The Cloudification of 5G Networks

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5G is the fifth-generation cellular network, as formally defined by global standards agencies. Since 1980, we have witnessed the arrival of a new generation about almost every 10 years.

It all started with 1G when the cell phones were as large as bricks and holding them for long would cause strain on the arms. They used to only provide voice communications. Wider cell phone coverage and the new Messaging service came with 2G and then with 3G, mobile phones started getting connected to the internet with slow and limited bandwidth.

Seeing the value delivery potentials with mobile internet connectivity, the low speed of mobile internet data transfer, and the many lacking features of available phones started to become a pain point for the businesses and the race for higher connection speeds and the new generation of “smart” phones began.

Around 2009, we saw the arrival of 4G (or as some telcos would call it LTE [Long Term Evolution]), which significantly improved the internet connectivity. Mobile phones started ramping up their competition in adding capabilities, processing power, and storage, turning themselves into what we call them today as “Smart Phones”.

Features like video calls, multimedia streaming, live video streaming, on-phone graphic processing, and rendering became possible and the competition for stronger and faster smartphones entered a new stage.

This competition also started kicking a number of other carried devices to the curb, including digital cameras, MP3 players, personal organizers, voice recorders, and even larger devices like desktop scanners, video players, and video game consoles.

As the demand for more mobile features and capabilities expanded both at the consumer and commercial level, the need for data communications at a much higher speed created the push for the innovations needed to pave the road for the arrival of the latest generation: 5G.

The world is now embracing 5G and its multitude of use cases are growing in almost every market sector and function, while the 6G is already in the works and is going through the lab phase.

Compared to 4G/LTE, 5G provides much higher speed – estimated as having 10X less latency, 100X faster speed, and 1000X more capacity – using lower latency and uses higher-frequency radio waves and works with smaller, more closely distributed wireless access points instead of large, dispersed cell towers.

5G allows for higher concurrent connectivity and significantly higher download speeds with unprecedented consistency levels that would allow for Big Data live streaming and on-the-go analytics on them. The speed and capacity of 5G allow for mobile augmented reality (overlaying virtual visual items over a live view of the world).

5G uses shorter range radio waves, which allow the cell towers to significantly improve geolocation tracking with numerous industrial use cases of IoT devices (e.g., in-field Robotics, Agriculture automation, Drone services, Connected Vehicles, Remote Healthcare, Traffic management, and more). This is only going to grow larger as research shows that by 2023, the number of connected IoT devices would surpass 20 billion.

It is also predicted that the 1 million global 5G subscribers that existed in 2019 will grow beyond 1 billion by end of 2023.

4G/LTE enabled a mobile ecosystem of around $4 trillion in new economic value, and we foresee 5G to break that record by 2.5x within the next 5 years.

5G networks rely on smaller, yet more densely-deployed, antennae, most attached not to giant cell towers but to existing buildings, light poles, and other physical infrastructure. This densifying of the network, allows the signals to be carried faster and more reliably, with bandwidth measured not in megabits but rather in gigabits per second.

This unprecedented high level of connectivity in speed, density, and capacity will forever shift all existing telecom architectural designs and will create sectors that did not exist before or could not manifest using 4G/LTE.

 

What is Cloudification?

Cloudification is the process of migrating existing platforms and solutions to a Cloud service provider’s environment to benefit from their global, low-latency, high availability, elastic service capacity and to gain access to their large inventory of ready tools and services covering a wide range of functions, from big data streaming and analytics to Machine Learning.

Cloud services provide the required globally distributed infrastructure and network at a much higher speed of provisioning for a fraction of the cost of ownership that enterprises would incur if they tried to expand their data centers worldwide.

They have revolutionised the way enterprises do innovations by significantly lowering the cost and time barrier for experimentations and enabling teams to set up labs and test their hypothesis in a matter of minutes, record the outcomes and then release the resources that are no longer required back to the Cloud provider and off of their bills.

In fact, the speed at which new data is being created and the sheer volume of it would have completely paralysed enterprises if they did not have access to Cloud data communications bandwidth and big data storage for such low prices.

Two-thirds of the world’s data didn’t exist five years ago, and it is estimated that more than 70 exabytes of data will be generated by 2022 (One exabyte is the equivalent of one billion gigabytes) that is why it is estimated that the investment in Cloudification will surpass $270 billion by 2025.

