A new era of 5G has begun and telecom operators are accelerating 5G network deployment. We are in the 21st century where we have seen inception of several technologies serving multiple sectors from healthcare to transport, manufacturing to automotive with many business cases to bring innovation in the entire ecosystem and make our lives easier.
Evolution of wireless networking technologies like 5G in this regard is paving the way for successes for every other industry in the business world today. 5G technology is the enhanced version of its predecessor technology 4G LTE. Promised to deliver high speed, bandwidth with low latency, 5G has more to offer that could bring revolutionary changes and every sector is eager to implement this unparalleled technology to reap significant benefits with a competitive advantage. Mobile operators are taking initiatives to rollout 5G faster and make it live to more and more users. However, as they proceed with the 5G deployment, several barriers cause a delay in the overall process.
Let us take a look at the 5G network deployment challenges creating obstructions in 5G rollout:
Frequency band and availability of spectrum challenges
New use cases will emerge with the transition from 4G to 5G technology demanding for high frequency bands. However, spectrum is being considered as a critical resource due to its availability and cost depending on which operators will have to develop a robust business use case. The type and amount of spectrum network operators have or are able to purchase in future spectrum auction will decide the feasibility of 5G network, and new 5G features and challenges that comes along with the selected spectrum bands.
Use of multiple small antennas and base stations
5G involves higher frequency radio waves and they can be targeted. The biggest 5G implementation challenge with 5G antennas is its limited range irrespective of the fact that it can handle more users and data and can be beamed out over shorter distances. Though antennas and base stations used in such situations are smaller, it is likely that these would have to be installed on homes or buildings. Extra repeaters will be required to install in cities for proliferation of waves to a wider distance while also maintaining uniform speeds in densely populated areas. For now, providers will continue using spectrum bands with low frequency to cover wider areas until the 5G network matures.
Cell locking can be done to execute drive test. Suppose, a 4G LTE cell in a test location and choose bandwidth accordingly such as LTE 25, LTE 40 and many more. You can unlock cell lock / band lock feature on your Android smartphone with the method by clicking on ‘Download’ and perform test with RantCell solution:Monitoring of base stations becomes critical to proactively monitor their cell tower signals, call setup success rates, 5G speed test, mobile network latency and other QoE KPIs for prime / high ARPU customer’s cell tower network locations dedicated to provide 5G services. Our cell tower monitoring solution also supports real-time active alerts as soon as it experiences degradation of QoE on the base station of the customer.
It is expected that modems and Wi-Fi routers may be altered with 5G small cells and base stations or other hardware to facilitate 5G connections for personal and professional purpose. Moreover, expansion of 5G network access to rural areas will be as much of a challenge as it is was with 4G LTE network.
Convoluted architecture makes it more critical
5G promises to meet diversified service requirements with a single network infrastructure to support Radio Access Network (RAN) and core networks. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) concept is being widely used in 5G networks for network slicing, creating intelligence networks at the edge, multiple radio networks / connections and many more. Nevertheless, such new techniques require a new operating model which is different and complex from its previous versions and need proper knowledge to develop the architecture that can serve network requirements.
Approach for 5G network deployment
First of all, operators need to have a strategy for 5G network deployment. Secondly, after deciding on the strategy, their approach towards implementing this strategy decides the future of deployment process. Based on the spectrum networks they have, and the densification and coverage they need, operators develop their deployment model and approach that is ultimately required for targeting specific 5G use cases. Further, 5G network deployment challenges include use of mmWave frequencies and 5G small cells in a huge amount and will require a new approach to 5G network deployment and its regulatory standards.
Need for skilled professionals
In order to execute deployment tasks, firms are required to make sure that their power distribution networks and fiber solutions with cell towers are in place that can easily accommodate 100-400 Gbps devices made feasible by the new telecoms policy. As telecom companies are planning to rollout 5G as quickly as possible, they are in need for skilled engineers to implement the new-age technology. However, current workforce at most enterprises is not enough capable to perform and adding to it is the scarcity of such skilled talent in the market which is like searching a pearl in the ocean of talent pool. All this makes it a critical 5G network deployment challenge for operators in their execution of 5G deployment but can overcome this by preparing their 5G workforce with reskilling programs like online/offline courses, certifications involving around 5G technologies courses to upgrade their skills with the required skillset and become efficient in handling network deployment workloads.
