The Key Technologies Behind 5G Networks

5G is emerging to provide next-generation of mobile Internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliability than 4G networks. 5G networks will also help power a huge rise in different use cases such as autonomous self-driving cars, extreme real-time communications (e.g., tactile Internet, augmented/virtual reality), improved user mobility (e.g., high-speed trains), critical lifeline services (e.g., first responder services), ultra-reliable communications (e.g., remote eHealth monitoring), massive Internet of Things (IoT), providing the infrastructure needed to carry huge amounts of data, allowing for a smarter and more connected society.

With development well underway and testbeds showcased across the world, 5G networks are expected to launch across the world by 2020, working alongside existing 3G and 4G technology to provide faster connections that stay online no matter where you are. The enabling technologies behind ultrafast 5G networks include, among others, millimeter waves, massive MIMO, full duplex, beamforming, and small cells.

One of the key features of 5G networks is its reliance on network slicing. Network slicing is a type of virtual networking architecture leveraging two closely related network virtualization technologies – software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), with the aim of moving modern networks toward software-based automation. SDN and NFV allow far better network flexibility and customization through the partitioning of network architectures into virtual elements. In essence, network slicing allows the creation of multiple virtual networks atop a shared physical infrastructure, thus enabling network sharing among tenants. Logical network slices create tenant or service-specific networks. Tenants are service providers delivering specific services over the network. These tenants have specific network requirements such as reliability, latency or bandwidth. Similarly, service-specific networks have diverse key performance indicator (KPI) requirements to meet a specific business need. Each network slice has different network performance specifications for different use case or business requirements.

With the potential to offer economic benefits in terms of higher revenues and lower operating expenditures, studies reveal that network slicing is the fastest, most cost-effective way to achieve service scalability.