2018 was the year of voice assistants, video streaming and consumer IOT in its home automation avatars. These were just few applications that drove the design and build out of smarter data networks. Come 2019, as we get closer to 5G and all the hyper-data applications it will support, networks will continue to become smarter – open, software-defined and programmable.
Dr Badri Gomatam, Group CTO, Sterlite Tech, dons an oracle hat to share his top ten predictions for data networks.
5G and fiberisation: It’s closer than you think!
As ultra-fast and low latency 5G mobile broadband inches closer, we will see deep fiberisation of small cells and tower infrastructures. Given the scale of this fiberisation, operators will need cost effective and first-time right installation. One such solution is bend insensitive fibre technology, which delivers minimal bend loss and features up to 10-15 times less macro-bend losses when compared to traditional solutions. This enhances network life by 10-12 years as it provides cushioning against poor installation practices, saving repeat fibre investments.
Multi-access networks: Transforming user experiences
Operators will use a mix of access technologies - For example, fixed wireless access to premise is likely to emerge as a leading use case for 5G as operators leverage large swathes of mmWave spectra to offer multi-Mbps offering to customers. LEO satellite constellations for rural broadband connectivity such as OneWeb and broadband offload through fixed wireless and advanced Wi-Fi 6 in urban areas are also on the cards. Also expect to see enterprise and in-building (IB) LTE footprint focused on small cells/femto technology for enhanced in-building user experience, especially in India where it is currently not providing great user experience.
Less worries about connectivity infra
As operators look at faster customer acquisition with cost effective and future-proofed networks, they will rapidly adopt standardisation in deployment practices with approaches such as Lead360. We will also see a rise in ‘Backhaul as a Service’ deployments where third parties become neutral fibre/wireless backhaul hybrid network hosts and lead bandwidth on demand for 4G and 5G, providing better ROCE.
Smarter, programmable networks will rule
Programmable networks will continue to grow as technologies such as SDN, NFV, disaggregation techniques and cloud-based approaches reach market maturity. Additionally, telcos will increase their use of analytics in 2019, with on-demand analytics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and edge computing all playing a key role. AI, in particular, is evolving from assisting and automating functions to being used in application development with enhanced business domain expertise, from general development to business solution design. Telcos will adopt AI and Machine Learning (ML) with coherent analytics for network and service automation, security and fraud management, customer care at scale.
Additionally, CSPs are accelerating towards Cloud-native IT, leveraging open source architecture to deliver applications at a faster pace. This will go hand-in-hand with DevOps. This agile development with continuous integration and continuous development, along with micro services, will enable CSPs to deploy applications in lesser time and provide efficient scaling with respect to telco-domain requirements.
Algorithmic network design
Algorithmic design is the next big thing in network design and is an innovation which will enable a number of advantages, including automation in network design, increased design agility – which will reduce the time spent churning out reference designs, iterations and final designs – and automated outputs of geospatial design, engineering design and bills of quantities.
Taking computing to the edge
The permeation of connectivity in our homes will be echoed in the business and industrial spheres as companies from all sectors look to digitally transform their operations and offerings. We will see a proliferation of sensors and analytics for real-time monitoring of applications. Consequently, computing is being done closer to the edge. CSPs are building distributed applications and bridging the gap between data, insight, and action, and will engage customers more quickly and squeeze new efficiencies out of their processes. It is another phase in the continuous pendulum swing between centralised computing and distributed computing and is a trend that has already been recognised by analysts.
With these deployments relying on shared fibre infrastructures, we will see increased demand for physical infrastructure security, and innovations on sensory fibre and cable design. Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS), for example, is a highly attractive passive fibre-optic sensing technology, being long range, highly sensitivity, cost-effective, rugged, and long-life. This makes it suitable as the backbone for an adaptive perimeter intrusion detection system for border security missions, structural health monitoring systems, pipelines, smart power grid infrastructures, smart cities and more. It can be easily integrated with other traditional surveillance technologies such as LIDAR, RADAR, IR Cameras, and UAVs for fibre buried in the ground. The advanced signal processing algorithms based on the spectral and temporal characteristics are utilised to identify event patterns and to equalise background noise, soil conditions and ultimately classify potential threats from non-threats employing machine learning techniques.
Superior transmission systems
Another promising concept will be Super PON. With extended reach up to 50km (from 20km) that support large split ratio up to 1024 (from 64) based on DWDM, and its ability to support 10Gbit/s, 40Gbit/s or 100Gbit/s point-to-point business connections on the same pair of fibres, along with residential subscriber at high-speed up to 10Gbit/s, makes it an important technology development. While 1G/10G broadband access is available now in several countries, 10G will remain expensive in 2019. Industry will have to take up efforts to overcome 1024 split Vs the current 64/128 limit to address this.
Next-gen data centres
These infrastructures are designed in such a way that the underlying hardware and software layers can respond dynamically to changing levels of demand in more fundamental and efficient ways. As enterprise business requirements continue to change, infrastructure and connectivity solutions requirement will also shift. Emerging applications will continue to demand higher bandwidth and these bandwidth intensive applications will require higher speeds in cabling infrastructures. This is seeing a shift towards CAT6A, CAT7A cables and above categories, for all new enterprise cabling network installations. Sufficing bandwidth hungry applications and user speed throughput demands, international standards are now recommending minimum Cat6A for upcoming infrastructures.
Power over Ethernet
Power over Ethernet (PoE) will be a major business driver for data LAN cabling and other new applications such as IoT. PoE is a growing Ethernet application that delivers power and data over structured cabling. In September 2018, the IEEE announced IEEE 802.3bt, the next-generation PoE standard to deliver power more efficiently using all four pairs in a cable. With the new standard 802.3bt and the amount of power available for devices increasing nearly threefold to 90W, 2019 will see Ethernet enable many new applications. Significant innovation on cable design is expected owing to the increased power delivery need, among which larger copper gauge, with preferred Category 6A, smaller bundle sizes to help reduce temperature rise and new cable construction methods are the major ones.