5G networks: what they are and how they will change our lives

In recent years, many aspects of our daily lives have changed thanks to digitalization. The digital transformation of companies according to the Industry 4.0 model, the modernization of healthcare towards Telemedicine models and remote diagnosis, the growth of quality and competitiveness of our cities through the Smart Cities paradigm: all digitalization processes have very high speed communication infrastructures as their enabling element.

Many aspects of digitalization have an impact on everyone’s life: e-commerce, banking and insurance based on connected people and objects, on-line gaming, UHD video streaming platforms (4K), smart working. New needs and lifestyles that require a transformation of the optical infrastructure to support the evolution of mobile and wireless access, a growing reliance on our data to the Cloud, an increase in the number of objects and intelligent sensors in homes.

A revolution changing networks

All this is forcing a profound transformation of the backbone and network nodes. The infrastructures, made up not only of the backbone and cables but also of power plants and peripheral data centers, are managed according to the logic of IT and of edge computing, that is to say that information is processed at the edge of the network, where the data is produced. In other words, the “core” of the networks is distributed in the peripheral layers of the new networks and is characterized by software, automation and programmability.

5G as a discontinuity factor

If ultra-wide band infrastructures are the first step in a mosaic of new scenarios, the evolution of mobile networks towards 5G is the substratum for linking together new categories of services, the platform destined to support them. The new 5G infrastructures represent a factor of strong discontinuity as compared to the existing one and therefore present themselves as an opportunity for economic development for our country as a whole.

How the way of producing is changing

The world of industry, taking advantage of the availability of ultra-fast and secure infrastructures and the development of the Internet of Things, can tackle digital transformation projects in the production area. The spreading of connectivity at all levels of a factory makes it possible to rethink the way of doing business and makes it possible to fully integrate the processes in order to have more efficiency, flexible and custom-made productions and, consequently, increased competitiveness. This is a seismic shift in the way production is accomplished, which can be strategic for a strongly industrial nation like Italy, so as to recover competitiveness on international markets.

From Public Administration to Healthcare: a transforming world

Equally important is the impact that adopting a very high speed infrastructure has in the “Digital Transformation” of the Public Administration, since it represents an opportunity to find solutions to simplify and streamline administrative procedures. The plans launched in recent years by the various governments have had as their common thread the objective to generate a discontinuity to have the PA break out from a partial or fragmented adoption of new solutions and services so as to move towards a broad, efficient, inclusive approach.

Many other areas are directly affected by the development of new ultra-wide band infrastructures: health-care, thanks to telemedicine; energy, thanks to smart grids; services for citizens, thanks to the IoT for mobility and security up to housing construction, with “smart” buildings designed and built natively according to criteria of infrastructural optimization and energy efficiency using those technological solutions offered by domotics and the Internet of Things.

With 5G, networks “mold” themselves on the service they carry

5G is born to hold all these aspects together. And so as to shape and profile networks for the benefit of the services and applications carried, according to the logic of slicing. In other words, networks can dynamically reconfigure themselves based on the needs of the specific service or application they carry, thanks to the use of Network Function Virtualization (NVF) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) paradigms. The extent of this innovation is more evident in the case of mission critical situations: all the components involved on the network coordinate to give the same support and guarantee the perfect use of a service in real time.

The example of a remote surgical operation is the most effective in the collective imagination, and in fact even a great Italian operator used it to recount “the marvels” of the new network. Ultimately, being able to prioritize high-definition moving images and maintain a very low latency, understood as the time taken by one or more packets to reach another computer or another networked server, is essential to move objects in the millimeter range during a delicate surgery.

However, there are also very different contexts, where speed is not what counts and therefore a slower response is tolerable. This is the case of the use of sensor networks in the agricultural sector for the harvest, transport and analysis of meteorological and territorial data.

Different needs have different answers, thanks to the 5G network’s ability to support different categories of services in a tailor-made way.

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