5G networks testing is forever in demand
Network demand for better connections and high data throughput, low latency and better video streaming requires of 5G has increased the demand for testing 5G networks with several 5G technical KPIs. Thus, it becomes really important to test 5G network parameters to meet 5G technical requirements. This is a 5G challenge and possible solutions include deploying RantCell app on mass scale to field engineers to perform 5G drive test based on various testing cases. It is compatible with most of the Android smartphones (supported on latest 5G devices only) available in the market and reduces your manual efforts and testing time by 30%. Additionally, data is uploaded on RantCell in real-time thus saving time in post-processing.
Less market of 5G-enabled devices
There is still not much of 5G devices available in the market when benchmarked with non-5G phones. This may be because of the complex 5G architecture and shortage of engineers equipped in this cutting-edge technology to crack down the codes and set up 5G-enabled devices. This attributes to 5g challenges and opportunities for the chip makers to design chips that can support 5G devices with advanced technologies.
Managing expenses involved in 5G network deployment
5G deployment is not so easy as it seems. From spectrum bands to cell sites, equipment's like cell tower, fiber cables to skilled labor, moreover, commercializing charges demanded by the regulators before making it available to users. Costs are involved in each and every process of 5G installation and is a challenge for most of the operators. It needs to be strategized and planned before investing. Step-by-step cost investment can save them from spilling out unwanted money reserving it for satisfying critical needs.
Regulations cause a hinderance in 5G network deployment
5G will be developed at a different pace with few common and varied features across countries. This means that some technical parameters are common, but it cannot be said for rules and regulations as every country has their own set of norms and is one of the critical 5G network deployment challenges. Mobile network operators have to work in accordance with the standards developed for 5G network technology in the area where they are about to deliver 5G mobile network services to users. Hence, it is essential to recognise and understand 5G regulations in the country where they are planning to deploy the 5G wireless networks and develop their roadmap to 5G deployment accordingly. For instance, in 2018, the Canadian government had remarked on 'Revisions to the 3,500MHz spectrum band in order to accommodate flexible use and initial consultation on changes done on 3,800 MHz spectrum band’ for making these available for 5G services in every regions of Canada.
5G network deployment challenges with security and privacy concerns
Though 5G seems to be the frontrunner and bring new innovations in the ecosystem, there are some security and privacy issues that is attached with the new-age technology. In terms of customer point of view, privacy concern is encapsulated around identity, location tracking and personal data. Previous technology, 4G network is surmounted on a region with wide coverage and signals are broadcasted from a single cell tower. But this is not the case with 5G networks and has a smaller coverage area with signals unable to penetrate as good as 4G technology.
As a result, 5G wireless networks works well in the presence of smaller antennas and base stations located indoors and outdoors. The information on this 5G cell tower / antenna can reveal a mobile user’s location and even what building a user is present as the user communicates with the antenna each time. This data can lead to threats like semantic information attacks to cause harm. Access point algorithms in 5G mobile networks can also leak location data. Thus, more 5G antennas permit for precise location tracking of users inside and outside. Further, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) is prone to reveal identity of mobile users. In this regard, mobile network carriers and network consortium should take responsibility to provide users with digital safety and protect their confidential data with the implementation of cutting-edge security solutions.
Telecom operators are enabling digital transformation to build a better-connected world. While on the road to transition to a new generation of wireless network, they have to face challenges exposed to many factors causing a delay in the 5G rollout. Aiming at 5G network deployment with identification of 5G network deployment challenges to strike out these barriers can help operators be prepared beforehand, deal with difficult situations and accelerate large-scale deployment of 5G networks that will potentially impact and consumers’ daily lives and businesses’ productivity and service revenues.