INTERVIEW: The great race to 5G

2019 has quickly become the year of 5G. As service providers race to build the next generation of 5G networks, they’ll need to build entire cloud-native, fully virtualised networks capable of dynamic application and device support as well.

To further unpack this, IT News Africa’s Jenna Cook chatted to Quentin Geldenhuys, Solution Architecture Manager & Technologist at Red Hat. Here’s what transpired:

Why is 2019 shaping up to be the ‘year of 5G’?
Telecom companies are driving additional revenue streams and 5G will unlock those – video and content streaming being the top favourites.

5G has started to move beyond the lab as we have started to see some global telecommunication companies enabling 5G on their network. We are already starting to see the launch of 5G feature phones. We could say that 2019 will be the birth of 5G services but it will most likely still take a year or two for 5G to become mainstream.

How will cloud-native, fully virtualised networks benefit from 5G?
It is instead the 5G networks and services that will benefit from Virtualisation and Cloud-Native computing. The main reason for this is due to the shorter range of the 5G antenna’s and the increased bandwidth available, which will, in turn, require more antenna sites and the disaggregation of services and compute power from the core to the edge of the Telco networks.

We will start to see IoT services, Cloud services, content delivery and even Artificial Intelligence brought closer to the end-user and away from the central core data-centres.

This form of distributed cloud will only be possible with cloud-native computing patterns and it will require a lot of automation in order to provision and decommission the enormous number of new products and services that are promised by the technology refresh.

What kind of support will 5G provide to the IoT?
5G will play a huge part in the growth and enablement of the Internet of Things. IoT in its current form has been deployed on 2G, 3G, 4G and even WIFI networks. The big promise of 5G has to do with the reduced latency and higher bandwidth which could enable use cases such as remote surgery and self-driving cars.

Will the future of 5G include open collaboration? If so, what industries do you expect to work together?
5G exists due to industry-wide collaboration within the various bodies that have worked to define the standards. The 5G standards have subsequently been transformed into software through collaborative work in the open-source software communities. Based on the open collaboration that has already got us this far, there is no doubt that this will continue and will provide a platform for all industries to work together to build the next generation of products, services and use-cases.

How will open-source giants, like Kubernetes, make use of 5G?
5G is a collection of standards from the radio through to the hardware and software that allows telecommunications companies to provide 5G services. There is a lot of open-source software that is enabling this, Kubernetes is just one example, albeit a more recent one. More notable open-source software such as Linux, OpenStack, KVM and DPDK have provided the foundation for telecommunication providers to build out their 5G networks.

Will OpenStack, a massively-scalable open-source cloud framework, improve its offering thanks to the likes of 5G?
A lot of work has been done over the last 5 years by the OpenStack community as well as many of the industry players such as the open-source software vendors, chip manufacturers, network equipment providers and the telecommunication companies themselves to enhance OpenStack to be able to provide the stability, performance and reliability that is required by the industry.

Some examples of this have been the work done around high-availability and network performance. At this point in time, OpenStack has achieved the majority of the Telco-grade requirements where-as Kubernetes is still a work in progress, although it is moving very quickly.

What role do these companies play in the advancement of 5G?
Thanks to the power of open-source there has been a massive amount of collaboration by many companies from almost every industry. The roles that the companies are playing mostly differ based on what they are looking or hoping to achieve, the important thing to note is that as this technology evolves and improves, it is being advanced in the public domain and that is something that benefits us all.

By Jenna Cook

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