How Nokia 5G Anyhaul Help CSPs Evolving Fronthaul Transport

5G is no longer just an ambition for communications service providers (CSPs). It’s an essential requirement for delivering the kinds of digital experiences today’s customers demand. However, current approaches are incapable of handling the network traffic to deliver the full 5G experience. That’s where Nokia 5G Anyhaul can help.

How Nokia 5G Anyhaul Help CSPs Evolving Fronthaul Transport
How Nokia 5G Anyhaul Help CSPs Evolving Fronthaul Transport

This article discusses how 5G Anyhaul can help CSPs use mobile transport as the foundation for their transition to 5G. It covers four key areas:

  • Mobile transport: find out how a modern, mobile transport layer can flex to meet new demands, and help CSPs deliver better customer experiences.
  • Revenue protection: see how CSPs can compete with over-the-top (OTT) service providers to protect market share and diversify revenues.
  • Network architecture: learn why a holistic approach to network architecture is required to cope with the increase in network traffic.

Content Summary

Introduction: Making 5G a reality… faster
Chapter 1: Protect revenues today, diversify for the future
Chapter 2: Defining your architecture
Chapter 3: Meeting changing customer expectations
Conclusion: Why Nokia?
Summary: 5G opportunities built on transport

Introduction: Making 5G a reality… faster

How do CSPs remain competitive and find new sources of revenue? With many CSPs staking their claim on 5G in a race to be first (or faster on the path to 5G), what is required of the new transport infrastructure to make 5G a commercial reality?

Consumers expect better and more affordable mobile broadband. With 5G, the cost-efficiency of delivering mobile broadband greatly improves, and this can open many known and unknown opportunities. Some of them are extensions of current technologies like IoT; others build on yet-to-be-imagined use cases for technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, and the many innovations that will follow.

Each technology wave has the potential to create new revenues for service providers in areas where they aren’t currently engaged. However, this potential also opens markets for other players in the ecosystem – just look at the webscale companies and how 3G and 4G have helped them become superpowers in the world of content and applications.

For CSPs, tinkering with the existing infrastructure and various add-ons to ‘make it work’ is not enough anymore. Their entire networks and business models are in question.

To prepare for the future, CSPs need to look holistically at their infrastructure. This encompasses the physical and virtualized domains, their radio access, packet core, and the whole transport network. They need a smart networking fabric that provides dynamic connections across distributed cloud centers and enables all kinds of new services for individuals and businesses.

However, most CSPs are moving at their own pace. Some are forging ahead with 5G while others take a wait-and-see approach – yet, the race is still on. And today, the risks of being left behind are greater than ever, because complex customer and business relationships are at stake.

That’s why a mobile transport layer designed and built with 5G in mind becomes both the vehicle to accelerate customer experience and the business tool for unlocking new opportunities.

Chapter 1: Protect revenues today, diversify for the future

Fast-changing landscape

Keeping pace with change and protecting revenues is complicated by the many different local and global challenges CSPs face. At the same time, the pace of change in many industries threatens to reduce CSPs to merely connectivity ‘pipe providers’ who all offer a broadly similar service. While this may be enough for some CSPs, they still need to overcome the gap between traffic growth and network-related costs.

In many regions, mobile subscriber bases have not grown significantly, or market-share distribution has stayed flat for some time. This adds to the pressure to increase average revenue per use (ARPU) or to innovate to attract new customers and enter new segments.

Survive, then thrive

Another complicating factor is the new technologies that constantly appear on the horizon. To remain competitive in the face of these changes and challenges is a strategic imperative for CSPs. This is made even harder by declining revenues and a heavy investment agenda which, for some, may have no clear ROI.

To thrive is first and foremost to survive. In this context, 5G is creating once-in-a-generation opportunities for CSPs to grow. For many, the first step in 5G evolution is to protect revenues with a better, more cost-effective mobile broadband experience.

Who’s eating CSPs’ lunch?

During the last decade, application and content providers commonly referred to as over-the-top (OTT) players have continued to grow their businesses at the expense of CSPs – to increasingly ‘eat their lunch’. OTTs continue to invest in a raft of new technologies and trends – from IoT and AI to augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and more. They’re placing high expectations in 5G as a set of technologies that can drive growth and create even more opportunities for disruption – across a wider set of OTTs and industries. This adds even greater urgency for CSPs to act now.

