Looking at the history of technology development, it takes about six years for a new generation of mobile technology to go from infancy to mainstream. The same is true for 5G, a technology that is no longer just in the future. According to statistics from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as of the end of last year, a total of 1.425 million 5G base stations have been built and opened in China, accounting for more than 60% of the world’s total. % of county towns and 80% of townships. At the same time, the scale of domestic 5G users is also continuing to expand. Currently, 5G mobile phone users have reached 355 million. Given that 5G networks are firmly in the mainstream, the following major trends are expected to gradually emerge this year and beyond.
Open RAN moves from laboratory to application
According to GSMA Intelligence data, 77% of mobile operators plan to adopt Open RAN as part of their 5G migration. This is in line with the momentum seen in the final months of last year when VIAVI provided benchmarks and validation for Plugfest tests and demonstrations around the world during last year’s O-RAN Plugfest conference. Critical work has started in the lab and will continue into this year. Today, interoperability testing will be critical as non-traditional and traditional vendors compete to enter the ever-growing O-RAN space.
This type of work will continue in the labs, while we will increasingly see operators roll out limited O-RAN pilots. The launch of each new pilot will spark heated discussions, and operators and suppliers will be proud of their achievements. If all goes well, this year promises to be a year of celebration and expansion for the entire O-RAN ecosystem.
As a leader in O-RAN standards development, wireless lab validation platforms, and field crew solutions, VIAVI offers a comprehensive integrated test platform. With extensive experience in network product validation for global operators and manufacturers and close cooperation with top suppliers, VIAVI is committed to helping network operators ensure interoperability, which is exactly what is needed in a multi-vendor O-RAN environment’s main consideration.
Cloudification brings service assurance into focus
Over the past few years, many operators have begun to implement software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) in search of greater operational flexibility and freedom from vendor constraints. This process will continue in 2023, driven by organizations such as the O-RAN Alliance and the Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), as well as 3GPP Release 16. But that also comes with responsibility, and software fiction and cloudification mean operators can now take a more definitive lead in ensuring that this new multi-vendor, decentralized environment delivers the quality of service customers demand ( QoS ) and Quality of Experience (QoE ). Given that the scale of 5G users continues to expand today, the importance of service assurance will become more prominent this year.
The VIAVI test tool portfolio supports comprehensive measurement of the overall network life cycle and can provide functional system integration and performance testing for gNB, core network, core network components, and O-RAN subsystems to achieve true end-user QoE testing visibility.
5G and optical fiber complement each other
By the numbers, 5G has surpassed fiber optic availability worldwide. Mobile operators are also keen to highlight the advantages of 5G networks in helping to bridge the digital divide. Even so, it’s not correct to think of 5G and fiber as a “zero-sum game,” where one technology succeeds at the other’s expense. Quite the contrary, fiber is required for every 5G base station, whether macro or small, which means higher revenue generation for telcos and other fiber providers. Plus, every time fiber is extended to serve new 5G sites, it gets closer to more homes and businesses.
This synergistic relationship and its resulting impact will also accelerate in 2023, given operator efforts to increase 5G coverage density and range. One of these is increased competition: Whether it’s residential broadband or branch office SD-WAN, 5G needs to be extremely reliable to be an alternative to fiber or copper. This highly competitive environment is another big reason mobile operators are making service assurance a top priority in 2023.
Edge computing goes further
The accelerated development of edge computing has been going on for many years, and this trend will be further developed as more and more mobile operators focus on the fixed broadband market. For example, mobile operators can leverage edge computing to minimize latency and backhaul costs for their fixed wireless services. Since edge computing can maximize QoE and save costs, it can help operators to set more competitive pricing for their fixed services, while ensuring profitability, which can directly help them consolidate their competitive position in the market.
According to GSMA Intelligence research, in the enterprise market, 12% of mobile operators indicated that edge computing is the main value appeal of 5G. This is the same ratio as private networks, where edge computing power is also key to attracting and retaining customers. For example, many enterprises are focusing on 5G virtual private networks, that is, owning part of the public network instead of owning an entire core and RAN. This year, for mobile operators whose target business is slicing or hybrid 5G private network deployment, reliable and high-quality edge computing will become increasingly critical.
As 5G becomes mainstream, preparations for 6G technology are also on the line. Focusing on the country, the IMT-2030 (6G) Promotion Group officially released the “6G Overall Vision and Potential Key Technology White Paper” in June last year. In the future, 6G services will form eight major business applications, including holographic communication, digital twins, immersive cloud XR, and sensory interconnection. ; In addition, in the “14th Five-Year Plan” Information and Communication Industry Development Plan issued by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the development of 6G basic theory and key technology research and development is also listed as a mobile communication core technology evolution and industry promotion project. We hear more about 6G every day, as industry leaders analyze lessons learned from current 5G deployments, share ideas for next-generation services and supporting network architectures, and layout plans for standards development.