Preparing for 5G: Backhaul, Virtualization, and Analytics

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Friday, August 12, 2016 with No comments

Ensuring 4G network quality and preparing for 5G. Early detection of network issues to prevent service issues or at least fix them faster. The effect of network virtualization on performance monitoring and analytics. Those are some of the topics covered in a recent conversation between Kelly Hill, Technology Reporter for RCR Wireless News and Ramiro Nobre, VP of Business Development and Solutions Engineering for Accedian (focus on Asia and Latin America). Watch the full video here. Read summary below.

The main trends for mobile operators are pretty universal, Nobre said: providing customers with a network that's robust enough to support their activities, including chasing and capturing Pokemon. That means both optimizing the 4G capacity already available, and investing in new architecture and technologies to expand capacity. 
Optimization is a particular challenge in heavily legacy portions of networks. 

Optimization requires visibility
With differentiation increasingly dependent on quality of experience (QoE), operators must have the ability to know what's going on in all parts of the network—including backhaul.

"The challenge is making sure backhaul can support not only the speed required but also the quality required so your latency and packet loss is within check," Nobre explained. "There’s nothing worse than having this brand-new, phenomenal network, yet customers are unable to watch mobile video because of a backhaul issue."

It's also worth pointing out that, with higher speeds and the desire for lower latency, networks become more sensitive to even small disturbances. This is why operators are investing in solutions that allow them to monitor performance at a very granular level (think microseconds). By pairing very granular data with big data analytics, operators are able to see and respond to problems before they become catastrophic.

"We’ve seen entire portions of a network going down because of synchronization issues," Nobre said. "It all started with something really small. If that small thing had been caught, the operator would have been able to address the issue faster and recover faster if an outage couldn't be prevented. It's about being predictive and proactive."

What about virtualization?

"Asking people about their opinion of network virtualization is the equivalent of asking them if the dress is blue or gold: everybody has a different opinion," Nobre commented.

Nonetheless, there is a general trend at work here: a push toward less proprietary hardware. Operators want architecture that's more uniform. The presents challenges and opportunities for operators and vendors alike.

For Accedian, it means focusing on designing virtualized solutions that can run on common, off-the-shelf (COTS) servers and still provide the same measurement granularity and accuracy as before, using the absolute minimum amount of hardware possible. Sometimes, no proprietary hardware is required at all!

"We have a customer in Asia that has deployed their entire network, tens of thousands of mobile sites and more than 100,000 test sessions, without one piece of Accedian hardware," Nobre said. 

Of course, there are a lot of pieces that go into not only network virtualization itself (e.g. latency, automation, analytics, data) but also making sure monitoring is in place to ensure network functions and pieces actually work. Again, this is a challenge for both vendors and operators because it involves working in a new type of environment that involves constant changes to the physical medium, requiring ongoing adaptation.

Watch the full video for more about 5G backhaul, virtualization, and analytics.