From 4G to 5G and beyond Future networks removing traditional boundaries

04 November 2022

By: Toni Pellegrino, Executive Director: Nokia South Africa and Vodafone MEA Customer Team Head

With the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) gaining traction in the region and industries actively embracing digtalisation, traditional business models continue to evolve. This has a significant impact on communications service providers, which is forcing them to re-evaluate their operating models to support the increased demand for connectivity. This demand in connectivity is being driven by a sharp growth in the use of technologies such as video conferencing, remote working capabilities, and access to remote education and telemedicine.

This new era of digitalisation is unleashing infinite new possibilities for industries, governments and cities that dream of building a more agile, digital, resilient, and sustainable future. It allows for physical operations to be re-designed and optimised for efficiency, productivity, and safety in real-time, and then put it all into action with the click of a button, supporting organisations in operating more effectively while meeting both their business and sustainability goals.

Through Nokia’s mission-, business- and society-critical networks, we can remove traditional boundaries, transforming both industries and governments.

5G growth in Southern Africa
Operators across the Southern African region are stepping up their efforts to migrate existing 2G and 3G customers to 4G networks and the number of 4G subscribers is projected to reach 58% of the total number of subscribers by 2026. 5G adoption is also steadily increasing, with South Africa dominating the 5G market in the region. While currently most of the data traffic is still driven by 4G, 5G is expected to drive one fifth of data traffic by 2026. The region has also seen an increase in smart phone adoption, while feature phone subscriptions is on a downward trajectory.

Currently, almost all the 5G networks are deployed with non-Stand-alone (NSA) architecture and they are focused on providing fixed wireless access (FWA) or high capacity mobile broadband solutions. However, the transition to 5G Stand-alone (SA) is required to achieve the full potential of 5G to enable ultra-low latency and extreme high capacity. Stand-alone eliminates the need for an LTE anchor layer and connects directly to the cloudnative core network, supporting advanced network
slicing functions. Since latency will be extremely low, this will facilitate new use cases such as mission critical use cases, like autonomous driving. With carrier aggregation (CA) of mid band and low band spectrums, the coverage challenges in Stand-alone can be mitigated.

Nokia‘s comprehensive portfolio for CSP‘s allows the deployment of 5G SA networks for greenfield operators but also ensures smooth migration from NSA to SA networks as an overlay, i.e. providing seamless interworking to the legacy LTE/EPC network. Nokia has deployed one of the largest SA networks in the world with T Mobile USA. Based on the recent studies, we expect to see more and more networks migrating from NSA to SA in the Middle East and Africa. This will start with a hybrid
model (NSA + SA) and will gradually move towards complete SA architecture. Particularly in Africa, we will see 5G introduction happening in more and more countries.

Beyond 5G
It is expected that by 2030, 5G and 5G advanced will have transformed society through the many new and impactful applications and services it enables in the dimensions of enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low-Latency Communication (URLLC) and massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC) This will make mission critical and massive machine connectivity a reality, creating the need to look beyond what 5G can offer and look to new technologies with new capabilities. We have already started exploring the elements and challenges around 6G in preparation for its introduction to the market. Trustworthiness, sustainable development, and digital inclusion will remain key priorities in the 6G era and will be the foundational principles around which future networks will be defined and implemented. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) should be used to optimise networks, enable new services, and ultimately make our lives better, delivering immersive communication and cyber-physical systems that are versatile and flexible to meet our future needs.

Nokia will lead the Hexa-X-II project, the second phase of the European 6G flagship initiative. This new phase will expand the Hexa-X partner list to 44 organizations that are tasked with creating the pre-standardized platform and system view that will form the basis for many inputs into future 6G standardization.

Cloud at the edge
The edge cloud offers the flexibility needed to take communications into the 5G era and to take advantage of advanced, low latency applications that are set to transform our way of life. The Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G need low latency and high bit rates. To meet these needs, cloud capabilities must be distributed across the network. The edge cloud places computing resources where the traffic is at the edge of the network. Together with MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing), services can both be offered and consumed at the most appropriate locations within the network. For example, a sports stadium could use MEC to provide high quality video streams from the event to spectators and an airport could use MEC for advertising, location and augmented reality. An industrial plant could use MEC for video surveillance and as an IoT gateway for connecting IoT devices and a campus or conference centre could offer local services to residents and visitors. Distributed MEC is deployed close to the
actual venue or within the venue, for example, an enterprise or stadium. We expect to see more and more edge cloud use cases become a reality in 2022. Sustainability still a high priority for CSPs Sustainability is high on the agenda for all the telecom industry players as industries across the globe look to reduce their impact on the environment in line with the ambitious targets set by the United Nations at COP26. Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. The need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels was reaffirmed by the recent meeting of COP26, an event that highlighted just how crucial it is that everyone acts immediately to avert an environmental catastrophe. At Nokia, we’ve set ourselves ambitious sustainability goals to reduce our environmental impact. In 2017, we were the first telecommunication equipment supplier to join the Science-Based Targets initiative, SBT provides companies a clearly defined pathway to take action on how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And in September 2019, at the United Nations climate summit, Nokia joined a select group of companies in committing to recalibrate our existing climate targets in line with the 1.5°C scenario. We are now targeting to cut emissions by 50 percent between 2019 and 2030 across our value chain.

Our new generation Reefshark SoC and Airscale systems increase energy efficiency, and our liquid cooled baseband will reduce the energy consumption by up to 60% in case of baseband hoteling. Nokia also has a series of energy savings features in 2G/3G/LTE and 5G to reduce energy consumption by 15-20%. Additionally, by activating zero touch implementation and Driveless optimisation, the site visits can be reduced by 15-20% and hence reducing CO2 emissions and with the proper recycling of e-waste and reusing refurbished equipment, most of the waste can be recycled or reused.