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Olivier Ferveur: The Buzz Over 5G Shows That New Fiber Networks Also Need a Global Standard

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The author of this Expert Opinion is Dr. Olivier Ferveur, senior network architect at Post Luxembourg

LUXEMBOURG, EUROPEAN UNION – On October 16, Post Luxembourg launched its commercial 5G wireless network, when the first cell sites were activated in the city of Luxembourg and other pilot zones using the 700 MegaHertz and 3.6 GigaHertz spectrum auctioned by city-state earlier this year.

As a senior architect of network access at Post Luxembourg, a state-backed telecommunications company in this small and rich country in the heart of the European Union, I’m pleased to offer my vision of the role that fiber technologies play on their own, and also in advancing 5G mobile development.

Post Luxembourg’s lunch event has been considered as major news item by the local media. For the first time in this post-COVID world, a subject besides the pandemic has in Luxembourg created discussion, enthusiasm, and perhaps a little bit of fear.

Post Luxembourg’s 5G coverage will be steadily extended during 2021 before the footprint is gradually expanded to cover the whole country, providing a “network of the future” that includes advanced applications like cloud gaming.

In fact, for the first time my grandmother asked me questions about my job in the field of broadband. But what and why is all of this happening?

Why is there so much dynamism surrounding 5G wireless technology? Indeed, the technology I am in charge of, XGS-PON, does not appear much in the media but only in a  few specialist press articles. (The term “XGS-PON” refers to 10 Gigabit per second (Gbps) symmetrical fiber using passive optical networks.)

Is this a sign of the end of the fixed broadband network that some people might begin to imagine? Not at all, in my opinion.

5G is not really a technology, but a global concept

To understand this difference in status we must identify that 5G is not really a technology. It is a global concept using multiple technologies that offers many uses for consumers and for enterprises. So what does this mean for fixed networks?

This way of presenting the bundle of technology and use cases is very powerful: It identifies the trends for the public, brings politics inside the discussion and gives broadband operators a perspectives of technology evolution. And for providers of equipment and solutions, this framework leads to research and development that both identifies future problems and gives a global new perspective to all industries.

Yet over the past decade, the so-called fixed network has been increasing bandwidth everywhere. This came through installing fiber technology or by improving existing technology like Vplus, a form of VDSL (which stands for “very high speed Digital Subscriber Line) or G.fast, another DSL technology with performance technology between 100 Megabit per second and 1 Gbps. All these technologies have bringing fiber closer to the consumers in common.

In parallel, network technologies that facilitate installation and maintenance have emerged. These include network function virtualization and software defined networks. But there has been no flashy and global “standard” like 5G that seems relevant and understandable for the public and for business enterprises. Why this difference between the fixed and mobile worlds?

The convention view about geography-specific fixed fiber networks

In fact, the fixed environment has a major difference with the mobile world: Fixed networks have a heavy dependency with massive investment in infrastructure.

Every fiber, copper or coaxial cable which is put in the ground is expected to last at least for 20 years. Because of this long-term investment, each country has a different status and doesn’t necessarily follow the same trend.

In Europe, for example, France has more deeply invested in fiber networks has Germany. Why? It’s because Germany has in the past installed lots of coax cables inside cities. Therefore, fiber investment has not been seen as relevant and necessary there.

In addition, the topographies and the population repartition highly impact the choice of one technology from another.

In fact, we now need a global standard for fiber network deployment

This means that, according to the conventional view, taking a global perspective is nearly impossible in the arena of fixed, fiber-based deployment.

But here’s where I disagree. On the contrary, I believe it is possible to have a global view in favor of fixed, fiber networks. It starts by recognizing how mandatory internet use has become. In one year, the internet use has changed as never in the past, and largely because of the pandemic.

We can speak about the number of devices inside houses, the increase of bandwidth for applications like the increase of 4k or 8k for videos. But in reality, the revolution is not yet here at this point. The true revolution comes for the high interactivity request from consumers.

Today, games, video conference services, enterprise VPN and other applications require a high availability, a disponibility of bandwidth every time, and good latency also. And these are just the requirements from actual and existing applications!

