5G networks are starting to become a technical reality this year, and will certainly be the words on everyone’s lips at Mobile World Congress (MWC18), which we’ll be attending in Barcelona later this month (Hall 7 Stand 7B13). 5G will have a huge impact on how we live in the connected world. The goal is high bandwidth, low-latency, and ubiquitous coverage. Potential applications range from predictive healthcare, enabled by connected devices that monitor our health, to increased efficiencies in city planning, based on widespread use of sensors and public access systems.

At Zeetta Networks, we’re already deep into the technology, standards, and use cases that will allow both the private and public sectors to maximise the opportunities that 5G brings. But as a technical community, we’re not there yet. Here are our three vital steps on the road to commercially viable 5G.

Step 1: Understanding what 5G can offer

At Zeetta Networks, we are already working on a range of UK and EU funded 5G projects to explore and define just what 5G can offer. The 5G network is at the heart of the smart city, offering the extensive infrastructure and advanced capabilities required to provide services for the people who live there. As an example, Zeetta is working with Bristol is Open, an exciting test project in Bristol investigating new solutions to the connected city’s demand for data. Our NetOS® technology will help maximise resources through network virtualisation and slicing of 5G services.

The Winter Olympics in Korea are an exciting showcase for 5G technologies, demonstrating how 5G can make a huge impact on sports management and fan engagement. In Bristol, we are working with the team at Ashton Gate Stadium to create the world’s first programmable stadium. The stadium has deployed a high-density network for fans, with NetOS® managing slices for services, on demand to offer different levels of connectivity to users.

Step 2: Establishing metrics and KPIs

So, what is 5G exactly, and how will we know that we have it? Once test-cases, such as those described above, have been well-established, the 5G industry will need to have standardised systems to measure its effectiveness. These will be based on key performance indicators (KPIs) that are being defined as an objective measure of what a 5G system should deliver.

Zeetta is part of a consortium supporting the 5G Trials project, which links cities, including Bristol, London, Barcelona, and Munich, as part of the EU funded Horizon 2020 programme. This project will play a vital role in Europe’s drive to create a framework to establish and measure specific KPIs for 5G.  This kind of analysis and framework will be essential to assess the effectiveness of 5G and develop accepted global standards to drive innovation in services that will benefit people, and help ensure interoperability and affordability.

Step 3: Rolling out to cities and villages

An unfortunate reality of 4G based systems, and indeed cabled broadband, is that there are many communities that do not have access to these services. That’s where the “ubiquitous” aspect of 5G comes in. This is especially problematic in rural areas with low average revenue per user (ARPU); there is simply not enough money in it, given the costs of current infrastructure. The question, then, is: how can we make services available at a lower cost, such that less populated areas can afford infrastructure?

One of the key ideas for delivering radio-based access is to use unlicensed spectrum. This is cheaper, but technically challenging. Another is to separate the service infrastructure from the service provider, and then to enable virtual network operators to share the infrastructure. This is where NetOS® comes in, by supporting network slicing over shared infrastructure.

Virtualisation and slicing, supported by NetOS®, will be necessary to enable dynamic and efficient use of network resources. This can help providers reduce CAPEX costs by sharing infrastructure in rural areas, as well as scaling up for urban residents.

The 5G Rural Test Bed consortium, of which Zeetta is a member, has been formed in the aegis of the UK DCMS funded 5G projects, to drive this agenda for 5G in rural areas. Another project that aims to drive down costs is the Telecommunications Infrastructure Project (TIP). This is an initiative, driven by Facebook, BT, Deutsche Telekom, and many others, to make telecommunications more accessible. Zeetta is playing an active role in this project, and looks forward to making some important announcements at MWC18.

Indeed, our product, NetOS® has such an important role in the operation and management of 5G networks, that we have been nominated for a GLOMO at MWC18. We hope to see you there – we’re in Hall 7, Stand 7B13.