This year will be pivotal for 5G, headlined by early rollouts of the 4G-enabled non-standalone spec. The cloud will be deeply represented, according to GSMA Technical Director Michele Zarri.
In response to emailed questions from Telco Transformation, Zarri wrote that the cloud would play important roles -- from cloud-native core network architectures to use in radio access networks -- in enabling 5G. Here's a look at some of Zarri's cloud and 5G-related observations.
Telco Transformation: Where is the industry in terms of building out its 5G ecosystem?
Michele Zarri: The completion of a first set of technical specifications is expected in June 2018 with an option for early deployment leveraging 4G infrastructure ready three months earlier. This points to a rollout scaling in the first half of next decade.
TT: What role does a cloud platform play in building out the 5G ecosystem?
MZ: 5G will fully embrace cloud technology from a "cloud native" core network architecture through adoption in the radio access network. Many of the lessons learned in the IT industry over the past ten years are being used to define 5G.
TT: How will the IaaS, PaaS and SaaS layers of the cloud platform enable service capabilities for 5G?
MZ: Mobile operators are expected to make full use of the models defined for cloud computing by adapting and extending them as needed. Network slicing -- the capability of mobile operators to offer heavily customized virtual mobile networks to customers -- is an example of extending the "traditional" cloud offers to network-as-a-service. Mobile operators are also likely to model future business relationships with vertical industries around cloud business models.
TT: What are the keys in migrating from current CT cloud platforms to converged ICT platforms? What has been the biggest challenge? Do you have any advice?
MZ: Together with our members, we have performed a gap analysis on the virtualization of mobile networks identifying six key areas that need addressing: orchestration, security, reliability, benchmarking, interoperability and migration.
TT: How will the transition to cloud-native enable 5G?
MZ: Besides inheriting the benefits of efficiency, fast time to market and cost reduction the IT industry benefited from, transitioning to cloud-native will unlock new opportunities in the B2B, B2B2C and B2G [business to government] areas.
TT: What role will distributed edge computing play in enabling 5G applications and services such as IoT and mobile edge computing?
MZ: The GSMA expects many use cases to be only possible by moving computing and storage towards the edge, for example ultra-low latency services. Therefore 5G centralization (cloud) and distribution (edge computing) will coexist.
TT: Going forward, how important is it to have a unified cloud infrastructure? What are the elements that are needed to achieve this?
MZ: The GSMA strongly believes in the need for interoperability as a key ingredient for allowing a technology to scale. While a unified cloud infrastructure is a way to achieve this, agreement on a common standard, if adopted and adhered to, may be easier to achieve and still fulfil the goal.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation