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Facing the Big Five G

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Facing the Big Five G

With the recent release of latest 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standards and the first true 5G networks potentially coming on stream in 2018, 5G-Ready transport networks continue to evolve into semi-unmapped territory. The forthcoming generation is not a forklift replacement so much as an extension and evolution of existing 4G mobile transport infrastructure – but “let’s wait and see” is not an option. Looking closely at their infrastructure through a 5G lens, go-ahead mobile operators see opportunities to ensure that all upgrades and extensions will be steps in the right direction – towards the 5G future. 

Jon Baldry Metro Marketing Director at Infinera explains.

With the first commercial 5G rollouts now announced for 2018, it is highly likely that we can expect the first 5G handsets to be announced at next year’s Mobile World Congress – initially at a premium price for people who would demand the ultimate despite minimal 5G network availability.

It’s human nature – like desiring a Ferrari in a world with blanket 70mph speed limits.

It will make headlines, for sure, but the real news is not so obvious. With the transition from 2G to 3G to 4G the public has got used to the idea that a new standard means a whole new network, with providers competing to be the first to roll it out. Operators are still vying to be first to market with 5G, but this time we are not replacing the 4G network,we are extending its reach into smaller 5G cells and evolving towards new 5G standards. From the outset, 4G was not set in stone: ever since its launch there have been a continuing series of further 4G releases to add new functionality, many of them geared towards supporting new 5G networks.

Why 5G?

The real driver for 5G is not a single set of applications, but a broad group that are typically clustered around one of three centres of gravity:

Figure 1: The 5G Services Ecosystem     source ITU-T

Figure 1: The 5G Services Ecosystem     source ITU-T

Enhanced broadband naturally extends the capabilities of 4G bandwidth per user to enable 5G to challenge in the residential and business broadband markets. 5G will deliver at least ten times faster than 4G to enable cloud storage of HD video clips and support for 4K video.

Massive machine type communications is geared towards the Internet of Things (IoT) with up to a million connections per square kilometre, or 100 devices in a room, where 4G now manages a few thousand per cell. Although initial IoT deployments have majored on a population of very simple devices such as traffic sensors and smart meters sending and receiving relatively tiny pulses of data, these are just the ripples preceding a potential tsunami.

Connecting surveillance cameras to the system will add a lot of traffic, but it is forthcoming ultra-reliable and low latency communications applications such as driverless cars, industrial control and telemedicine that will really pile on the pressure. These applications require secure communications that never fail, with network latency dropped by a factor of 10 from 4G standards to an impressive 1ms to give undetectable response times.

Many of the envisaged 5G services will use a blend of these capabilities, for example virtual reality (VR) will require both high capacity and ultra-reliability with low latency. VR is more than just a game: it has potential to transform education, training, virtual design and healthcare. If a surgeon is to diagnose accurately, or even perform a remote operation, the resolution of the virtual reality image must be close to the resolution of a human retina.This requires at least 300 Mbps, almost 60 times higher than current HD video, with undetectable latency and of course ultra-reliability.

These are the sort of facts, figures and exciting applications that make the headlines. The real work, however is to provide a whole network that can support such service levels. What does this mean for the mobile provider who already has a huge investment in 4G infrastructure?

How to get there

5G achieves its massive bandwidth by operating on higher frequency bands, in the millimetre wave spectrum. At these frequencies the signals do not travel as far and they are more readily obstructed by walls, obstacles, rain or mist, requiring clear line-of-sight access.

A slow download to a smartphone, or a break in a phone conversation, is annoying but seldom disastrous – and earlier technologies were no better. Extreme reliability is, however, essential for driverless cars or other critical 5G services. We cannot afford any blind spots, where a building shadows the signal.

Full availability means that many more smaller cells must be added to the network. Existing 4G access must be extended like capillaries in a fine network of small cells feeding back to existing transport arteries. This requires a huge investment, partly compensated by the fact that 5G antennae can be much smaller and use less power. They will also conserve power by focusing signals more accurately rather than beaming equally in all directions at once.

To support this more dynamic cell behaviour, we need greater intelligence towards the edge.As well as using multiple antennae to aim signals more efficiently, 5G will also recognise the type of signals being sent and reduce power when less is needed. Having a host of small cells in close proximity also enables Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP) – a technique whereby nearby base stations respond simultaneously and cooperate to improve quality of service.

While the new radio access network does its best to minimise latency, it comes to nothing if some signals have to travel all the way to and from a distant data centre. So another trend will be for Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) – where caching, compute power and critical applications will be pushed closer to the network edge to reduce latency and congestion in the transport network and optimize quality of service.

Fibre-deep challenges

Existing cellular networks rely heavily on fibre optic links to connect cell towers to the core network. Although high speed wireless can bridge the gap when time or cost makes it impossible to lay fibre, the only technology to consistently support 5G’s surge in demand and quality of service will be fibre. Each cell of a capillary 5G network is far smaller than a typical 4G, but there are so many of them and the applications so demanding the total bandwidth demand in the transport network will be massive.

