The question of designing and rolling out 5G networks can be sliced a myriad of ways, from focusing on small cell architecture and open RAN possibilities to fronthaul, mid-haul and backhaul considerations. In previous blogs, we’ve looked at specific aspects of 5G deployment such as wireless fronthaul, 400G as the foundation for 5G networks, and disaggregated RANs. In this blog, however, we want to take a broader view of 5G deployments to reinforce two key messages:
- When it comes to 5G rollouts, there isn’t one set way of establishing your infrastructure and flexibility is a must.
- Network operators need more than vendors. They need true specialized technology partners who can help them overcome design and implementation challenges.
The Need for Flexibility Around 5G Rollouts
MSOs, MNOs, carriers and other network operators by now have an in-depth understanding of the infrastructure requirements around 5G. However, much flexibility is still needed when it comes to selecting and deploying vital 5G networking equipment either within new, standalone networks or those that already exist. In the latter case, many operators struggle with RAN deployments that involve integrating new hardware and software from different vendors within existing network architectures. Despite being critical components for data transport, optical transceivers are sometimes treated almost like an afterthought. Read more here about The Number 1 Challenge 5G and the IoT are Creating for Network Operators and how to solve it.
Thinking holistically about 5G deployments is a necessary first step and link distance and densification are going to continue to be two primary challenges for operators looking to deliver 5G services to their subscribers. Let’s look at link distance first.
When it comes to 5G fronthaul, network operators often face a choice between 10G and 25G optical transceiver modules. With advancements in RAN disaggregation, 25G transceivers have now become the optimal choice to support higher bandwidths on fewer fibers. Yet here’s how link distance influences a network operator’s decision-making process. Today’s 10G optics allow for data transport up to 80kms in distance. Here at Precision OT, we can help network operators reach a distance of 90km with 10G optics through a customized solution. On the other hand, 25G optics can only reach a distance of up to 15 km. To go further with 25G transceivers, network operators will need to invest in costly, additional equipment such as amplifiers and Dispersion Compensation Modules (DCMs). In order to provide 5G services to areas where link distances longer than 15km are required, network operators generally have to trade off the bandwidth gains of 25G optics with the ample reach of the 10G family.
Having a true technology partner in these cases can help network operators understand all the available options that can help solve for their particular needs. It’s never a good feeling to believe one is boxed in on a particular choice of equipment. In fact, using modulation techniques like PAM4 or NRZ, 25G optics can support links up to 40km. A technology partner, like Precision OT, can assess your network architecture and creatively advise on the best optics given your link distance requirements.
5G Densification, Street Furniture and Weatherproofing
This year will begin to see an acceleration of 5G deployments around the world, and while link distances are important to 5G rollouts, densification will also be critical in enabling the use of innovative applications like smart city technology, autonomous vehicles and more. In this regard, street furniture, like lamp posts and utility poles, will be a critical enabler of widespread 5G services.
In fact, 5G street lamps are already in use in some parts of the US and Europe. Here’s one such example. In July last year, Telefonica Deutschland (O2) partnered with energy provider Mainova to put the first smart 5G street light in operation in Frankfurt, Germany. Per the network operator’s release, with a service radius of 250 meters, this kind of 5G street light will be useful in supporting a myriad of real-time applications like connected driving. Use of existing infrastructure to densify networks and solve the problem of scarce space in urban environments is the pathway to the future for 5G rollouts.
When it comes to 5G deployment, weather considerations become paramount. And we’re not just talking about industrial temperature ratings, either. All 5G-related equipment, including passives like couplers, splitters, muxes/demuxes and filters, residing in an outdoor plant needs to be protected against weather ingress. Water (moisture and humidity included), dust or dirt can shorten the life of vital networking devices, forcing operators to spend more money than planned on the operation and maintenance of their 5G deployments. Fiber cables that run from any enclosures to the RUs need to be specially coated to protect against sun, wind, ice, rain and other adverse weather conditions. Clearly, 5G network densification is the path forward for future rollouts, but having a technology partner that can advise on best practices around weatherproofing is going to be a significant advantage for network operators.
Summing it All Up
At Precision OT, we’re always at the cutting edge of 5G innovation. We keep our customers apprised of new technology developments that could help them enhance network capabilities while cutting down on capital and operating expenditures. While we are specialists in transceivers and related active/passive optical components, we do advise and assist on the implementation of best practices around network architecture design and deployment.
With testing laboratories and an Advanced Engineering Group, we can assist in new product developments as well as ensure that the customized solutions we create consultatively with our customers will work reliably in the field. We always have new innovations forthcoming in our technology pipeline that can help improve our customers network design and, in the case of 5G link distances, reach. No matter your requirements – whether 25G optics to support small cell densification or 10G DWDM transceivers for a link distance of 100km and everything in between – we can help. Contact us today to streamline your 5G network rollouts.