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The 5G Future – Closer Than You Think

Last week we had the pleasure to host a broad range of guests, including customers, partners, and industry analysts, at our Mobile World Congress exhibit in Barcelona. The discussions we had were extremely informative and engaging, and I want to take the opportunity to share some personal observations. Listening to our guests’ insights into evolving market trends, operational challenges, and technology strategies is particularly valuable in helping to shape our view of the future, as well as further inform how our solutions can drive value for our customers.

With attendance surpassing 100,000 and visitors from over 204 countries, it was an incredibly busy and energizing week at the show. Hot new topics and partnerships in building the future were in full force. We experienced this directly with significant year-over-year growth in visitors to the Coriant booth, as well as in a palpable increase in enthusiasm for the future – where services are going, where the network is going, and the role we are playing in our customers’ network evolution.

The broader show centered on compelling new applications such as virtual reality headsets, ultra high definition 4K/8K video distribution, autonomous cars, the Internet of Things (IoT), and more. What this 5G-empowered experience means for the network is acceleration toward what most of us realize to be a full network reboot. This new network is about more than just an increase in capacity; it is also about the accelerated need for virtualization, automation, network programmability, and orchestration of different infrastructure layers or network functions.

The infrastructure of today is not designed for those challenges, and what MWC 2016 spotlighted were numerous examples of the networking and service innovations that will lead to realizing and effectively scaling that 5G future. With network operators actively exploring means for first move advantages in the introduction of 5G services (for example, with unlicensed spectrum), the feeling at this year’s MWC was that the 5G transition is actually closer than we think.

To that end, we were excited to partner with Brocade to showcase how the powerful combination of multi-vendor SDN and NFV can build – with a simple point-and-click GUI – a full mobile network in just 5 minutes, enabling any operator to envision almost instantaneous advanced service introduction without weeks/months of network planning.

The show also provided us a great opportunity to showcase the importance of the tighter coupling between the IP and optical networking domains. This tighter coupling – which we demonstrated in an IP-Optical integrated application based on our 8665 IP/MPLS Smart Router and our newly introduced Pluggable Optical Layer – will be critical to enabling mobile operators to address key challenges as LTE/LTE-A networks evolve over time to support the stringent performance requirements of 5G. These challenges include an approximately 20-fold increase in end-user data rates (up to 10Gbps) compared to LTE/LTE-A, ultra-low latency of 1msec round trip, and ultra-dense deployments that will set unprecedented requirements for synchronization of cells sites as small and overlapping cell sites proliferate. IP-Optical integration can help today’s increasingly fiber-based backhaul networks perform better with less incremental capital expenditures.

Lastly, while the theme of this year’s MWC show was “Mobile is Everything,” it was hard to ignore the fact that the “Cloud” also had an “everything” ring to it in our conversations with customers. This ring included the importance that data center connectivity is playing in the evolution and transformation of transport network architectures. This was one of the reasons we saw tremendous interest in Coriant’s new Groove™ G30 DCI platform, an ultra-dense disaggregated solution that made its public debut at the show. As data centers continue to become integral to service delivery of all types, including mobile, we are confident these types of solutions will grow in importance to our customers.

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