January 10, 2019 by Alan DiCicco

Perspectives in 2019 - Looking Ahead to 5G, MEC, and Network Analytics

January 2019 is slipping by quickly and so it’s time to look forward across the horizon and make some predictions on how technology and data will impact the business of broadband. Here are my perspectives on three topics that will be on everyone’s mind in 2019.

Maybe you’ve heard that mobile operators are rolling out 5G wireless networks. Its kind of hard to miss that story! But there is as much hype as there are facts and it’s awfully hard to figure out what is real and how it will impact our companies. It all becomes clearer when you start with some fundamentals: 10x higher speed wireless networks require higher frequency spectrum, which unfortunately is more easily attenuated and thus requires shorter distances between radio cell sites. So now we need many more 5G small cell sites, which drives up manufacturing volumes that in turn generate lower cost integrated radios. The technology and economics are following a similar path as Wi-Fi, so my Magic 8 Ball™ says that by the end of 2019 we will be thinking about 5G more like Wi-Fi hot spots and less like LTE cell towers.

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) – previously known as Mobile Edge Computing – extends data center computing concepts to the very edge of the service provider network. But the $64,000 Question is, “where is the Edge?” (And doesn’t Bono miss him?) Edge computing is coming to subscriber broadband networks in two very interesting ways. Session-as-as-service Software Defined Access architectures will steer IP application flows to the internet, local video cache, and high value local compute resources. Even the on-premises systems will be part of the edge compute revolution, with home gateway systems becoming the sought-after resources to enable low cost IoT and scalable security applications. And of course, we’ll need a reliable and secure mechanism to determine and availability of these distributed computer resources, so it looks like we might finally find a use for blockchain authentication other and speculative online currencies.

It’s a very exciting time for our industry, with advances in optical networking and wireless technologies like Wi-Fi 6 and 5G. But what brings the greatest value to the consumer is the steady march toward automating the network. The game of Life (OK, that’s a stretch) starts with a foundation of network telemetry feeding analytics engines, machine learning, and finally, artificial intelligence that will dynamically optimize network performance to match the service needs of the subscribers and the business goals of the operator. Network telemetry and analytics will become the nervous system of the network, not just data that indicates a fault has occurred or a performance threshold has been exceeded. Look for network telemetry and subscriber analytics to make a big splash in 2019.

I’m excited about Perspectives in 2019. We’ll have these topics and more to explore, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.

Did you miss some Perspectives from 2018? You can catch up with our inaugural year of Calix Perspectives between games of solitaire.