The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how vital connectivity is to society and the economy. The widespread adoption of 5G technologies has the potential to make connectivity an even more powerful tool, transforming how we live and work for the better.
The increases in network speed and capacity 5G offers will not just improve existing technologies such as video streaming but also enable entirely new applications that existing networks cannot easily support.
Connected vehicles that can communicate with streetlights to improve traffic flows, farms that can report soil moisture and nutrient levels in real time, telemedicine services that can support real-time, high-quality video streaming in rural areas, other applications for smart cities, agriculture, infrastructure, and more will all finally be within reach.
We are at a watershed moment in the history of technology, as decisions we make today about how to build 5G networks will have an unprecedented impact on business transformation. To ensure that this impact is positive and to unlock the full potential of 5G, these technologies must rely on open interfaces and open source-driven cloud technologies. In short, 5G must be “open” so that a diverse pool of suppliers can compete to develop the most innovative, secure, and cost-effective products.
Many of the benefits of 5G networks come from greater reliance on software than previous generations of wireless technology. In 5G networks, software can manage network operations and perform operations previously controlled by hardware through network virtualization and cloud computing. For example, in existing wireless communications infrastructure, network performance hinges largely on the technical limitations and proper functioning of specific hardware. Through network virtualization, 5G networks are not nearly as limited by hardware, as software can emulate the performance of different kinds of specialized hardware and be updated and repaired remotely.
These software approaches, particularly cloud computing, can enable innovation on a massive scale and support new kinds of applications not possible on 4G networks. The use of open source software here is critical, allowing for greater control by providing the ability to examine every aspect of code and change what’s not working, increased stability due to less need to maintain and replace hardware, and greater resiliency, as it allows for anyone to inspect and fix problems, errors, or omissions. Additionally, open interfaces can ensure that all the components of a 5G network, from the edge to the core, can easily interoperate, enabling greater competition. It is easy to see how the combination of open interfaces and open source- driven cloud technologies could dramatically benefit the 5G ecosystem.