A bigger slice

5G’s network-slicing capabilities will bring significant advantages to address many parallel ecosystems at once: mobile broadband, industrial applications, and IoT, for example. This offers mid- and long-term revenue growth for CSPs through latency-sensitive applications that increase the reliability of continuous operations for customers. The mobile transport layer needs to seamlessly facilitate network slicing to allow CSPs to define, create, and tailor slices to each application’s requirements. Also, 5G’s low latency, agility, and distributed cloud capabilities can be used for an immediate revenue boost. For example, by supporting applications that may require an instant ad-hoc network buildout (such as large venues and stadium events), or improved access to new types of content, such as AR in tourism or public safety applications.

Compete in new ways

Maintaining momentum during transformation boils down to one priority for many CSPs: building on and improving their customer relationships by making experience the central design principle for the new transport architecture.

Complexity outweighs agility

Complexity compromises CSPs’ ability to compete with their OTT and born-in-the-cloud rivals. Their innovation – such as how fast they can develop and deliver digital services – may be held back by brittle legacy network hardware and labor-intensive processes. That’s why CSPs urgently need to simplify operations by moving to the cloud. This delivers the flexibility, agility, and clarity required for scaling up and scaling out the network. And a major factor in creating the scalability required is that cloud technologies can enable a fully programmable transport fabric.

Managing dynamic networks

Any network that claims to be ready for the future must keep up with new digital services, agile competitors, and a fast-changing marketplace. However, connecting many moving parts – such as dynamic, cloud-enabled network functions – brings a whole new set of challenges. That’s where automation plays a key role. It should permeate all network domains and realms to deliver high-scale, flawless services.

Unlocking the data

The five Vs of big data – velocity, volume, value, variety, and veracity – also hold the key to future network demands. Currently, only a very small percentage of the data gathered is analyzed, let alone acted upon. With a stronger focus on data analytics and the learnings extracted from network and traffic insights, CSPs can much more readily turn cloud applications into useable, profitable services. However, without the transport layer’s ability to scale with intelligence, and obtain useful network and traffic insights while carrying the predicted network loads, much of the potentially useful data could remain locked.

What matters to customers will always matter

For innovative new service offerings, reducing the time to market will enable CSPs to gain a competitive advantage. To maintain trust is key – the security and reliability of dynamically interconnected, cloud-driven services must not be compromised. Transport is central to this trust and can be a vehicle to build on their existing strengths and end-customer relationships while helping CSPs capture opportunities with greater innovation and agility.

Identifying opportunities

Many of the technologies being developed in parallel to 5G, such as Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), are increasingly becoming tools to test advanced new services. And then to explore how these technologies can deliver completely new customer experiences.

Some of the world’s biggest sporting events already feature exciting new applications – for example, enabling immersive experiences with high-bandwidth, high-quality services, like live-streamed 4K/UHD video. And other trials are taking place globally in different locations and types of deployment areas – from AR/VR to IoT and ultra-reliable, low-latency applications.

What IoT means for transport

IoT is one application area that places demanding new requirements on the transport layer – predominantly from the perspective of supporting extremely large numbers of connected devices. Also, these requirements can be extended to include the support for ultra-low latency communications – this widely expands the applicability of 5G solutions to new industries and verticals.

Ensuring reliability and security across all parts of the network – including the transport layer – will be essential for the transport network’s ability to support IoT.

The call for co-innovation

The complexity, scale, and significance of 5G means there are very few companies that – on their own – can muster all the required skills, capabilities, and resources. For CSPs, partnering with the right vendor and participating in the right ecosystem is likely to be key to their success.

Nokia’s deep knowledge and leadership in all 5G-related technologies – with openness and partnerships in many adjacent technologies (for example, with Intel) – can greatly help CSPs looking at the network infrastructure as a business tool. Our philosophy is built on a deep understanding of the telco domain and what matters to CSPs. That’s why co-innovation is paramount – we believe it’s a key way to ensure CSPs have the right technology mix to match their business ambitions and goals.

Chapter 2: Defining your architecture

Network evolution begins with transport

At the mobile transport level, 5G will create new network demands. For some of these, 4G/LTE has paved the way with mobile broadband. But others, like low latency, high reliability, increased efficiency, and support for extreme bandwidth and a large number of devices, all represent a radical departure from the requirements in previous mobile generations.

