Engineering Mobile Networks Future

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Engineering mobile networks future will likely affect the engineering skills in areas such as structural, security and software.

The move toward the upcoming fifth-generation standard and so the future of mobile networks, began with 3G cellular networks that relied on IP, which was also the basis for most corporate networks. Then, 4G networks incorporated more capabilities, including handling cellular voice traffic over IP. As IP became the default for both networks, it became clear that engineers for both carriers and customers would start sharing many common skills.

Now, the 5G transition is happening. By 2020 or 2021, most carriers will have commercially operational 5G, and by 2024, it will likely be the predominant carrier technology. This will have also a huge impact on FinTech, Healthcare, GreenTech and the base stations that makes this possible.

European looking-glass

The number of live 5G networks has increased significantly in Europe and outside Europe since the beginning of 2019. Nevertheless, several European Member States will not have 5G services in 2020.

At the end of September 2020, 5G commercial services had been deployed in 18 (EU-27 plus the UK) countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Difference on focus

One of the main differences between 5G and the previous generations of cellular networks (3G and LTE/4G) lies in the strong focus on machine-type communication enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). 5G will use spectrum that covers the existing LTE frequency range (600 MHz to 6 GHz) combined with the new millimetre wave bands (24-86 GHz) to encompass key features such as low latency, high throughput, high mobility and high connection density. The capabilities of 5G thus extend well beyond mobile broadband with ever-increasing data rates.

Satellite and 5G

Amongst 5G Infrastructure Phase 3 projects, a domain-specific programme called “Satellite for 5G Initiative” was recently announced. This incorporates the space sector in the 5G to bring together relevant stakeholders to accelerate satellite’s integration into 5G networks. So far ViaSAT is starting to implement such projects in Europe at the moment. These type of projects will target large-scale trials and pilots, including complete end-to-end 5G systems, demonstrating 5G KPIs and key features (e.g. end-to-end network slicing, service-based architecture, diverse access technologies integration…) and proving 5G technology’s ability to address and integrate the requirements of a multitude of vertical industries.

Engineering skills and it’s change

Security will be an important network engineer skills area for enterprise teams. The combination of enterprise networks, cloud services and 5G may create overlaps and gaps in network security that engineers must manage closely.

Carrier network engineers are already seeing change and complexity as 5G deployments alter how their companies build and provision communication services. Therefore, 5G networks will demand different, more fine-grained programmability to handle both the volume and variety of services that organisations plan to run on top of this cellular infrastructure.

Structural engineers will also have a challenge on the so-called “macro” sites, this due to the size and weight of active antennas and also the RRU’s that needs to be in close range of the large passive antennas. Operators need to realise that this will have a huge impact on the steelworks on current locations and it’s under structure, whether this is a mast or rooftop. Deploying more mini-cells and or micro-cells in combination with inner-city-small cells will also need the expertise of structural and CAD engineers to have a save and workable solution and SEVOCOMM can assist you here.

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