CISCO’s Whitepaper Identifies Coverage Cost as Major Challenge to 5G Deployment, Suggests Agile Transport Infrastructure to Cushion Effect

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Emma Okonji

As Nigeria fine-tunes her last minute arrangements to deploy 5G network across the country, following the approval by the National Executive Council (NEC) for 5G rollout, Cisco, a global leader in technology, which provides global support for the internet, has identified a major challenge in deploying 5G globally, and has suggested key technology solution that will address the issue and allow for seamless rollout of 5G across the globe, Nigeria inclusive.

Cisco identified the challenge in a whitepaper document, published recently by Global System for Mobile Communications Association (GSMA), with contributions from Cisco Executive, which THISDAY obtained from the website of GSMA.

Following last month’s approval by NEC for 5G rollout in Nigeria, after a successful trial of 5G network on the MTN network in three major cities, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ibrahim Pantami, had said that the Fifth Generation (5G) network would be deployed in Nigeria in January 2022, which he said, would aid the surveillance of public assets against vandalism.

Pantami disclosed this in Maiduguri at a town hall meeting to address the vandalism of power and telecommunications infrastructure in the country.

In a related development, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, has equally assured Nigerians of the plan for 5G network rollout in Nigeria, which he said, would enhance consumer experience and speed in network connectivity.

Danbatta gave the reassurance during the second quarter 2021 meeting and open forum of the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF), which held in Lagos.

5G is currently being deployed across the globe with services typically introduced into urban areas and expanding coverage over time.

However, Cisco, in the published document, said: “One of the major challenges over the coming years for 5G rollout, will be enhancing 5G coverage cost¬-effectively. The 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) is a major contributor to overall cost with significant increase in the number of deployed cells and associated equipment as well as increased requirements for speed, reliability, and latency performance.

“5G is designed from the beginning to support multiple services with a more flexible and agile virtual network architecture. This requires an equally flexible and agile transport infrastructure that can cost¬-effectively support both 5G and legacy mobile network services as well as other IP¬based services. The transport infrastructure needs to be open to enable network sharing, automated to enable adaptation to changing service requirements and programmable to enable support of future requirements.”

According to the whitepaper, Cisco Fronthaul packet routers make it possible to implement an end¬-to¬-end packet transport solution from cell site radio to mobile core that converges 4G and 5G Mobile and Fixed services. They provide the lowest Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) compared to alternative RAN transport solutions. 5G Fronthaul packet routers thus enable the cost¬-effective expansion of converged services.

Engineering Product Manager, Mass-Scale Infrastructure Group at Cisco, Shahid Ajmeri, one of the contributors to the whitepaper document, said 5G would introduce a large number of improvements and innovations that impact the design of RAN.

These, Ajmeri further said, include New Radio with higher speeds and capacity, along with Network Decomposition and a Software Centric Approach enabling the flexibility of deploying Radio Units (RU), Distributed Units (DU) and Centralised Units (CU) as separate virtualized/containerized functions.

“Programmable Software- Defined Networking (SDN) controllers and Management and

Network Orchestration (MANO) solutions that can be leveraged to effectively control these functions along with convergence and automation to converge all services into a common transport network and deploy them in the form of Network Slices, enabling continuous monitoring and service assurance.

“These transformations show the highly dynamic nature of the 5G RAN where predictable planning of static network expansions is no longer an option. The 5G RAN is automated, software programmable and constantly adapting in real-time to evolving service requirements and traffic flows that are constantly changing. This requires a flexible transport solution that can adapt to the dynamic traffic flows expected in the 5G RAN and at the same time, converge the legacy RAN services on the same Fronthaul Network,” other contributors to the whitepaper, said.