The Road to 5G is Paved with Good (Fiber) Intentions

Fiber will be that last piece of the connection that can handle the load of information 5G networks will be transmitting.
Tier-1 carriers such as AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and others have all made efforts to incorporate small cells into their network builds, deployments and upgrades. Smalls cells – such as Femto cells, Metro cells, Micro cells and Pico cells – when placed into an existing network, can significantly increase the amount of throughput and total network bandwidth. This, in turn, gives the service provider the flexibility it needs to effectively provide hotspots that feature denser connectivity possibilities. In order to be fully successful in providing the backhaul necessary to support the 5G network, small cell backhaul capability will need to be expanded. There are several considerations to review before service providers can go down this road:
  • Service providers need to understand and plan for how much speed and capacity they will need to meet the demand of the consumer. Short-term and long-term needs will need to be factored into these decisions.
  • Service providers will need to figure out how quickly they will be able to turn up small cell deployments, and what role fiber will play in meeting their time-to-market goals.
  • Simplifying the installation process will also become more of a priority.
  • The disruptive nature of fiber deployments—especially in urban environments—needs to be taken into account as much of the infrastructure is located underground or in cabinets next to busy streets.
  • There is no “one-size-fits-all” infrastructure for fiber deployments. Therefore, implementing standardized solutions into their network that are both scalable and modular ensures that service providers are able to maximize their network elements as they adapt and evolve their networks.
  • Finally, service providers will need to move towards plug-and-play solutions that do not require specialized labor for deploying fiber. Lowering labor costs means service providers will be able to back more individual deployments that will support small cell deployment and backhaul for 5G.

The current 4G network infrastructure in place providing customers 4G LTE connectivity can still be leveraged to provide 5G; however, there will need to be many additions to the overall wireless infrastructure to support the 5G speeds. Currently, 4G LTE occupies the frequency bands up to 20MHz. 5G is expected to sit on or around the 6MHz band. While this means far more information will be able to cross back and forth over these frequencies than 4G LTE, it also means the signal will not travel nearly as far. Providing this connectivity strictly over the existing 4G LTE network will not be sufficient to supply 5G to existing customers. Wireless service providers will need to build more cell towers capable of handling the amount of information 5G will be carrying across the network, as well as adding new base stations and mounted antennas to capture these signals.

Fiber will be that last piece of the connection that can handle the load of information 5G networks will be transmitting. By creating a “pipeline” that runs backhaul from macro sites, tower and rooftop connection points, the end-user can experience a flawless and complete 5G experience. The fiber infrastructure will provide a reliable and secure network that will power the bandwidth needed to meet customer expectations as well as support Internet of Things (IoT) and other applications that will only be able to run on a 5G connection. Additionally, smart homes, city infrastructure, governments and millions of consumers around the globe will be relying on a robust 5G network to power the applications required to run their individual operations.

Customer demand for faster and better service means service providers will be doubling down on their efforts to bring 5G technology to fruition even faster than originally expected. Ensuring customers have a seamless transition when moving over to the 5G network will be paramount, not only from a service assurance standpoint, but also from a financial perspective. Deploying 5G before the infrastructure is in place to handle it would seriously jeopardize adoption of the technology itself, throwing service providers’ existing and growing 5G networks and deployments into doubt. By solving the fiber challenge now, service providers will be able to maintain a high quality of service for their 5G networks as they are introduced, and provide that much needed network support backbone to provide bandwidth to their new subscribers.

Fiber will allow 5G providers to service a very broad variety of customers, including fixed-line and business, as well as to connect the mobile base stations that provide the critical last mile connectivity needed to reach end-users. Fiber will pave the roads that 5G, once implemented, will be using every day. Service providers need to be prepared now to meet the inevitable challenges they will face to ensure their 5G deployments are ultimately successful.


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