Infrastructure, capabilities, architecture

There’s unprecedented pressure on service providers to upgrade or replace their network infrastructures, evolve capabilities and fundamentally rethink their network architectures. This is a long-term transformation that is underpinned by network densification, virtualization, and automation. Many CSPs’ network functions have already moved to the cloud, raising the need for new, agile ways to connect them across the whole network while guaranteeing the quality of service (QoS) and network reliability.

To support a very wide range of applications and use cases, transport in 5G must be multi-service capable. This traffic diversity in 5G demands a single network fabric to cost-effectively address greater coverage, connectivity, and availability, along with dramatically improved speeds and latency. To address this, CSPs need a holistic approach that takes into consideration all their needs as well as their accessibility to all types of transport technologies.

Unique transport requirements

For each CSP, the optimal transport solution may be different – to uniquely integrate their radio access and packet core functions in a way that can support the breadth of 5G requirements. For many, this needs to be developed without the luxury of a greenfield starting point for network evolution as they may have legacy networks to consider.

To evolve their transport network successfully, CSPs must enable new mobile transport layer capabilities that are required on the path to 5G:

  • High capacity: To support end-user data rates that are likely to increase tenfold.
  • Ultra-low latency: To enable real-time IoT and ultra-reliable, low latency machine-to-machine (M2M) applications – from autonomous vehicle sensors to smart meters, and factories of the future.
  • QoS: To support the new, multi-slice, multi-service environment and ensure the highest levels of service and end-user experience for all types of services.
  • Dynamic interconnectivity: To connect users and devices to demanding cloud applications, network resources must be quickly scaled up and scaled out. For example, AR and VR applications require high throughput with ultra-low latency and must be able to cope with peaks in demand – for example, at sports and live music events.
  • Synchronization: To support the more stringent timing, frequency, and phase synchronization requirements in 5G with the highest-quality capabilities.
  • Security: To address the increased network security perimeter and a wider attack surface, this must be a primary consideration from design to deployment.
  • Automation: To leverage network programmability and SDNbased control to further drive the overall agility, flexibility, and efficiency of the network.

The pillars of your future architecture

Cloud-enabled network functions and applications are everywhere, with cloud packet core and virtualization of many RAN functions happening before 5G.

Physical and virtualized networks need to work together seamlessly. To make this happen, the mobile transport fabric must weave together distributed RAN, centralized RAN and future cloud RAN deployments, along with cloud packet core and other network functions and elements, such as MEC. This demands a transport network that’s both robust and flexible – so it can support every type of fronthaul, mid-haul and backhaul option, and do it all cost-effectively.

Network programmability is critical

It is a foundation on which network automation is built – to help allocate and activate all network resources in an agile manner. For example, 5G relies on the ability to isolate distinct sets of network resources and dedicate them to a customer or an application – a dedicated network slice. A high degree of programmability in the transport layer will enable CSPs to reap the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).

Managing many moving parts

Looking at mobile transport on the path to 5G requires an end-to-end approach that takes into consideration many moving parts, and many – both legacy and evolving – technologies across the whole network. Plus, there are unique requirements that every CSP may have to achieve their goals.

When it comes to delivering mission-critical applications, CSPs also need robust reliability. This is key to meeting strict network performance service level agreements (SLAs).

In the end, the transport network should be an enabler, not an obstacle – regardless of how ambitious these goals are. It should allow CSPs to protect existing network investment while remaining competitive and relevant to the end customer. It should also be a business instrument to enable CSPs to diversify revenues with greater agility and to focus on new opportunities and delivery of new, innovative digital services. That’s what we had in mind when we created 5G Anyhaul.

Robust reliability

Mobile transport networks must have the robustness to support the most stringent SLAs and delivery of mission-critical and industrial applications.

How to define tomorrow’s architecture

Understanding how tomorrow’s networks look and perform – and the customer needs they will serve – is critical to investing in the right mobile transport technologies today.

