Specialist backhaul needed to make 5G promise a reality

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Explosive growth in Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M), means that just about every industry is looking at connected technologies, as a way of moving towards an automated society.

According to a study from IHS Markit, which examined 21 unique 5G use cases, such as enhanced indoor wireless broadband coverage, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), asset tracking, and autonomous vehicles, 5G has the potential to unlock up to $12.3t of revenue across a broad range of industries.

Inevitably, everything will be connected – from cars to lampposts; hospitals to factories; vending machines to weather sensors to fitness trackers. All of these devices will generate data, which will have to be transported somewhere, and some of it will have critical latency requirements – like the connected cars and hospitals. Other data will have non-critical latency requirements, vending machines for example, but will still need connectivity.

One of Colt’s key advantages is that because we are only focused on B2B connectivity and don’t compete in the wireless space, we are truly carrier neutral.

We have also invested heavily in urban fibre density. This means we have existing fibre running past much of the street furniture and prime real estate that wireless operators rely on for mounting antennas. Colt also has experience of working in major cities on deployment projects. The advent of 5G is changing the ecosystem and opening it up to many more vertical-specific opportunities. As is often the case with wireless technology, much of the focus has been on the air interface – the last mile of connectivity – and whatever blistering speeds it promises.

But once this data has moved from the source to the antenna or base station, it needs to be backhauled to an aggregation point where it can be stored and manipulated. This aggregation point will typically be a data centre or cloud, and in the case of real time critical traffic, such as that from connected cars, the ‘brain’ will be some form of AI housed in the data centre. In these instances, a computation will need to take place and a response sent back to the source device in real time. This creates a critical demand for secure, resilient, reliable, low latency backhaul connectivity between the antenna backhaul and the data centre.

For the antenna deployments themselves, it’s well reported that 5G networks require a higher cell site density and each cell has to be supported by fibre connectivity due to the higher bandwidth requirements. This translates into a requirement for greater fibre density. But pure play mobile network operators have neglected to invest in backhaul because their capital has been diverted to spectrum licence fees and cellular equipment.

As a result, mobile operators will have to partner with backhaul specialists that have dense fibre networks in key urban areas. Now, it’s not strictly true that all mobile operators have neglected investment in backhaul – national incumbents may have some assets, as they tend to play in both the fixed and mobile sectors. But that means they are also a competitor.

In order to take advantage of this opportunity, experience of working with diverse ecosystems and their changing connectivity requirements is essential.

Colt is viewed as the carrier’s partner of choice, as we can manage traffic across an entire footprint. This is critical for network operators, if they are going to realise the high 5G revenues that are forecasted.

 Andrew Edison is Colt VP Wholesale

 

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