Never mind the radios, the hot 5G technology is SDN and NFV

5G sdn nfv
(From left) Fumio Watanabe, chairman of KDDI R&D Labs, YTL Communications CEO Wing Lee and Ian Fogg, senior director for Mobile & Telecom for IHS, discuss the state of 5G and why network virtualization matters

A recurring theme at 5G Asia in Singapore this week is that the most important technology in the 5G ecosystem isn’t New Radios – it’s SDN and NFV.

YTL Communications CEO Wing Lee was emphatic on this point during a panel session at 5G Asia Tuesday, saying that network virtualization is the foundation technology for everything that 5G is purported to deliver.

“It’s important that we can focus less on hardware and more on software innovation,” he said. 5G is a virtualized technology – it’s a comfort to know that software innovation will continue and that we don’t have to worry about the hardware stack.”

Lee said virtualizaton is key to understanding how 5G will evolve. “So we’re not fearful about it because [YTL] is all-IP based, and virtualization gives us that foundation to evolve.”

Tay Yeow Lian, MD of networks at Singtel, made a similar point in his opening keynote.

‘5G is not just about radios, but also core network and data centers,” he said. “SDN and NFV will be important as we look to virtualize the core, the transport network and RAN.”

A specific application of virtualization – network slicing, which enables operators to partition and dedicate bandwidth dynamically to customers – would also be critical in driving growth of vertical services,” he added.

Network slicing itself was a recurring topic on Day 1 of the 5G Asia event. Fumio Watanabe, chairman of KDDI R&D Labs, said in his presentation that network slicing is an important aspect of 5G, although he added that this applied well beyond the core network.

“It’s important to be able to slice networks all the way to the RAN and the device,” he said.

For example, he said a connected car could support four network slices for different functions or service providers, each fulfilling different network requirements.

“Two slices could be used by the car manufacturer – one for control, which would require a closed network with low latency and high reliability, and another for software updates, which is delay-tolerant and involves downloading a big file every so often,” Watanabe explained. “Another slice would be for the car sensors, which require a low throughput uplink. You could create separate sensor slices for the car manufacturer and the service provider. And you could have a best-effort slice for entertainment.”

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