Here are three of the main considerations:

  1. Rise to the ‘then-and-now’ challenge: CSPs are only too aware that their existing systems and processes aren’t 5G-ready. However, they must continue to support and protect investments in existing and legacy technologies, which adds even more complexity. Moving to multi-service network capabilities will create a more inclusive architecture that can support a wide variety of legacy networking scenarios.
  2. Invest wisely: The array of different demands and service characteristics (some known, many yet unknown) makes technology decisions more critical and complex. Transport is a building block that can simplify and clarify some of these choices. Plus, investing in the transport layer helps CSPs meet today’s faster/cheaper demands while laying the foundation for future capacity, flexibility, and programmability requirements. In other words, the right mix of transport technologies today also creates the most cost-effective journey to the 5G era.
  3. Future-ready by design: To be truly effective, functionality like synchronization and security should be built into the network design from the start, not added later as afterthoughts. This is also true for network intelligence. It’s far simpler to extract valuable, actionable insights from the network if data analytics have been considered upfront. This also makes it easier to optimize network resources and automate network operations.

Why Microwave Anyhaul?

Fiber is generally seen as the preferred high-capacity, highly-reliability medium to connect mobile elements across the network. However, fiber connectivity may not be the best or the most cost-effective option for CSPs – especially where there’s little or no access to a fiber network.

The common alternative has been to use air-interface in the microwave spectrum. This covers radio signals in the traditional microwave spectrum, now expanded up to 170 GHz frequencies.

Nokia’s 5G-ready Microwave Anyhaul – the Nokia Wavence portfolio – introduces innovative, high-capacity, ultra-broadband microwave elements to support operators as they transition to 4.5G, 4.9G, and 5G networks.

To provide the flexibility needed for ultra-dense heterogeneous city networks (where microwave transport links small cells to fiber access points), Nokia Wavence microwave now supports Nokia’s Carrier SDN platform. CSPs can benefit from intelligence and automation features, including rapid power-up of virtual network functions and adaptable parameters to support all network architectures.

Why IP Anyhaul?

Many CSPs have opted to use IP networking as a single, unifying networking paradigm to create end-to-end, all-IP environments and ensure full transparency to all IP services running.

Robust and advanced implementation of an IP networking layer can efficiently address many important dimensions: control plane, data plane, management plane, QoS and traffic management, synchronization, and security.

Nokia IP Anyhaul addresses 5G requirements by bringing together several families of industry-leading IP products with advanced architectures and high-performance, chassis-based platforms powered by Nokia’s in-house designed, industry-leading FP4 silicon.

The IP Anyhaul portfolio is suitable for any network, any transport role/function, and any location. As a result, it’s possible to create a robust, all-IP transport layer that can sustain massive network traffic growth while supporting the efficient delivery of 5G cloud-enabled services. Also, IP Anyhaul can handle multi-service diversity with ease and extend the transport benefits delivered for 5G to other services – enterprise, residential, and wireline.

Why Optical Anyhaul?

Because of its ability to handle extremely high volumes of traffic and its suitability for Cloud RAN’s distribution of radio functions, fiber technology, and fiber-based transport infrastructure will be essential in 5G.

For CSPs who have access to fiber, Optical Anyhaul provides an ideal solution for all types of mobile transport requirements: mobile backhaul (3G, 4G/LTE, 5G), WDM-based fronthaul (using CPRI and OBSAI) and with support for Ethernet Time-Sensitive Networking for fronthaul (using eCPRI/NGFI).

Nokia’s versatile portfolio of Optical Anyhaul products allows CSPs to deploy a variety of distributed RAN, centralized RAN, and cloud RAN architectures. Then they can extend the usability of this portfolio to create a high-capacity, robust, and secure optical transport layer – to be used by all network services.

Why Broadband Anyhaul?

5G ushers in new architectures, interfaces, and requirements, challenging transport networks to deliver more capacity at lower latency. But CSPs are realizing that RAN network modernization requires innovative fiber transport solutions to keep costs under control.

Nowhere is this truer than for mobile transport fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks which serve dense urban locations where 5G capacity will be needed the most. The flexible capacity of next-generation Passive Optical Networks (PON) makes them ideal to be utilized for 5G mobile transport and to build on pre-existing fiber infrastructures. This also enables CSPs to accelerate and monetize their FTTH deployments.

Nokia’s focus on automation and SDN extends to Broadband Anyhaul, enabling solutions such as Zero Touch Provisioning and offline management. These greatly simplify mobile transport deployments in dense urban areas, deliver agility and efficiency, and eliminate complexity.

