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Published on October 10, 2019

5G Transport: A look into challenges and opportunities

5G transport: a look into challenges and opportunities

In this interview with Lightwave’s Stephen Hardy, Sophie Legault, EXFO’s Director-Transport and Datacom Business Unit talks about the wealth of new technology available to operators as they move towards 5G. The interview took place at ECOC 2019 in the Intel booth where Sophie also elaborated on an xhaul network demonstration that features both EXFO and Intel® equipment.

The road to 5G is paved with both new 5G transport technologies and challenges

New technologies are moving into the transport network as the transition from 4G to 5G happens. In the fronhaul: eCPRI, Ethernet, a proliferation of cell sites and more fiber abound. Moving to the xhaul, lots more bandwidth is the name of the game, with new Ethernet rates ranging from 25G up to 400G at the 5G core. And in order to synchronize all those new cells across the 5G transport network, new synchronization technology across the entire network is rolling out. “From an operational perspective there’s new knowledge and training required on the part of the technicians—a lot of new things to learn with respect to the 5G transport network,” said Sophie Legault.

Sophie discussed EXFO’s demo taking place in the Intel booth that featured 4x 25G connections generated from an EXFO test set going into Intel’s 100G FlexE shim with a loopback on the other end. Traffic was generated and analyzed for errors, and tests performed including bit error rate. “The goal is to simulate a xhaul network—bringing together all the fronthaul technologies (CPRI, eCPRI or Ethernet) into that xhaul. We’re demonstrating the technology that maximizes the use of operator fiber into the xhaul and transports it into the core of operator networks.”

How FlexE benefits operators as they move to support 5G transport networks

Operators moving towards 5G will have a wealth of new 5G transport technology solutions from which to choose. Synchronization technologies, eCPRI, FlexE and other innovations will not only help 5G services happen but will enable 4G and 5G to coexist harmoniously for some time.

According to Sophie, FlexE helps to concentrate all the data coming from multiple cell sites. Since 4G and 5G will exist together for a while, operators can multiplex, with flexibility, older and newer technologies over FlexE bringing together different technologies on the same transport network as part of the xhaul. “This gives operators flexibility in terms of moving into the xhaul then into the core of the network.”

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