Figure 2: 4G and 5G Cell Coverage

Figure 2: 4G and 5G Cell Coverage

So it is necessary to extend fibre as close as possible to the small cells in order to meet this demand. This “fibre-deep” evolution will not be achieved by simply multiplying existing fibre equipment and building it out into the metro space as needed – that would be a colossally expensive operation both in terms of real estate and equipment costs. Instead there will be a need to install many more compact and power efficient network nodes, wherever they can be economically accommodated. This could include remote telecom huts, street cabinets, cupboards or cell sites – locations quite unsuitable for housing racks of equipment that is optimized for a controlled telco environment.

Selecting suitable equipment will no longer be a simple matter of asking a preferred supplier to meet the required performance levels, it will be necessary to look much more closely at the specifications to see if devices are sufficiently rugged, compact and power efficient to survive where space and power supply are limited, and temperature and humidity levels more extreme. With a massive increase in the amount of fibre installations, commissioning and operating expenses will also soar, unless extra care is taken to choose the most compact, reliable and easy to maintain optical equipment.

Leading optical equipment suppliers are well aware of these challenges and are developing solutions more suitable for fibre-deep networking. The latest access optimised units can deliver 100Gbps at a mere 20 watts, packing over 400Gbps into one standard rack unit – about eight times the density of previous generation equipment.

What’s more, the industry has been working to bring the International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) vision of autotuneable WDM-PON optics up to the performance levels required to support the reach and capacity requirements of 5G networks. This eases the pressures of commissioning and maintaining extensive DWDM optical networks by replacing the technicians’ burden of determining and adjusting wavelengths at every installation. Autotuneable technology will automatically select the correct wavelength without any configuration by the remote field engineer enabling them to treat DWDM installations with the same simplicity as grey optics.

Pressure on the transport network

This far denser 5G access environment, even with greater intelligence located towards the edge, will put heavy pressure on the upstream infrastructure. In between times of change, buying patterns tend to stabilise towards the convenience of familiar, single vendor provision. With the shift to 5G we are already seeing greater competitive pressure between mobile operators, and between wholesale operators hosting 5G transport services. This is forcing buyers to demand higher performance, greater efficiency and more demanding specifications – driving a shift towards more aggregated best-of-breed solutions.

Higher performance is not all that is needed, there other significant changes taking place as 4G networks evolve towards 5G. Datacenter technology, such as spine leaf switching and network slicing, will increasingly migrate to the transport network to provide the flexibility to support more distributed intelligence and the need for MEC. Where 4G started with high performance dumb pipes connecting cell towers to the core, we are now evolving, towards a more flexible software-defined transport architecture.

As well as greater capacity, there are other demands that will not be met by many existing optical solutions.Among the refinements required for 5G, Carrier Aggregation enables the use of several different carriers in the same frequency bands to increase data throughput, rather as CoMP (described above) makes use of neighbouring cells. These solutions require new levels of synchronization precision, as well as low latency. Mobile operators now buying equipment need to look closely at the specifications to ensure that they are not investing in systems that will become obsolete as 5G rolls out. There are already some nominally 4G mobile transport networks that meet the demanding 5G synchronization and latency specifications.

Conclusion

5G-readiness is an ongoing development, and we can expect more early announcements of 5G services on the basis that they meet 5G speeds or other criteria, without providing the full 5G mobile service. Like owning a Ferrari, it’s a combination of marketing hype and status. Providers and nations are understandably keen to demonstrate 5G way ahead of the timescales favoured by the 3GPP standards body.

Major sporting events, with their massive global TV coverage, offer a stunning opportunity for operators to showcase their 5G capabilities. The 2012 London Olympics were the first “smartphone Olympics”, where spectators could simultaneously view the games close-up on their handsets. The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will vie with each other to highlight the way these nations are driving mobile 5G, as Europe once drove 3G and North America drove 4G. Europe and North America are also looking to showcase 5G, such as Elisa’s recent announcement of what is claimed to be the world’s first commercial 5G service in Finland. By 2022 we can expect there could be a significant number of Beijing Winter Olympics spectators using 5G Virtual Reality devices to spectacular effect.

Meanwhile mobile operators need to work steadily towards these capabilities with 5G-Ready mobile transport that an optimise 4G networks today and provide the high performance required for full 5G in the future. Operators can avoid investing in soon-to-be obsolete mobile transport technology, by seeking advice from experts at the leading edge of optical network equipment and design.

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears

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Australia says no further Facebook, Google amendments as final vote nears 1

By Colin Packham

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia will not alter legislation that would make Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google pay news outlets for content, a senior lawmaker said on Monday, as Canberra neared a final vote on whether to pass the bill into law.

Australia and the tech giants have been in a stand-off over the legislation widely seen as setting a global precedent.

Other countries including Canada and Britain have already expressed interest in taking some sort of similar action.

