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Should Operators Start Deploying 5G-Ready Technology?


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Any new wireless technology standard comes with much excitement—and often, solution vendors jockeying to position products well before the final standard hits the market. At Mobile World Congress in February, attendees could explore a wide range of “5G-ready” solutions available now or very soon. Should operators take the leap? Or should they wait until 5G wireless system standards are closer to finalization? HPE brought together leaders from BT, Telefonica, and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to discuss the state of the market.


Why 5G Is Different from Previous Wireless Standards

Early in the discussion, members of the panel were quick to point out that while 5G sounds similar to previous wireless evolutions, it represents a more profound change to operator environments.

“With 5G, we’re witnessing for the first time a change in the paradigm by which networks will be deployed and evolve,” said Javier Lorca, head of RAN innovation, global CTO office, Telefonica. “Instead of having a collection of network features and functionalities that you can activate or not, we want to have something based on NFV and SDN from day one.”

Unlike previous 3G and 4G evolutions, 5G is not necessarily (or at least not solely) a standalone solution. In many use cases, it will continue to interoperate with current and emerging 4G technologies.

“That’s an important point that’s often misunderstood,” said Adrian Scrase, chief technology officer for ETSI. “People misperceive 5G as being the new radio, where 3GPP has been very clear that 5G is a system, including both the new radio and the evolution of LTE Advance Pro, including both a new core and an evolution of existing cores. LTE Advance Pro will play a big part in delivering 5G performance.”


When Does it Make Sense to Deploy?

Given that much work is already happening to evolve mobile networks, should carriers take the next step and start deploying 5G-ready solutions today? There’s no single answer for every operator.

Paul Crane, head of mobile and wireless for BT, sees a strong case for investing in core network transformation to virtualized environments, and evolving current 4G networks for NFV and SDN control. “By doing that, you’ve effectively built a 5G core already,” he explains. “On the RAN side, it’s slightly different. You don’t want to do regretful investment. We need to be really focused in that space, and more cautious, and really be focusing on compliance with 3GPP Release 15.”

At the same time, because 5G builds on 4G technologies rather than outright replacing them, operators have an opportunity to begin exploring 5G technologies in current environments.

“Some of the most advanced and interesting technology innovations in 5G, like millimeter waves for fixed wireless access, massive MIMO virtualization, cloud RAN, can be tested even in limited forms in 4G environments,” said Lorca. “This will 100% be an advantage when we move to 5G, because the framework will be prepared for that from day one. In my view, LTE Advance and LTE Advance Pro is best platform to test pre-5G technology capabilities towards customers, to know how our networks must evolve to cope with the challenges that lie ahead.”

Lorca went on to describe the ways that operators can deploy 5G in conjunction with 4G, such as maintaining 4G coverage and control while using 5G for hotspot areas. Some operators in Latin America plan to use 5G radios integrated with existing network cores in the near future to support fixed wireless broadband access for households where running fiber is too expensive.

“What will 5G look like in 2020?” asked Crane. “It’s Likely to be an LTE Advance Pro network with islands of 5G, integrated together into a HetNet. So it’s important to keep evolving your LTE network and introduce 5G in that context.”


Learn More

For more details on how operators and standards bodies are approaching the evolution to 5G, watch the full discussion at


Learn more about HPE Solutions at




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