Delivering 5G with
A Heavy Reading white paper produced for Intel
AUTHOR: SIMON STANLEY, ANALYST AT LARGE, HEAVY READING
The shift from 4G to 5G is driving a massive increase in demands on wireless infrastructure,
including fronthaul and backhaul networks. 5G applications demand both high-bandwidth
and ...low latency connections over the radio link and through to application servers. The
architecture of the wireless radio access network (RAN) is evolving, and this can have a big
impact on the optical solutions used for fronthaul and backhaul networks.
5G specifications have added significant flexibility to the RAN architecture and transport
network options. Carriers need to consider the trade-offs between lower cost baseband
processing and fronthaul network bandwidths. Time-Sensitive Networking (TSN) can be
used to support low latency fronthaul packet-based links and time synchronization. Some
combinations of network bandwidth RAN architecture will require fronthaul links supporting
50 Gbit/s, 100 Gbit/s, and higher bandwidths.
Silicon photonics can provide similar benefits in 5G fronthaul applications as they do in the
data center. Centralized RAN (C-RAN) architectures offer some clear benefits but do drive
higher fronthaul bandwidths. Millimeter wave (mmWave) deployments will open up a
significant spectrum and also drive higher fronthaul bandwidths. There are some clear
trends, but not all of the options available make sense in practical 5G network deployments.
In this white paper, Heavy Reading highlights the key technologies, identifies some of the
important trends, and discusses practical implementations for 5G network deployments.
DATA TRAFFIC GROWTH AND THE MOVE TO 5G
The shift to 4G wireless and LTE has enabled significant growth in mobile data traffic and
the deployment of services for other applications, including Internet of Things (IoT). The
first steps are now being made in the move to 5G, which will drive further massive growth
of mobile data traffic and a more diverse set of applications running over wireless networks.
Initial deployments are rolling out in the U.S., South Korea, Switzerland, and elsewhere.
According to the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA), 59 countries are rolling out 5G
or preparing for 5G.
Figure 1: Growth of 4G Data Traffic and Shift to 5G
Source: Cisco VNI Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast, February 2019
© HEAVY READING | INTEL | DELIVERING 5G | AUGUST 2019
Figure 1 above, taken from the latest Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) Global Mobile
Data Traffic Forecast Update released in February 2019, shows a compound annual growth
rate (CAGR) of 46% for mobile traffic from 2017 to 2022. During this period, the 4G share
is forecast to be steady at 70%; 4G data traffic is projected to grow in line with overall
traffic demand. At the same time, the 5G data traffic share is expected to grow from almost
nothing in 2019 to 12% in 2022, and the share of 3G and 2G will decline as these services
are used less frequently and carriers drop support from their networks.
Leading use cases for 5G and technologies are shown in Figure 2 below. Enterprise and
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