Cloudification brings several key technological benefits to a network, including:

  • Software-Defined Infrastructure: High agility environments that are programmable and break the limitations of the hardware.
  • Network Function Virtualization: Running the building blocks of networking on software to bring higher flexibility and demand adaptability.
  • Network Slicing: Creating customized end-to-end dynamic virtual networks to respond to the diverse needs of industry-specific use cases.
  • Self-Managed Networks: Autonomous, Intelligent and Flexible networks that raise the efficiency of services and optimize the costs of communications.
  • Distributed Computing: moving the computations from the Cloud data centers, through the network, to the Edge and putting the workload where it delivers the most value through field-positioned processing and near-zero latency in decision making.
  • Multi-vector Manufacturing Optimization: providing Ultra-Low Latency, Ultra Reliability, and High Volume Communication for a variety of manufacturing use cases through collecting data from several points in assembly lines and allowing for high speed and reliable data connectivity between the machines and analytical engines. This in turn supports smart decision-making during the production and servicing and maintenance stages.

 

Cloudified 5G Networks 

Cloudification of 5G networks is already underway and has already shown great benefits from orchestrating a scalable, secure, low-latency, globally accessible, software-driven network.

It is predicted that the industry digitalization investment in 5G will exceed $700 billion by 2030 supported by several market sectors, including Retail, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Automotive, Public Transportation, Healthcare, Energy & Utilities, Finance, Media & Entertainment, and Public Safety.

Data usage at a global level is expected to become 10x by 2025 as consumers see value in 5G use cases and will be willing to pay for it.

5G-powered industrial use cases are expanding and have already engaged in:

  • Connected Vehicles (Vehicle-to-Everything [V2X] connectivity)
  • Real-time automation
  • Remote Operations
  • Autonomous Robotics
  • Augmented Reality
  • Connected Healthcare
  • Enhance live-video services (5G MEC)
  • Smart surveillance and Fraud Detection / Prevention
  • Predictive and Live Hazard Management and Maintenance
  • Monitoring and tracking
  • Smart Automated Call Centers
  • Smart Cities (all aspects, from traffic management to power consumption)

Cloudification of 5G networks leads to:

  • Reimagining (and improving) customer experience and creating and delivering personalized experiences to exceed customer expectations.
  • Accelerating time-to-market (as leveraging Cloud service is much faster and cheaper than the traditional ways of deployment) and automating BSS/OSS processes to drive efficiency.
  • Higher Operational Efficiency and enhanced business outcomes (through automating software-driven networks and being able to pay for what is used and to scale up to respond to spikes in demands – or as prescribed by predictive AI – and reducing the allocated capacity when demand drops, to optimize spending).
  • Better orchestration and optimization of the network components (through API-based automation of management, monitoring, and maintenance of the networks with top-to-bottom and cross-silo visibility).
  • Unlocking growth potentials and monetizing the 5G capabilities in conjunction with Edge and IoT technologies.

Cloudification of 5g networks addresses these challenges:

  • Breaking out the exponential increase of data in radio and transport for Edge computing.
  • The rising complexity of orchestration due to the growing diversity of digital ecosystems.
  • Digitalization of mobile service offerings beyond mere mobile customers connectivity and expanding into further innovative uses, especially real-time AI-based analytics on live real-time big data streaming coming from thousands of connected devices in the field.
  • The need for 5G Slicing (creating and offering 5G Private Networks to business users).
  • Alignment at all levels and all functions (from Executive to Staff and from Tech to Business).

Over the past 10 years, many Telco’s started moving some of their infrastructures and applications to the Cloud, but it has been only the past couple of years when they partnered with Cloud service providers in establishing integrated 5G solutions on Cloud.

This had led to the creation of Software-Centric infrastructures and Developer-Friendly Ecosystems to make innovative 5G applications and to help other industries and verticals to leverage the power of 5G and the Cloud to disrupt their own sectors.

A great advantage of this approach is that it allows developers to use the same programming tools and development environments and even the same APIs to create solutions for the 5G network and Cloud environment. It also allows the consumers of 5G services to customize their network experience on-demand.

This movement has contributed to a leaner product portfolio, higher organizational agility, increased cost efficiency, and the formation of modern, Cloud-Native architectures established on elastic agile IT models.

