The future of any part of the vast messy technological space is determined by the interplay between problems …
and the opportunities that create customer demand and the technological developments that reconstruct the framework of the offer. The telecommunications industry is no exception. And despite the general vastness and disarray of the industry, much of the future of telecommunications will depend on how two technological advancements – 5G wireless networking and event-driven networking – intersect the space of problems and issues. opportunities.
The most versatile and least understood piece of the puzzle has to be 5G Wireless technology. Wireless infrastructure has progressed through a series of generational changes for decades, and 5G certainly won’t be the last. But 5G will be the most different generation, as much of 5G focuses on erasing the differences between wired and wireless networks to accommodate the explosive mobility of network users.
The radio network side of 5G wireless technology is obvious. The specs for the new 5G radio are advancing the fastest of all 5G items. At the head of the group are millimeter wave applications of 5G replacing the traditional copper loop in fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) deployments. Operators have already committed to hybrid 5G-FTTN deployments in 2018. And, over time, this will make 5G wireless technology a vital part of what will probably still be called wired broadband.
However, the next generation of wireless will still not fully unite wireless and wired. Wireless networks today already use many of the same devices as wired for transport connectivity and wireless backhaul. But as mobile users move both geographically and from cell to cell in a wireless network, special accommodation is needed to maintain a user’s connection to services while they are on the move. The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is one such hosting, and 5G plans to replace or upgrade it to the Next Generation Core (NGC).
The next generation core has the mission of EPC mobility management, as well as the mission of converging services and infrastructure in a 5G future. Next Generation Core is not as advanced in terms of specs as other aspects of 5G, largely because everything else 5G has to be brought together in the NGC. The goal of Next Generation Core is to build network infrastructure and services from cloud components rather than specialized devices. In this sense, an NGC will help converge wireless and wired. But to take full advantage of this convergence, 5G will need to separate service from infrastructure to the point where roaming between wireless and wired will be possible. It may be more of a Wi-Fi issue than a 5G issue.
Required: 5G wireless technology support for event networks
5G’s next mission – supporting the Internet of Things (IoT) – is complicated because it goes far beyond simply supporting many wireless devices. Security is perhaps the key technical issue, and a specific feature of 5G, network slicing, would provide a way to separate sensor control networks from other wireless users. This could be a giant leap in keeping IoT secure. Network slicing is another part of 5G wireless technology that is lagging behind in terms of progress.
Two other issues further complicate matters in terms of 5G support for IoT. One is to create a model to integrate services over wired and wireless connections, a kind of full network virtualization. The second is to address how to deal with IoT events.
Events are useless unless you can do something with them. Control networks have a feedback loop – the time it takes for an event to reach a processing point, for the process to run, and for a response to be generated to the control device. If the feedback loop is too long, the delay may interfere with the IoT application. Think of a gate controlled by a motion sensor in which opening is delayed for so long that an arriving vehicle has to either hit the gate or brake. The length of the feedback loop is influenced by a number of factors, but an important factor is the distance between the sensor or controller and the process points.
Short feedback loops require minimal network latency, which is a function of both connection speed and the number of network elements in the path. Each switch or router introduces latency when handling a packet, and it’s easy for complicated routes to consume an application’s entire delay budget. Hosting at the edge that places event processing close to where sensor and controller connections end will reduce the processing delay and normal propagation delay associated with any connection.
Serverless Computing Could Offer Event Handling Answers
While Edge hosting fixes one problem, it can create another. IoT systems can process only a few events per day. To have a dedicated system or even a cloud-hosted process running all the time, waiting for an event is not cost effective. Event processing has created a whole new model of cloud computing called serverless computing – also known as functional programming or lambda – to allow processes to be launched on demand to handle events.
Even this approach presents challenges. Any delay in loading and executing a process can eat up the delay budget and compromise the application. Support for IoT applications where sensors are in one area and controllers in another is another issue. Future on-board processing centers will need to be meshed with fiber to reduce processing times for these applications.
The convergence of wireless and wireline in services and infrastructure, combined with an efficient, edge-hosted, event-driven cloud could transform telecommunications at every level. The goal is not impossible to achieve; it’s just difficult. Can the industry converge technological trends when they seem to evolve in a totally isolated way? Who thinks about 5G wireless technology and edge hosting or event processing? Everyone should think about it, because it is the sum of the technological steps that lead us into the future of telecommunications.