, networks will have to scale. While most of the scale in the core network will be cloud and software-based, there will still be a need for hardware and equipment at the network edge, and in a 5G environment there will be a lot more equipment. In fact, the number of cell sites will increase dramatically to support and propagate the higher frequency bands that will transmit 5G data traffic over the air. This is when network management tools will come into their own. In 2019, we will see the deployment of automated networks driven by software and controlled by virtual machines and artificial intelligence.

Network automation and orchestration are by-products of virtualization and will add another layer of complexity. However, they are also integral to the rollout and sustainability of 5G networks, particularly as network topologies will change to accommodate a combination of small cell and macro cell sites. Small cells in particular will form the bulk of the new RAN (radio area network) and they are expected to increase cellular networks threefold. If network engineers think they already have enough issues to deal with maintaining 4G/LTE networks, then they may be in for a shock as 5G networks are gradually rolled out. In fact, without having total visibility of these more complex and expansive networks, 5G in the RAN is going to become extremely difficult to manage.