The Cloud-Native 5G allows for the creation of Slices, which lets organizations have their own Private 5G Networks. This is a new architectural model that was not possible through 4G/LTE.

This also brings the Cloud’s Service Elasticity to 5G. That is the ability to allocate more computing, storage, and networking capacity as demands go up and to reduce it down when the demand drops, and through that to maintain the best customer experience with the most optimized costing.

This also opens the door to getting access to the wealth of tools and capabilities of the Cloud services, including live big data streaming, analytics, machine learning, and more.

Cloud and 5G have created a solution for establishing Global, Secure, Low-Latency, Scalable Software-Driven Telecommunication networks for a fraction of the cost of traditional deployments that simplify service provisioning and allow the Telecom enterprises to better focus on customer experience.

Another growing use of Cloudified 5G Networks is Edge Processing in the Next Generation Robotics. The spike in demand for live connectivity and high bandwidth required for robots in the field, to allow for Edge Processing and communicating of live data back to the organization, has been growing the need for low-latency network connectivity to strong analytical engines and AI-based solutions which require an integration of the Telecom networks and Cloud service providers.

 

Cloudified 5G and Artificial Intelligence

Over the past couple of years, we have seen a great push for Democratizing Augmented-Intelligence (“Smart Everything Everywhere”).

Studies predict that by 2030, the combined impact of Cloudified 5G and AI will amplify their impact beyond an acceleration expected from either of them.

The massive growth of data is now matched by the extensive power of Cloud, which can provide the large live feed that AI systems require to provide several uses cases, such as:

  • Augmented Decision making using the combined power of Prescriptive and Predictive models.
  • Rich Media of high resolutions and real-time rendered graphics are used in the entertainment industry, especially in the gaming sector of Augment Reality.
  • High-Speed Production using full automation (even at decision-making points), with Predictive Maintenance and live Analytical Optimization.
  • Optimized Logistics based on AI-driven Predictive Routing and supply balancing in addition to fleet Predictive Maintenance.

Cloudified 5G accelerates AI deployments by Distributing Intelligence (Geo-Dispersed Smartification) across every existing – or upcoming innovative – user experience in every value delivery pipeline.

 

Opportunities for the Combined Cloudified 5G/AI impact

Short-Term

The current trends and forecast of its growth are predicting that by 2025, Cloudified 5G and AI will improve world GDP by over $3 trillion through reducing waste, lowering production costs, and optimizing outputs.

  • In manufacturing, the combined power of humans and AI (aka the Augmented Intelligence) is already showing great return from combining the human brain’s strength and real-time data to address problems and raise productivity.
  • In retail, the shopping experience is going through a major change with the introduction of 3D graphics, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality that delivers frictionless and immersive journeys with high personalization levels. Both in-store and online shopping is going through significant changes. The stores are also benefiting from AI-enhanced supply chain management and logistics. It is estimated that the value of the global “Smart” retail market will amount to $60 billion by 2025.
  • In media, live customization of content and fine-targeted advertising is enhancing customer experience and raising revenue with higher conversion rates and lower customer churns.
  • In healthcare, practitioners are using a growing number of AI-based “Smart Patient Monitoring” devices that provide remote care for patients. It is expected that the number of these AI-enabled wearables would grow to over 40 million by 2023.
  • In urban and national transportation, governments are using fine-grained, real-time data from connected vehicles in their software-driven traffic and routing management to reduce collisions and road corrosions, optimize fuel consumption and visualize road safety and surface quality.

Long-Term

It is expected to see accelerated growth in all areas touched in the short-term moving to a much higher global economic impact (exceeding $18 trillion by 2035).

  • In manufacturing, we will have factories that will be fully automated and efficiently connected to their supply chain and can coordinate and optimize their production volume based on real-time data.
  • In retail, both the shopping experience and the supply and distribution channels are going to continue experiencing significant improvements. Real-time insights will create “Digital Twins” of the products and services for a remote yet realistic experience. Smart digital signage will create offers and discounts based on recommendation systems that are backed by predictive models. In both physical stores and warehouses, IoT smart devices will help the staff better manage their stacked supplies and have a live view into the exact state of their merchandise and their whereabouts.
  • In media, we can expect automated content creation, interactive movies that adjust their story and pace based on the customer’s preference, Virtual Reality in everyday entertainment type, and Augmented Reality as part of everyday life.
  • In healthcare, a growing part of services will be automated without human intervention or even supervision. In the areas that would still be dependent – to some extent – on practitioners, they will use Augmented Diagnostics and advanced smart tools to better identify the health issue, set a recovery path, and provide personalized care for the patients.
  • In urban and national transportation, governments continue to use the live feed of data in their smart decision making and visualization tools and will expand that into incorporating 3D maps into their drone fleets utilization for urban and inter-city services.

