In Smart Cities, 5G Software-Defined Architectures Change the Game — Part 1



By: Chris Swan

Legacy mobile networks have, since their inception, relied upon closed hardware-based architectures from edge to the core. Given the rapid advancement of open, virtualized and software-defined networking technologies, service providers are now able to develop and roll out new services within weeks or months, not years, and with far less upfront CapEx risk, and more sustainable, flexible and “future-proof” environments.

Hardware-based infrastructure agreements, combined with onerous software licensing and vendor lock-in contracts, have significantly diminished innovation. Even the best ideas with the most promising business models have stalled over and again, based on our discussions with top network operators and service providers, reducing the ROI on their investments in network capacity, spectrum, market coverage and more.

The growth of 5G creates a new generation of mobile networking with a more open, agile approach, and eliminates “old world” challenges which have prevented even the most creative service providers to provision truly differentiated services, and “flex” resources to ensure traffic is prioritized, and sessions are secured.

Going beyond “network function virtualization” (NFV), the true pioneers are investing in and rolling out “network function cloudification” (NFC) to take advantage of the growth and improvement of cloud-hosted applications – but given the proliferation of clouds and applications – a scalable, flexible and resilient network is table stakes.

What is the most resilient network in the world, when managed with software and secured through network overlays which can secure, prioritize and support fine-grained control of machine and human real-time communications “events”? 

It is, of course, the public Internet, which was built to last and has not only lasted but expanded and improved worldwide since its inception in the late 1960s and manifested in packet-switched networks such including ARPANET and Telenet.

The Internet started as a highly controlled, government, research, and education-funded shared network. However, with the growth of the “World Wide Web” in the 1990s, the Internet suddenly created “unintended consequences” and adverse outcomes when it was bombarded with sites, applications, data that could be stolen easily, and schemes to defraud the public.

Today, however, with massive investments in the trillions collectively, the public Internet can now be a foundation for ultra-secure private networks, including those being built today and in the future using 5G.

Until now, layering end-point provisioning, network control, traffic balancing, resource-efficient NFV, and collaborative engineering, was impossible. Using Software Defined Networking (SDN) combined with NFV, the innovators driving new services and communications between machines, humans, and a plethora of IoT and mobile devices have access to proven virtualized, programmable, and flexible networking required to commercialize their products and services with inherently stronger security architectures.

These advances include utilizing a 5G network.

But let’s get real. Even though many service providers have announced the availability of 5G delivered solutions, the monumental effort associated with transforming old mobility designs means they are providing only basic point solutions, not the fully virtualized SDN-enabled 5G mobile networks on their technology roadmaps.

Stay tuned for part 2: To Realize the Potential of 5G, Security Must be Built into the Network

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