5G Futures: Impact and Infrastructure

From our homes, airports, hospitals, stadiums, enterprise office buildings, how do we connect all of these things? Networking protocols such as 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E all must work together to support a broad range of use cases. CommScope’s Morne Erasmus blogs about topics covered during the 5G Futures webinar series presented by Nextgov, Defense One, and Route Fifty.

shutterstock_601900970Like water, power and gas, access to the Internet is a necessary utility for the future. The federal government has a vast interest in being at the forefront of this wave.

To that end, 5G networking promises faster data-transfer speeds that will allow Internet of Things (IoT) devices to communicate and share data faster than ever. 5G will be the network of more—more technologies, more edge devices, more power and more infrastructure needed to support it all. This was the theme during a recent 5G Futures webinar series presented by Nextgov, Defense One, and Route Fifty, an event in which I participated.

My session focused on edge devices and mobility, the coverage that is needed for those devices and how that drives the requirement for new and reused spectrum. It also focused on the backhaul and power requirements for edge devices, concealment of Wi-Fi equipment, and how to implement convergence into an agency’s plans. Here is an overview of what I presented.

More Edge Devices

With digital transformation comes more edge devices. Currently there are approximately 7.7 billion people in the world and 5.3 billion cell phone users. Additionally, there are an estimated 30 billion IoT devices globally today with a projection of 75 billion IoT devices by 2025.

The consumption model has dramatically changed, from cellular 4G, LTE and 5G networking to Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) for private networks to IoT and Wi-Fi everywhere – all enabling wireless connectivity at the edge.

From our homes, airports, hospitals, stadiums, enterprise office buildings, how do we connect all of these things? The goal is to connect edge devices to cloud infrastructures within data centers. To do that, there is a need to expand the underlying infrastructure. It is not just about incorporating 5G networking, though. Networking protocols such as 4G, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and 6E all must work together to support a broad range of use cases.

The digital shift is real. Municipalities are standing up applications for dynamic parking, people counting, traffic management, trash management, and security, as well as gunshot and facial recognition. However, there are a lot of siloed applications with different data sets and different owners.

Digital collaboration is more necessary and available than before. If you have multiple applications riding on a single edge device and that device goes down; then agencies and businesses need to get all applications up and running again. That is why there is a growing need for redundant power feeds, backup power, and redundant pathways for communications because edge devices are driving critical mission applications.

Building out the Connectivity Layer

Typically, organizations adopt a top-down application design model to develop an intelligent parking or traffic control application, secure it and then put it on an edge device. Then they stand up silos, instead of going from the bottom up and saying, ‘we need a connectivity layer that can support any device or application we stand up on top of it.’  It is not just about edge devices; it is about powering those devices. 

If there are going to be 75 billion IoT devices worldwide in four years, organizations cannot place 75 billion batteries in the field and expect them to last more than five to 10 years. How are those batteries going to be replaced? We need to think about the sustainability impact this connectivity will have on society. Hybrid Fiber Cables can now provide high-broadband connectivity, extending Ethernet beyond its traditional limits, to power edge devices—all in a plug and play topology.

At the same time, more antennas, cables and IoT devices are being placed on street poles. Not only is it an ugly sight but all this external equipment creates a physical security risk. Anyone can open them and gain access to edge devices. Integrated smart poles are now emerging that conceal wireless network equipment, such as antennas, cables, and radios, in a visually appealing design.

Convergence: Outside and Inside

Meanwhile, convergence on the infrastructure helps organizations build smarter networks. A fiber distribution hub (FDH) – a plug and play device – can provide high-density fiber connectivity to a compact, weatherproof enclosure on poles, kiosks, bus shelters, a home, or as an underground node. This saves a carrier from digging up the street every two years to put in new infrastructure.

To gain connectivity inside buildings, the infrastructure consists of Power Over Ethernet copper cables which give power to devices; switches which power the cables and connect devices; and fiber for higher broadband backhaul. Automated Infrastructure Management (AIM), an integrated hardware and software platform, can document the cabling infrastructure, including connected equipment, and provides a comprehensive real-time view of device location and connection. Distributed antenna systems (DAS) solve the need for robust, scalable, multi-operator mobile communications in enterprises and large venues.

From outside to inside, CommScope can help agencies with their wired and wireless needs. For more on 5G networking view the 5G Futures featured sessions on Connected Communities, Methods of Modernization, and 5G Futures.