The development of new applications are basically blocked by the limitations in network capability. We need to unlock the network to offer more services.

After 30 years of the creation of the internet, this network is still a “best efforts” network. In other words, we are not able to manage complex apps with high requirements yet.

If we want to technically solve this issue, we need more interactions between open systems interconnections layers and that it is only possible with an overview of all fiber-based systems.

The creation of the F5G standard for fixed or fiber 5G

These observations are some of the reasons that my company, along with other actors inside the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, are participating in the creation of the F5G group, for “fixed” 5G.

This group has the ambition to explore new technologies. F5G want to define use cases based on one principle: Fiber everywhere and in everything. The group not only focuses on residential markets, but also looks at enterprises and vertical industries.

After a definition of the relevant use cases, the F5G group wants to highlight relevant technologies and analyze the gap between them. Collaboration between all standards organizations will become a key point to create a dynamic and reliable environment for the sector and the public.

This initiative has just begin. The whitepaper is already accessible. Additional definitions will come in the current months. Don’t be shy, but join us. This initiative will be successful if a large panel of actors participate to the basement of the next generation of fixed network.

Dr. Olivier Ferveur is senior network architect in the network transport department at Post Luxembourg. He joined the company in 2009 and helped develop the core IP/MPLS network. In 2014, he led the transformation of the core network to the next generation technology, including selection, design and deployment. He also represents Post Luxembourg inside ETSI’s F5G working group. This piece is exclusive to Broadband Breakfast.

Broadband Breakfast accepts commentary from informed observers of the broadband scene. Please send pieces to commentary@breakfast.media. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.

Broadband Breakfast is a decade-old news organization based in Washington that is building a community of interest around broadband policy and internet technology, with a particular focus on better broadband infrastructure, the politics of privacy and the regulation of social media. Learn more about Broadband Breakfast.

5G

Google, Reliant On Success of 5G, Says It Wants Government-Funded Test Beds for Open RAN

Company says that the next generation of its products depend on 5G progress.

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai

WASHINGTON, October 20, 2021 — Google made its case for regulators to make room for greater public-private collaboration in the wake of 5G and more research into open radio access network technologies.

Speaking at the Federal Communications Bar Association’s “What’s New and Next in Wireless” session on Tuesday, Michael Purdy from Google’s product and policy team emphasized Google’s interest in the emerging 5G landscape, but wants a “collaborative environment” for innovation.

“5G is exciting because of Google’s products depend on 5G,” he said. “[Our] products can’t come to market without it.” Google’s recent product launches include smart-home technologies. Purdy says their products’ benefits are enhanced as 5G is deployed.

Google, like the technology sector at large, is building on the innovation that the “app economy” produced using existing 4G technology and plans to expand their software capabilities with 5G. “The app economy benefited consumers,” Purdy says. “Our lifestyles are going to depend on 5G.” For telehealth, “real time medical advice needs low latency [and] high speeds.”

However, Google hopes for better regulatory conditions during 5G deployment. “We haven’t been as focused on the FCC [for guidance] . . . we want stability to determine spectrum policy.”

Purdy said the company hopes to work collaboratively with government to find solutions for wider 5G deployment. “[We] want to know what position the government takes in creating an open RAN environment.”

The company said it wants government funded-test beds for open RAN, research into development to ensure that “the downside costs are defrayed.” In overcoming these challenges to 5G deployment, Purdy said Google wants the government to foster a “collaborative environment” to develop open RAN. “We don’t want government picking winners and losers in the innovation process” he said.

Purdy added that spectrum sharing between licensed and unlicensed users “can be good for consumers and for industry.”

The Federal Communications Commission has pushed for ways to develop open RAN to minimize network security risk, as the movement has gained significant momentum. FCC Acting Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has described open RAN as having “extraordinary potential for our economy and national security.”

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5G

Huawei Avoids Network Security Questions, Pushes 5G Innovation

Huawei’s CTO avoided questions about concerns over its network infrastructure security as countries ban its products.

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Huawei carrier business CTO Paul Scanlan.