Facebook has protested the laws. Last week it blocked all news content and several state government and emergency department accounts, in a jolt to the global news industry, which has already seen its business model upended by the titans of the technological revolution.

Talks between Australia and Facebook over the weekend yielded no breakthrough.

As Australia’s senate began debating the legislation, the country’s most senior lawmaker in the upper house said there would be no further amendments.

“The bill as it stands … meets the right balance,” Simon Birmingham, Australia’s Minister for Finance, told Australian Broadcasting Corp Radio.

The bill in its present form ensures “Australian-generated news content by Australian-generated news organisations can and should be paid for and done so in a fair and legitimate way”.

The laws would give the government the right to appoint an arbitrator to set content licencing fees if private negotiations fail.

While both Google and Facebook have campaigned against the laws, Google last week inked deals with top Australian outlets, including a global deal with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

“There’s no reason Facebook can’t do and achieve what Google already has,” Birmingham added.

A Facebook representative declined to comment on Monday on the legislation, which passed the lower house last week and has majority support in the Senate.

A final vote after the so-called third reading of the bill is expected on Tuesday.

Lobby group DIGI, which represents Facebook, Google and other online platforms like Twitter Inc, meanwhile said on Monday that its members had agreed to adopt an industry-wide code of practice to reduce the spread of misinformation online.

Under the voluntary code, they commit to identifying and stopping unidentified accounts, or “bots”, disseminating content; informing users of the origins of content; and publishing an annual transparency report, among other measures.

(Reporting by Byron Kaye and Colin Packham; Editing by Sam Holmes and Hugh Lawson)

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback

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GSK and Sanofi start with new COVID-19 vaccine study after setback 2

By Pushkala Aripaka and Matthias Blamont

(Reuters) – GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch.

The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

In December, the two groups stunned investors when they said their vaccine would be delayed towards the end of 2021 after clinical trials showed an insufficient immune response in older people.

Disappointing results were probably caused by an inadequate concentration of the antigen used in the vaccine, Sanofi and GSK said, adding that Sanofi has also started work against new coronavirus variants to help plan their next steps.

Global coronavirus infections have exceeded 110 million as highly transmissible variants of the virus are prompting vaccine developers and governments to tweak their testing and immunisation strategies.

GSK and Sanofi’s vaccine candidate uses the same recombinant protein-based technology as one of Sanofi’s seasonal influenza vaccines. It will be coupled with an adjuvant, a substance that acts as a booster to the shot, made by GSK.

“Over the past few weeks, our teams have worked to refine the antigen formulation of our recombinant-protein vaccine,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.

The new mid-stage trial will evaluate the safety, tolerability and immune response of the vaccine in 720 healthy adults across the United States, Honduras and Panama and test two injections given 21 days apart.

Sanofi and GSK have secured deals to supply their vaccine to the European Union, Britain, Canada and the United States. It also plans to provide shots to the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

To appease critics after the delay, Sanofi said earlier this year it had agreed to fill and pack millions of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from July.

Sanofi is also working with Translate Bio on another COVID-19 vaccine candidate based on mRNA technology.

(Reporting by Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Matthias Blamont in Paris; editing by Jason Neely and Barbara Lewis)

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Don’t ignore “lockdown fatigue”, UK watchdog tells finance bosses

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Don't ignore "lockdown fatigue", UK watchdog tells finance bosses 3

By Huw Jones

LONDON (Reuters) – Staff at financial firms in Britain are suffering from “lockdown fatigue” and their bosses are not always making sure all employees can speak up freely about their problems, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday.

Many staff at financial companies have been working from home since Britain went into its first lockdown in March last year to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

One year on, the challenges have evolved from adapting to working remotely to dealing with mental health issues, said David Blunt, the FCA’s head of conduct specialists.

“During this third lockdown, there has been a greater impact on mental well-being, with many people struggling with job security, caring responsibilities, home schooling, bereavements and lockdown fatigue.”

Bosses should continually revisit how they lead remote teams, he said.

“The impact of COVID-19 is creating a huge workload for those considered to be high performers, while the remote environment potentially makes it much more challenging for those who were previously considered low performers to change that perception,” Blunt told a City & Financial online event.

Companies should consider “psychological safety” or ensuring that all employees feel confident about speaking out and challenging opinions.

“We’ve heard varying reports of how successful this has been,” Blunt said.

Pressures in the financial sector were highlighted this month when accountants KPMG said its UK chairman Bill Michael had stepped aside during a probe into comments he made to staff.

The Financial Times said Michael, who later apologised for his comments, had told staff to “stop moaning” about the impact of the pandemic on their work lives.

Blunt was speaking as the FCA next month completes the full rollout of rules that force senior managers at financial firms to be personally accountable for their decisions to improve conduct standards.

There have only been a “modest” number of breaches reported to regulators so far as firms worry about being “tainted” but more cases will become public as sanctions are revealed, Blunt said.

“Regulators won’t be impressed by lowballing the figures.”

(Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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