5G will become an essential utility and assumed "natural resource" of infrastructure.
5G and the World: Control of the 5G Digital Silk Road
5G will become an essential utility and assumed “natural resource” of infrastructure. Supplying the digital “pipeline” and harnessing data currency will become a focal point of national security and privacy concerns. This will compel new players and new entrants to supply 5G infrastructure. Hyperscale cloud providers will expand their cloud services to include 5G connectivity.
New OEMs/ODMs will launch 5G small cells for private enterprise environments. The race for 5G will in effect be a race for internet access and digital intelligence. Between system providers and network providers, 5G will stimulate discussions about wireless governance, security, and policies.
China (specifically Huawei) will remain an influential supplier of world’s 5G infrastructure. Many countries looking to leapfrog into 5G deployments but desiring vendor trust and openness will explore Open-RAN solutions as a healthy counterbalance to proprietary, closed solutions, such as that of Huawei.
5G Expands into Non-Telco Environments
Where 2G/3G/4G offered evolutionary enhancements to cellular communications, 5G offers new capabilities and properties that will ignite imaginative possibilities for new end markets that extend beyond traditional telco environments. Governments and national defense companies will look to develop and deploy fully custom, private 5G networks. Cable and internet providers will launch fixed wireless small cells, where the need for cooper cable wires is obsoleted in favor of 5G wireless connectivity. Smart factories, warehouses, and sea ports will capitalize on robotic automation with private 5G networks enabled by Artificial Intelligence. Enterprises will look to collapse WiFi and private 5G networks into one unified network where mission critical and non-mission critical devices can be simultaneously supported.
The tsunami of new connected devices will dwarf smartphones and test the pluralities of 5G. Massive customization at scale will be necessary to support the varying performance, power, and price points.
Cloudification of 5G
As the billions of people and trillion of devices get connected, compute must migrate closer to the data source (versus the current operating model of data moving to the compute). The whole notion of edge computing will evolve around intelligent connectivity (5G) + intelligent compute (AI).
Those who would profit from this mega-trend will be players who can service this new industry model. Traditional telco operators will need to respond on how they can monetize beyond providing infrastructure. Be watchful of new disruptive players – Hyperscale Cloud Providers such as Amazon Web Services, who recently announced private 5G networks. They will be transforming the industry towards a cloud-driven, app driven 5G network model. Hyperscalers in particular are uniquely positioned to capitalize on this new paradigm by supplying enterprises with a local edge cloud — complete with cloud services, hardware resources, and virtualized 5G network.
Lastly, expect “Netflix”-type of turnkey 5G services invoked within enterprise settings such as factories, warehouses, airports, hubs. As new content and new data become available at the edge by new users, there will need to be content delivery platform. Hyperscale Cloud providers have the unique ability (ie.platform) to deliver such 5G content and services.
Death of Moore’s Law. What Then Must We Do?
Moore’s law (the doubling of transistors every two years on the same silicon real estate) which has governed the performance and miniaturization of semiconductor technology since the 1960s has stalled and will come to its last breath in this decade. For the first time in semiconductor industry, the intersection of Moore’s Law, hardware acceleration, and softwarization will be principle to the future of performance scaling and chip design. The industry will shift towards software-defined hardware with emphasis on highly custom, programmable chip designs rather than monolithic one-size-fits all chips. Specific intensive functions will be compartmentalized to hardware accelerators, but the design trend will be towards smaller processors to tackle more specified tasks using software definition. With respect to 5G, customers will look for elastically programable baseband chips that are dynamically configurable, fluidly adaptable, and yet performant.
Crossing the Chasm: Open-RAN
The democratization of 5G has been highly anticipated in the context of Open-RAN. The inflated promise of O-RAN has encouraged many new OEMs, private entities, and operators to design their own 5G systems. Those drawn to the promise of disaggregation are realizing the need for integration.
The year 2022/2023 will be the focal year of 5G Disaggregation + Integration. Expect the major hyperscale cloud providers to play a critical role in providing an integrative solution, cloudifying 5G ORAN. Telco operators, like Rakuten’s Symphony, are deviating from traditional telco operating model by experimenting on a similar cloud approach.
Several critical enablers will need to be realigned to enable mass adoption of ORAN:
Expect 5G+AI to Converge
The convergence of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI) will become more indispensable and value oriented. Enterprises will expect 5G and AI to be seamlessly integrated as a key value center of 5G deployment. This will include the use of AI for advanced network automation and for intelligent analytics to streamline operations, optimize network performance and drive greater efficiencies overall. These capabilities will be important in the deployment, management, and operation of 5G.