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 [email protected]. The views expressed in Expert Opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Broadband Breakfast and Breakfast Media LLC.
Panelists and Telecommunications Policy Research Conference Urge Focus on Equitable 5G Rollout
March 13, 2021 – Regulatory policies to accommodate 5G and other network infrastructure must be equitable to accommodate different service levels and providers, Donna Bethea Murphy, senior vice president of Inmarsat, said in February at the TPRC.
When trying to set goals on building and deploying broadband and satellite networks, one shouldn’t be prescriptive about what solutions are best, Murphy said at the conference exploring issues of communication, information and internet policy.
Considering the cost infrastructure builders must bear to build such systems, it is critical they are not faced with large spectrum auction fees. If smaller players have to pay high spectrum costs, they will not be able to make back their investment and may turn down developing innovative technologies, Murphy said.
The government should therefore ensure getting spectrum to newer market entrants is financially viable to boost competition and lower prices for Americans.
Everyone agrees broadband should be available at an affordable rate, but securing such rates is a challenge yet to be resolved.
The panelists agreed that 5G should be rolled out to communities in fair and equitable ways and that no community should be excluded from it, especially disadvantaged communities.
The concern is that 5G technology is moving at a pace that is outstripping the deployment of older technologies. Jon Peha, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, alluded to that when he wondered whether the next-generation technology will find the path of least resistance and gravitate toward areas that enjoy 4G LTE and leave the areas without the current generation network for someone else, or the government, to solve.
TPRC panel description:
This panel will be made up of domestic and international experts from communications operators, government regulators and academics to discuss how to best connect the unconnected in a 5G and beyond world. This panel will focus on technology, economic and adoption to address this very real problem. It will also explore if and how regulation and funding efforts can assist in achieving goals of connectivity. An important part of this will be the adoption piece as this will allow us to determine how do we enable connectivity to be considered valuable by the citizens of the world and how we overcome the very real economic issues associated with solving the digital divide.
Experts Say U.S. Needs Tighter Security on 5G Components
February 8, 2021 – U.S. officials seeking to reduce the likelihood of security problems with the next-generation 5G network should look into network components that may include compromised technology from non-Chinese companies, an expert said at a conference late last month.
Alexi Maltas, senior vice president and general counsel at the Competitive Carriers Association, said at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration conference that there is a concern that non-Chinese built equipment contains Chinese components.
The issue is part of a larger concern about the 5G ecosystem that may require stringent standards to flush out the possible security problems.
Some experts have been calling for strict import standards for internet-of-things devices, which pose a number of hacking hazards because they often feature poor out-of-the-box security standards.
The NTIA conference, which addressed the advent of 5G and how to keep it secure, included reflections on global leaders in the next-generation network build and which countries are ahead on ensuring that their equipment is safe.
Gary Bolton, CEO of Fiber Broadband, said the United States government should invest in more research and development and enhance workforce education and training. Policy needs to address competitor countries that engage in unfair trade practices, he said. China’s fast adoption of 5G and similar technologies has caused U.S. carriers to have to deal with Chinese-built equipment issues and have voiced need for dialogue with the U.S. government over security threats.
The U.S. has already moved to hamper Chinese telecommunications companies like Huawei and ZTE from participating in the country’s 5G future. But weeding out Chinese influence will go beyond the visible branding of those alleged spy threats and into what’s underneath the hood that makes it way along the supply chain.
If it’s suspected that carrier equipment is tainted, then the industry and government need to take steps to identify security threats from China, said Tamber Ray, regulatory counsel for the Rural Broadband Association.
Information sharing needs to go two ways, she said: From government to industry and industry to government. If equipment appears “off,” or suspicious, the issue can be resolved sooner than later.
5G architecture requires standards
Another threat to 5G is the architecture, said Edna Conway, vice president of global security, risk and compliance, for Azure at Microsoft. Threats to architecture come in the form of counterfeit components in the supply chain, she said.
To address these security concerns, government agencies can push out standard guidance or preferably, standard software configuration security networks, she added.
Eric Wenger, senior director in global government affairs at Cisco, said that some threats stem from the openness of 5G. To resolve this concern, he proposed more research on the subject would improve our understanding on how open interfaces impact risk and what steps would be useful to mitigate them.
The U.S. has a strong semiconductor ecosystem with strong operators, but it needs to add more 5G providers because 5G is no longer a telecommunications technology—it has a big overlay with the mobile edge and computing technologies, said John Roese, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Dell.
FCC Should Prioritize Affordability and Digital Literacy with Emergency Broadband Funds
January 29, 2021—FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel announced Thursday that she will convene a virtual roundtable discussion on February 12, 2021 to gather public input on how to structure the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program.
The $3.2 billion initiative, funded through Congressional appropriations in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, will enable eligible, low-income households to receive a discount on the cost of broadband service and certain connected devices, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A panel of policy experts convened for a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event on Wednesday agreed subsidies from the federal government need to be spent wisely in order to get the most effective possible outcome from the federal program.
