The trend towards ever increasing demand of wireless data transmission will compel major changes in software and network infrastructure in the near future. Hence, as suggested by experts from 5G Infrastructure Association, by 2020, it is envisioned that telecommunications and IT industries will be integrated to result in a high capacity universal infrastructure. This would bring the compute and storage resources into one programmable and unified infrastructure.
The mobile communication systems, which are currently designed to meet our demands, would need to provide solution for following broad use cases:
1) Sensors everywhere
2) Massive reliance on broadband and media
3) Smart cities and smart vehicles
4) Control of all business operations through remote devices
5) Device-to-device (D2D) or machine-to-machine (M2M) communications
6) Interactions between humans and the “Internet of Things”
Undoubtedly, due to support required for these applications which are very dynamic in nature, unusual challenges exists for next generation of networks.
In this article, we will discuss the underlying techniques of future network infrastructure that would bring revolution in the telecom industry.
Currently deployed network architecture
Currently deployed cellular-based network architecture design, which has evolved from traditional circuit switch (CS) and packet switch (PS) second generation to all-IP 4G, has enabled mobile communication to achieve extraordinary success. Presently, the cellular networks have evolved into multi-radio access technology (multi-RAT) and multi-layer heterogeneous network. But this solution isn’t scalable enough to respond to constant change in customer demands. Hence, the multi-RAT architecture is proving to be incompetent in the long run. In addition, traditional single-RAT base station systems come with additional costs thus adding financial and operating burden to operators.
Challenges for future network infrastructure
While developing network infrastructure for future technologies to be deployed by 2020, following objectives are kept in mind so as to make 5G more scalable and sustainable:
- Handle anticipated histrionic growth in number of terminal devices
- Handle continuous growth of traffic
- Heterogeneous network layouts
- Radical energy efficiency improvement and develop energy garnering covering terminal devices, network elements, and the network as a whole including data centers
- Excessive low cost network options at all network levels (access, backhaul, core, IT)
- Cost reduction through human tasks automation and hardware usage optimization
- Decrease in management complexity within networks
- Merging cloud computing with telecom industry
- Enhanced focus and reliability of software
- Solution for device-to-device (D2D) or machine-to-machine (M2M) communications
- New types of network deployments
Principles of future Network Architecture
In order to meet the growing market and business demands, future network architecture has to be developed for the following features:
- A unified telecom and IT infrastructure shared by various business organizations specializing in their domains (such as infrastructure, network functions, platform offered as a service, etc.)
- Better sustainability and scalability to cater to high increase in data and terminal device volumes with reduction of power requirements and complexity
- Dynamic adjustment of resources to demands as resources, connectivity and all network functions will be delivered as a service
- Business models based on shared resources thus comprising different partners adding value to value chain. The integration of cloud based model with telecom industry will open ways to innovation
- New network and service capabilities to support different types of traffic (e.g. high throughput for media, low energy for sensors and low latency for real time applications)
- Implicitly support mobility, security and content caching (storage) as fundamental components of the network design
Future network architecture
Future network infrastructure has to incorporate some state-of-the-art techniques, such as SDN, cloud-based networks and self-organizing networks (SON) and would need major advancements as compared to current techniques deployed in 4G.
Cloud-based SDN architecture
The architecture would comprise of SDN-based cloud RAN, transport layer and core network. This technique would enable the network to be treated as a logical or virtual entity. The cloud-based SDN technique has several benefits over traditional layered network architecture:
- Scalable centralized deployment
- Virtualization (logical separation of software and hardware)
- Reduction in complexity of processing and expandable capacity of hardware
- New service solutions to dense network deployment, such as radio access network as a service (RANaaS)
- SDN can quickly respond to changing network devices, business needs or user demands
Manual involvement in network deployment, operation and maintenance proves highly expensive and error prone. Self-organized network (SON) with self-configuration, self-optimization, and self-healing has attracted great attention. SON has been widely deployed in 4G networks, especially self-optimization functions including auto neighbor relation (ANR), mobility robust optimization (MRO), coverage and capacity optimization (CCO), RACH optimization (RO), mobility load balancing (MLB) and energy saving (ES). Current research trends towards future network systems concentrate on continued evolution of existing functions of SON, and some of new techniques as pointed below for enabling a multi-RAT/multi-layer heterogeneous network are researched:
- SON coordination: To supervise, detect and resolve conflicts in horde of SON functions
- Unified self-management architecture with integrated SON management system, multi-RAT/multi-layer SON functions and decision support system (DSS)
- New SON functions: In future telecom systems, many innovative techniques such as Resource management supporting dual connectivity, dynamic spectrum allocation and interference management, automatic traffic steering and active/reconfigurable antenna systems (AAS), would generate new SON cases
It is proven that network infrastructure is going to change by leaps and bounds and hence, requires massive research so to meet the requirements and underlying principles. Not only the architecture would change completely paving its way to integration of IT and telecom, but also it will see a lot of new players adding value in accordance with their expertise to the value chain. Also, automation is the best approach to cost-efficiently manage complex network architecture in future. Aricent, being a proven leader in network architecture, SDN, cloud-based RAN and SON, would definitely be in a good position to contribute towards advancements in technology. As suggested earlier, the cloud-based network architecture would bring enormous benefits not only to end users and operators, but to the world as a whole.