5G promises to change the way we live, work, and play in dramatic ways. New high-bandwidth, low-latency applications – particularly IoT, autonomous driving, and immersive experience applications – will enable things that we have not even conceived of yet. After all, who could have imagined 10 years ago that 4G would lead to ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft or augmented reality games such as Ingress and Pokémon Go.
But to make sure people get what they want from 5G, the industry needs to deliver on that promise. Specifically, designers need to make sure the technology works like it is supposed to by setting robust standards while implementing a reliable testing methodology and measurement mechanisms to ensure the standards are being met. Most importantly, however, efficiencies need to be found to bring down development costs. While some of this will come from global harmonization of standards, a lot of it depends on thinking about effective design, test, and visibility strategy earlier in the lifecycle.
In the race to be first out the door with 5G solutions, carriers, manufacturers, and developers have spent billions of dollars on R&D. Whereas in the past, engineers have been solely focused on improving existing technical specs, today they are also keeping their eye on the commercial viability. There is a simplicity in engineers staying focused on innovative technologies, but for their efforts to be successful, it has to also be commercially viable. When you know you are about to win the lottery, thrifty spending is not top of mind. Companies are expecting a hefty payout and are pouring money into ensuring they get a bigger slice of the pie.
The result could be that those costs will trickle down to consumers – at least initially. First-generation 5G solutions and 5G-enabled devices are going to be expensive – partially because developers are going to be under pressure from shareholders to recoup some of that R&D money. Eventually costs will come down like they always do, but early adopters need to be prepared for sticker shock.
The road to more efficient 5G solutions
Fortunately, there are things carriers, developers, manufacturers, and service providers can do to bring down the cost of 5G while continuing to provide a truly transformative experience.
Testing. Trying different configurations or implementations leads to the discovery of efficiencies. Best practices also come out of effective testing – giving manufacturers, developers, and service providers a roadmap on how to rollout more efficient solutions.
Measurement. Accurate measurement allows providers to know exactly how 5G solutions are performing – whether they are living up to the promise of faster, more robust wireless networks or falling short of expectations. Either way, the ability to accurately measure performance gives developers a baseline to work off and improve.
Visibility. More than tracking performance, visibility allows 5G solution and service providers the ability to view network events in real time to identify security threats, vulnerabilities, and potential bottlenecks. Arming remediation teams with actionable information helps them ensure reliability while optimizing network performance.
The promise of 5G has everyone excited about the possibilities the high-bandwidth, low-latency wireless standard will bring. However, the industry needs to be thinking through costs associated with deployment. With billions pouring into 5G research and development, stockholders are going to want to recoup their investment sooner rather than later. Carriers, manufacturers, developers, and service providers are going to have to find ways to create efficiencies and bring down costs. Testing, measurement, and visibility can give developers the insights they need to do this – but the time to start to put these best practices in place is now.