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  • 5G
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5G Network Deployment Challenges

Uday Parida

According to the GSMA Mobile Economy Reports,

5G is gaining pace: it is now live in 24 markets; numerous 5G smartphones have been launched; and 5G awareness and the intention to upgrade among consumers are both on the rise. By 2025, 5G will account for 20% of global connections, with take-up particularly strong across developed Asia, North America and Europe.”

The forecast report suggests that 5G will not replace 4G completely in both developed and developing countries in near future. The telecom operators will deploy 5G networks commercially over the next few years. The network engineers will need some time to design the fifth-generation cellular networks to integrate hardware and software components provided by various vendors.

Likewise, the telecom operators will need some time to deploy 5G networks on a mass-scale despite investing additional resources. They have to address several 5G network deployment challenges to implement 5G networks successfully. We are identifying some of the biggest 5G network deployment challenges that telecom companies must address to speed up 5G network deployment.

5G Network Deployment Challenges: Understanding 7 Major Challenges in Mass-Scale 5G Network Deployment

Leveraging OpenRAN Architecture

The telecom operators will leverage open radio access networks (OpenRAN) to build a diverse 5G ecosystem by integrating software and hardware components provided by multiple vendors. The multi-vendor software and hardware will work based on network interfaces which are both open and interoperable.

But OpenRAN is a newly launched technology. The 5G networks will function and perform optimally when the software and hardware components are fully compatible and interoperable with each other. The telecom operators need to validate key components of a 5G networks elaborately to deliver optimal network experience. They also need to understand and analyze the benefits of OpenRAN to get the optimum results.

High-Frequency and Low-Frequency Bands

The 5G networks will be deployed in both high-frequency and low-frequency bands. The high-frequency bands (15GHz, 24GHz, 28GHz, and 39GHz) differ from low-frequency bands (600MHz, 700MHz, 2.6GHz, and 3.5GHz) will differ from each other primarily in the category of scope.

The high-band frequencies will make the 5G networks deliver ultra-fast speed and high-volume data transmission. The telecom operators need a millimeter-wave (mmWave) spectrum to deploy 5G networks in higher-frequency bands. However, they have to set up a robust infrastructure to ensure consistent coverage and optimal network speed.

Complying with Many Standards and Regulations

The 5G spectrum allocation and 5G infrastructure development will be monitored by governments. In addition to allocating and auctioning the 5G spectrum, the government agencies will set regulations related to infrastructure sharing, radiation control, and cybersecurity. The telecom operators have to comply with the preset standards and latest guidelines while installing new base stations, antennas, and repeaters.

But in many developing countries the governments are yet to allocate 5G spectrum to telecom companies. Also, there are no clearly-defined rules related to the deployment of 5G networks. Hence, the pace and pace and speed of commercial deployment of the 5G network will vary across companies. The international players have to comply with country-specific standards and regulations while forming partnerships with national telecom operators.

Optimizing Privacy and Security

Massive Machine-Type Communication (mMTC) is one of the key features of 5G networks. 5G networks will facilitate seamless and real-time communication between a wide range of machines or things by driving the Internet of Things (IoT). The ultra-fast speed and ultra-low latency delivered by 5G will enable things or machines to exchange real-time data continuously.

5G technology builds and verifies trust between multiple networks based on Authentication and Key Agreement (AKA). But the enterprises will require telecom operators to keep the data 100% secure during transmission and storage. The telecom operators will perform security testing and monitor the security of 5G networks 24 hours a day. Also, they need to use encryption and data virtualization services to protect both data and privacy.

Testing Complex 5G Networks

The 5G networks will be much more complex than 3G and 4G networks. Also, the telecom operators need to test all aspects of the 5G networks due to the integration of multi-vendor software and hardware components. They need to ensure that 5G network testing is an ongoing process as 5G infrastructure will be set up, customized, and optimized.

The telecom operators need next-generation test automation tools to validate 5G networks end-to-end. Many telecom companies already leverage sophisticated UE simulators like Simnovator to simplify and speed up 5G network testing. But they have to test all important aspects of 5G networks before mass-scale deployment.

Mass-Production of 5G Devices

Many mobile device manufacturers have already launched 5G-ready smartphones. But the manufacturers find it challenging to mass-produce 5G devices due to the absence of live 5G networks. The absence of live 5G networks makes it difficult for engineers to evaluate and validate various aspects of 5G devices.

Also, the engineers have to address several 5G device testing challenges to test and launch 5G devices on a mass-scale. Many device manufacturers leverage innovative network emulators like Callbox to validate a 5G device’s user experience.

Reducing Upfront Infrastructural Cost

The leading telecom companies build 5G networks based on existing 4G networks to curtail upfront infrastructural cost. But they have to set up 5G infrastructure from scratch to boost network experience and speed up machine-type communication. Also, the enterprises will leverage 5G to become a part of Industry 4.0.

The enterprises have to focus on increasing customer revenue to fund the upfront and ongoing infrastructure cost. But they cannot persuade consumers to switch from 4G to 5G without keeping 5G plans affordable. That is why; the telecom companies have to explore ways to deploy 5G networks without incurring higher infrastructural overheads.

Both enterprises and individual users will switch from 4G to 5G to avail of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) and ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC). But the telecom operators have to address a slew of challenges proactively to roll out 5G networks on a mass-scale. The 4G network deployment challenges will vary across regions. The telecom operators who can address the challenges in 5G network deployment successfully will acquire more subscribers by 2025.

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