“The FCC should better define its objectives and collect data to ensure it is getting the most bang for its buck,” said Sarah Oh, research fellow at the Technology Policy Institute, adding that the agency has the resources to create better plans for data collection and analysis in preparation for the program’s disbandment.
In an initiative spearheaded by Oh, the Technology Policy Institute recently filed comments to the FCC on ways the agency could maximize the effectiveness of the program, and further, how the agency can learn from the program to continue addressing the digital divide beyond the pandemic.
TPI finds that the FCC’s objectives should be a combination of getting people connected and keeping people connected. Oh said the agency should both target households at risk of disconnection and encourage households without broadband connections to subscribe, with the federal aid.
Executive Director of the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, Angela Siefer, urged the agency to prioritize affordability and digital literacy measures. “We can’t focus all our attention federally on the rural availability and miss out on the fact that there are 26 million households in the U.S. that don’t adopt broadband in urban areas,” she said.
The digital divide is “less about availability and more about affordability and digital literacy,” said Siefer.
While Trina Coleman, board member at the U.S. Distance Learning Association, said the agency should use the funds to increase adoption initiatives, she recognized that adoption can be a tricky subject.
Coleman highlighted the fact that some may be weary to participate in the program, due to an overall distrust of the government. She added that older populations may be satisfied with functionalities offered by mobile phones, and may not want to adopt broadband.
The panelists agreed that broadband data remains largely unavailable and called for the agency to gather better data on where broadband exists and where it does not. Coleman highlighted that only 22 states contribute data on where broadband exists to the National Broadband Availability Map, leaving more than half of the United States with no data on it.
This event is part of a six-part event series, “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G,” on Broadband Breakfast Live Online.
A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G’ sponsored by:
Events in “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G” include:
- Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Hype and the Reality of 5G”
- This opening panel will set the stage for Broadband Breakfast Live Online’s consideration of the policy, technology and practical questions around the 5G wireless standard. What is 5G, and why is there so much buzz about it? How much of an improvement is it over prior generations of wireless? In other words: What is real, and what is hype? How the issues of trusted partners, rights-of-way deployment, and spectrum policy interact? Where is 5G seeing early successes, and what are the stumbling blocks?”
- Wednesday, October 28, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: National Security and Trusted Partners”
- This panel will consider the global landscape for the 5G equipment ecosystem. It will consider issues in core networks, radio access networks and in handset equipment. How has the global landscape changed? Will 5G benefit from – or suffer because of – a new Cold War with China? How are American companies reacting to federal government initiatives for trusted partners? Where can the U.S. turn for solutions and alternatives to Chinese manufacturers?
- Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: A Case Study of Transformative Apps in the Enterprise”
- 5G is seeing its first real successes in the enterprise marketplace. To glimpse the future more accurately, Broadband Breakfast Live Online will consider case studies of applications in enterprise environments. What technologies and processes bring 5G success to the business marketplace? What needs to happen to bring 5G successes to the consumer marketplace?
- Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Wireless Infrastructure, Municipal Rights-of-Way and the 5G Rural Fund”
- To realize the promise of 5G, far more base stations — wireless infrastructure facilities — will be necessary. 5G facilities and towers may not be as big as in previous generations of wireless technology. Still, the need for far more facilities has already created tensions with municipalities over rights-of-way. How can these conflicts be minimized? What are smart cities already doing to expedite wireless infrastructure deployment? Can the process be improved?
- Wednesday, January 27, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: The Adoption and Use of 5G Broadband”
- What are some of the likely drivers of 5G equipment and services? How have existing consumer use cases been received? Are there 5G use cases that could help close the digital divide by elevating broadband utilization among communities of color and low-income populations? What can we expect from 5G technology in 2021?
- Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 12 Noon ET — “A No-Nonsense Guide to 5G: Spectrum Policies to Advance Better Broadband”
- More than simply the next generation of wireless technology, 5G deployments make use of radio frequencies from an extremely wide range. For example, some 5G deployment are using mid-band spectrum between 3.4 GigaHertz (GHz) and 6 GHz. But 5G networks also promise tap into spectrum between 24 GHz and 100 GHz. It deploys these millimeter bands using network slicing and other advanced wireless tools. What new spectrum policies are necessary for 5G to flourish?
As with all Broadband Breakfast Live Online events, the FREE webcasts will take place at 12 Noon ET on Wednesday.
- FCC to Vote On Emergency Broadband Benefit Policies By Mid-May: Rosenworcel
- Broadband Report Cards, Washington Muni Networks Bill, Supreme Court Fair Use Winners
- Virt Seeks To Serve As The Hub To Find And Join Virtual Events
- John Curtis, R-Utah, Opens Up About Future of Fiber and Broadband Challenges
- Speed And Mapping Bills, LinkedIn Data Harvested, Facebook Tackles Fake Review Groups
- FCC Speed Test App To Improve Broadband Mapping, Agency Says
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