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On the road to 5G: upgrading the transport network

Previously published on RCR Wireless News

The dawn of 5G means the way we get, experience and manage information will change, putting user experience front and center. To enable services in each of the three 5G primary use cases identified by the 3GPP—eMBB, URLLC and mMTC—network operators must dramatically transform their networks. While getting ready to launch new 5G services, operators must continue to strengthen their 4G networks. All this makes for a delicate balancing act as service portfolios and product mixes change and evolve.

Transport networks need important upgrades to support new service offerings and applications promised by 5G. Increased network capacity, stricter latency and improved flexibility to manage different types of traffic and varying capacity requirements are required. All that must be accomplished while optimizing costs—CAPEX and OPEX.

The entire transport network must evolve

Changes to the transport network will be fundamental and affect the entire infrastructure—impacting the fronthaul, midhaul and backhaul. Optimizing these network architectures to support specific services is critical to delivering the correct level of bandwidth and latency per specific service offered.

In the fronthaul, key interfaces are emerging. One of the main protocols of choice in terms of bandwidth efficiency is eCPRI. Winning out over CPRI, eCPRI is being deployed at rates of 10G, 25G and up to 100G. In addition, there’s an evolution to Ethernet, a better known, more efficient and flexible technology.

The midhaul and backhaul will see the introduction of new transport technologies including OTN and FlexE. With varied technology choices offered by network equipment manufacturers (NEMS), the pressure’s on for operators to choose the right architecture today that will support tomorrow’s services. Again, continuing to support 4G for a number of years means the mingling of different types of traffic (legacy and 5G) in the transport network and the necessity to ensure that different classes of traffic (delivered via network slicing) are happily coexisting and their respective SLAs are met.

Fiber testing and more automated operations are also fundamental to success

The transport network is indeed an important piece of the puzzle and it relies on a solid fiber network foundation. To make sure that 5G is done right, operators must properly characterize, test and deploy fiber right from the start and choose an experienced partner to help. EXFO built upon more than 30 years of experience in fiber optic testing to offer solutions that measure, test and analyze the entire network—from layer 1 to 7—to deliver network visibility from the core all the way to the subscriber. And to respond to the challenge of reducing workforces and newer, less experienced technicians there is a clear need for simpler and more efficient processes. EXFO has built its experience into test solutions that are automated and increasingly easy to use accelerating field tech work and saving on operational expenses.

To understand more about upcoming 5G transport network requirements, listen to Sophie Legault, EXFO’s Director Transport and Datacom, in conversation with Jeff Mucci, CEO and Head of Industry Insights at Arden Media/RCR Wireless News.