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2021 — Huawei’s chief technology officer did not address questions Monday about the company’s network security practices during a session on how 5G drives economic growth, but said the focus should be on the evolutionary technology instead.

Paul Scanlan, Huawei’s CTO in the carrier business group, focused his presentation at the Economist Impact Innovation@Work conference on the promise of 5G technology and ignored concerns about network safety.

“We can service more customers with 5G” to start bridging the digital divide, he said. The pandemic has given the company an insight into customer behavior to better channel its data traffic needs. “5G performs better for the types of services we use now” he says, such as video streaming and user-generated content.

Scanlan avoided specific questions about his company’s technology and steered the conversation toward providing faster speeds for the health care industry. “Give me some use instances where the company has introduced 5G and helped companies be efficient” asked the moderator, Ludwig Siegele. “I’d like to stick on the health care sector, that’s more topical as you can imagine,” Scanlan responded.

“People are missing [innovation in 5G] because of geopolitical issues around the world,” said Scanlan. “Being able to collect the data and analyze it is where the business benefit lies . . . 5G adoption through the [standardized network] ecosystem is very important and we see this with 5G” for interoperability with other companies and providers.

Huawei’s promotion of their telecommunications products continues as the U.S. maintains national security sanctions against the tech giant. The impact of U.S. sanctions results a drop in sales for the company in 2021. The FCC has also recommended that Huawei’s equipment be listed as “high risk” to U.S. network security. Huawei told the FCC it cannot show the company’s equipment is a threat to U.S. networks.

Huawei’s global head of cybersecurity said this summer that President Joe Biden‘s executive order banning investments in Chinese companies is a “policy misstep” that will not only lose the U.S. a huge market, but will just make the company more self-sufficient.

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Celebrating Progress on 5G, the FCC’s Brendan Carr Urges Broadband Mapping

5G crusader Commissioner Brendan Carr voiced pride in the FCC’s focus on 5G over the past four years

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Photo of Brendan Carr from the Tennessee Star

WASHINGTON, October 15, 2021–Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr on Friday celebrated U.S. progress in 5G wireless investment and urged the completion of the agency’s broadband mapping initiative.

Speaking a the Free State Foundation gala luncheon, Carr argued that the United States has progressed in its 5G investments and is catching up to foreign networks. ”Years ago we imaged the U.S. would be left behind in 5G,” he said.

He touted his and former FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s efforts to “remove the red tape.” Enabling the private sector has paid off, he said: The U.S. has jumped 20 places on the country internet speed index, signaling the installation of more robust U.S. 5G networks.

Further, the FCC should complete its broadband mapping process and take caution with the federal money allocated toward broadband deployment, he said, adding that he asked the FCC earlier this year to complete its map by fall 2021.

“There’s planning that can take place when the maps are completed” he said, reflecting a desire from the public and private sector for better, more accurate broadband maps.

He also said that federal money allocated toward the FCC’s efforts to bridge the digital divide should be used carefully, and that money to connect unconnected Americas should not be wasted.

Carr celebrated American investment in 5G progress earlier this year, calling U.S. leadership in 5G “one of the greatest success stories in of the past four years.” In that time, the FCC opened up more than six gigahertz of spectrum for 5G services.

Former FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly also gave remarks at the event, expressing concern about the federal Made In America policy’s implications on the telecommunications sector.

The Made in America policy refers to President Biden’s push to increase American made content in supply chains. O’Rielly, who left the Commission in December 2020, argued that the policy limits telecommunications companies to the kinds of products that can be made available to consumers.

The Free State Foundation’s Randy May at the Friday event

He also questioned “what it means to be an American manufacturer” because foreign companies are “in essence, being punished by law” for having “investments in the U.S. with U.S. workers as part of a U.S. subsidiary.”

In O’Rielly’s view, the location of the companies headquarters does not impact its national security risk to the U.S.

The remarks by Carr and O’Rielly were at the 15th anniversary celebration for the free-market think tank. Carr said that the foundation has been an “invaluable resource” and has been cited more than 200 times in FCC decisions.

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