 

Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Cloudified 5G

At the time of writing this article, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is leading the charge in Cloudification of 5G while the other providers are in a variety of stages of catching up with the needed depth and breadth of needed technology.

AWS provides the needed infrastructure and tool for incorporating 5G technology in a variety of use cases and provides a large set of solutions to support them.

  • AWS Local Zones are Cloud infrastructure and services in large metropolitan areas and are used for service migration and low-latency data processing. They allow for scalable capacity in AWS-managed and operated facilities.
  • AWS Outposts are Cloud infrastructure and services that are established on an organization’s data center (on-premises). They are used for service and data migration, integration of critical local apps, and data residency compliance requirements. They provide dedicated capacity in the customer’s data center.
  • AWS Wavelength is their infrastructure and service in Telco’s 5G network. They are used for Ultra-low latency, local data processing and provide scalable capacity in Telco’s data center, managed, and supported by AWS.
  • AWS EKS Anywhere is their Container Management Services for self-managed infrastructure. Combined with EKS Distro they provide consistent AWS management in brownfield deployments.

AWS has been working closely with a growing list of telecommunications and Digital Media Service Providers in many countries since the inception of 5G. Some of the most prominent partners with AWS are:

  • Dish Wireless: has formed a strategic collaboration with AWS to reinvent 5G connectivity and innovation by leveraging AWS infrastructure and services to build a cloud-based, 5G Open Radio Access Network (O-RAN).
  • Verizon: the first Telco in the world to launch a commercial 5G mobile network with a commercially available 5G-enabled smartphone.
  • Ericsson: one of the leading providers of information and communication technology to service providers. Ericsson has been partnering with a number of other technology organizations in providing 5G technology to consumers.
  • Vodafone: a worldwide operating telecommunications company active in 22 countries in 4 continents, which is also partnering with other enterprises in re-imagining the customer experience of mobile technology through 5G.
  • T-Mobile: started the journey of business transformation on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2012 and has grown its customer base from 33 million subscribers to 84 million subscribers today.
  • Comcast: the world’s largest cable company and the leading U.S. provider of high-speed internet and voice services, use AWS in a hybrid environment to innovate and deploy features for its flagship video product, XFINITY X1.
  • Alcatel Lucent: a French global telecommunication solutions provider, created OpenTouch Video Store, an online service for the creation and sharing of video content.

AWS has also established a close working relationship with Ghost Robotics, a manufacturer of durable, continuous use, highly rugged, yet easy to deploy legged robots and is expanding its presence into field operationalized Robotics where sensory and analytical data needs to be in continuous bi-directional flow to support Edge, IoT and live cloud-based AI-enhanced analytical support.

AWS has introduced the use of the Graviton2 processors which are built for compute-intensive applications and can deliver high performance and lower power consumption (40% better pricing performance compared to traditional x86 CPUs). They provide the best-in-class computing units for 5G applications.

 

Conclusion

The fortunate arrival of 5G at a time when Cloud computing was already a wide-spread practice in both private and public sectors created a combined paradigm-shifting force that is now ramping up towards a complete revolution in our existing connectivity models and is accelerating toward innovative ways that we are yet to envision and implement.

The 5G is here to lift and launch all ideas that 4G/LTE could not embody due to its limited speed and capacity and to shorten the cycle of creativity and monetization of ideas.

All industries and their sectors are either already affected or are going to see positive impacts from the next generation of connectivity. Whether these impacts would properly align towards equal opportunities and facilitation among all nations will yet to unfold into the future.

The world as we used to know merely a couple of years ago will go through such significant changes in this decade that would make us wonder how we used to live and work with such old and slow ways of communication, in a world that lacked such strong smart automation.

 

Article written by Arman Kamran, CTO of Prima Recon, Professor of Transformative Technologies, Advisory Board Member to The Harvard Business Review, and Enterprise Transition Expert in Scaled Agile Digital Transformation

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