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Why fibre is crucial to the future of 5G

Why fibre is crucial to the future of 5G

To support 5G’s growth and capabilities, mobile service providers will need access to high-capacity, reliable fibre backhaul in the right places

Credit: Vocus

As 5G begins taking a hold in Australia, mobile operators and consumers alike are looking forward to new capabilities, including higher speed mobile broadband; lower latency and reliable connectivity; and large numbers of connected devices with low battery consumption. 

But it will be difficult—and likely unrealistic—for any individual mobile operator to self-build the fibre networks required to expand 5G, given both capital and time restraints. That’s why tapping into a pre-existing, high-capacity fibre network is the way forward, allowing operators to co-locate or expand their network reach quickly and easily.

Carriers have enthusiastically pointed out that 5G’s higher speeds will better support business focused services like high-quality video streaming and real-time collaboration between employees. In these environments, latency is just as important as speed, since it provides assurances that data will reach the base station almost immediately, leading to lower end-to-end latencies. Business customers expect much shorter latency of single digit millisecond range, a fraction of the 50ms latency on existing 4G networks. 

The backhaul solution for 5G must be able to keep up with the performance characteristics of the 5G radio access network from one of the extended enterprise footprints to the other. It will be critical for businesses to link sites using WAN services and core backhaul networks that operate as quickly and efficiently as 5G does—and that requires fibre. 

Bringing 5G to life beyond big cities

The use of legacy infrastructure in regional locations further exacerbates the divide with cities, where fibre is readily available. Ageing legacy copper and fixed-wireless connections provide inadequate, oft-unreliable service for residential homes and businesses that increasingly require high-speed, real-time, low latency communications. 

Credit: Vocus

In Australia, with our vast distances between population centres, you can see how backhaul transmission distances are often covered by aggregating several microwave hops along major coverage areas. To extend 5G coverage, fibre and wave division multiplexing (WDM) are needed to provide adequate backhaul capacity and resiliency to key 5G aggregation sites. Operators then have the option to completely replace existing chains of microwave backhaul with fibre and WDM, and retain the microwave links for backhaul redundancy, or even redeploy them to further extend their 5G footprint. 

Solving 5G’s tech challenges

5G architecture introduces small cells, virtualisation, network slicing, and edge compute. These create the need for many new fibre and transmission networks, as well as upgrades to existing ones. 

In Australia’s regional and remote regions, there’s significant legacy synchronous digital hierarchy and low bandwidth P2P microwave backhaul from previous generation mobile networks. As 5G rapidly expands, these backhaul technologies will no longer be able to meet the performance required. The next generation of connectivity between 5G’s core network and radio transmitter towers will have to evolve. 

Major owners of fibre infrastructure can offer regional networks for backhaul, but neutral hosts are able to provide regional co-location to host “5G edge core.” With our fibre and transmission footprint, Vocus is an ideal provider of metro, regional, and WDM networks. We also have the capability to offer high network capacity in 10G and 100G capacity for 5G RAN fronthaul and backhaul. 

Access to a single backhaul provider, with extensive reach across both urban and rural environments, will provide both technical capability and certainty for Australian enterprises as they wade into the 5G-powered world. By developing a strategy based on local mobility and backing it with a robust, fibre-based network that has the performance and reach to match, businesses can ensure they’re in the best position to realise 5G’s benefits far into the future. 

Download the full white paper, “5G may be crucial for the future of business, but fibre is crucial for the future of 5G.”  

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