Chapter 3: Meeting changing customer expectations

Getting closer to customers

Mobile transport is an essential component in the scaling out of 5G networks. It will help CSPs evolve to bring 5G connectivity to new sites while increasing capacity and speed. This will meet the short- to mid-term customer expectations of faster, cheaper connectivity which provides access to a wider range of services and content from more locations. Essentially, customers can do more things better, and faster.

Why agility unlocks customer experience

Customer expectations will rise rapidly once they develop a taste for new technologies, and what these innovations can help them do and achieve. As more and more devices and objects connect us to the wider world, they provide a fertile ground for a whole new set of digital services. That’s why having the agility to spin-up new services that meet changing demands will be key to the long-term success of CSPs in the future.

Feeding the customer experience cycle

Offering digital services to customers creates new revenue opportunities through the cloud, 5G, and IoT, and improves the customer experience. This will feed demand for services and rapidly lead to a ‘tipping point’ of customer expectations. Once AI-based and IoT-enabled services become part of our daily lives, demand is likely to ramp up rapidly.

The right operational platform

If long-term success is built on meeting customer demands, delivering the right experience at the right time relies on designing, developing, and launching digital services with much more speed. There are no short-cuts – CSPs must modernize their approach to software development. With innovations like DevOps and micro-services, CSPs can continue to meet – and exceed – customer expectations.

Automation will provide greater speed and agility of operations. CSPs must move to zero-touch networking with self-configuring, self-optimizing, and self-healing technologies. This will realize cost efficiencies by simplifying the operations and effort required to deliver new digital services.

Security and reliability

Achieving the optimal mix of technologies will deliver 5G connectivity efficiently and effectively. But it’s crucial to remember the importance of customer relationships. Every new service and source of revenue must be built on trust – underpinned by secure, reliable connectivity. A comprehensive transport layer plays a fundamental role in how CSPs deliver robustly, trusted, and secure services.

Conclusion: Why Nokia?

How can Nokia help you get to 5G faster with transport?

  • Accelerate to 5G: We offer the most comprehensive mobile transport portfolio allowing greater product integration and faster deployment, accelerating the move to cloud and 5G.
  • Flex to 5G demands: Our 5G Anyhaul portfolio provides unprecedented flexibility and ease of integration through open, programmable network architecture with service assurance. This equips CSPs with the agility and adaptability to respond to changing market demands and conditions.
  • Portfolio and expertise: We provide the breadth of portfolio and depth of expertise to design, customize, and implement the right transport network. While we focus on comprehensive and turnkey offerings, CSPs can focus on developing business cases and achieving their business goals.
  • Partner of choice: We are a long-term partner of choice. We bring proven experience and credibility from having built the largest and most innovative CSP networks worldwide.
  • Unique transport insights: Uniquely, we provide the reach, scale, and experience in complex transport technologies. Our years of knowledge and expertise will guide CSPs through the important network, technology, and infrastructure changes – and key investment decisions. Through telco domain experience, we understand CSPs’ challenges better than anyone.

Summary: 5G opportunities built on transport

Mobile transport on the path to 5G For CSPs, 5G is no longer just an ambition – it’s imperative. Many are in a race to deliver the 5G experience the end-user demands and evolve new services to enterprise customers too. So, CSPs are examining every network function to determine where, and how urgently, work needs to be done.

While every CSP has a unique path to 5G, none can address their business and technological challenges without first tackling transport. Right now, the transport layer needs to handle many moving parts and technologies (both legacy and evolving) across the entire network – and very soon it will need to flex to new, more extreme demands.

In today’s fast-moving landscape, the penalty for falling behind will be severe. That’s why an end-to-end approach to transport will enable CSPs to protect existing network investments while remaining competitive and relevant. Also, transport is a crucial building block for CSPs to diversify their revenues with greater agility. Whether that’s immediate opportunities or innovative digital services consumers and enterprises will soon be demanding.

With 5G Anyhaul’s comprehensive capabilities, you can achieve the ‘now and then’. It’s a once-ina- generation chance to gain a competitive advantage, innovate at pace and go a long way to creating digital experiences that will drive growth for a decade.

Source: Nokia

Thomas Apel Published by Thomas Apel

, a dynamic and self-motivated information technology architect, with a thorough knowledge of all facets pertaining to system and network infrastructure design, implementation and administration. I enjoy the technical writing process and answering readers' comments included.