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Fiber: the secret ingredient to 5G’s success

High-performance fiber access networks are becoming a key ingredient for the delivery of 5G experiences, says Nokia Fixed Networks' Ana Pesovic 5G is s...

Ana Pesovic, Nokia Fixed Networks
|May 9|magazine9 min read

High-performance fiber access networks are becoming a key ingredient for the delivery of 5G experiences, says Nokia Fixed Networks' Ana Pesovic

5G is set to change the world. It is in the heart of every operator’s strategy. Yet, everybody knows that 5G will require significant initial investments.

To be successful, operators need to be more cost-efficient when deploying 5G, and fiber access is a technology that brings that efficiency.

High-performance fiber access networks, deployed worldwide, are becoming a key ingredient for the delivery of 5G experiences, whether the consumers are at home or on the go. 

The world is going 5G, but 5G is going fiber

5G and fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks are a perfect match. Let me tell you why. To increase capacity and coverage, 5G networks will be far denser than previous generations, with many more small cells.

To carry the traffic from small cells deeper in the network, operators could deploy a dedicated point-to-point fiber or microwave network – both of which can be time consuming and expensive to deploy. 

But there is an alternative, and it’s something that is already in place. 

By using an existing FTTH network, operators can more quickly and cost effectively connect small cell locations and eliminate the need for a dedicated transport network. 

In fact, using an existing FTTH network for 5G transport can save operators more than 50 percent of total cost of ownership (TCO). Impressive, right? Well there’s more that fiber can do for 5G, especially when its combined with what’s on the end of nearly every FTTH connection: WiFi.

Did you know that, currently, 50-70% of cellular traffic is offloaded onto WiFi networks today, and that this will only increase with 5G?

Consumers, when entering the home, expect seamless handoff to WiFi and the same quality of experience as they have in 5G. Luckily, WiFi technology development has kept pace with 5G, and the arrival of WiFi 6 allows operators to deliver a 5G experience in the home.

Based on some of the same technologies as 5G, WiFi 6 brings higher speeds and lower latency capabilities to home WiFi networks. When connected to a FTTH network, the overall latency performance allows operators to offload 5G traffic to a home WiFi network without interruption. 

This can help operators better manage RAN capacity and costs, free up 5G capacity for critical applications, and still provide an exceptional customer experience.

More please

Operators deploying 5G will eventually need more network capacity to effectively support the increasing capacity and number of small cells, including future fronthaul capabilities that will come with delivering an ultimate 5G experience.

25G PON technology provides the operators with the best, fastest and most cost-effective evolution path for fiber access networks.

With 25G PON, operators will be able to supercharge their fiber access networks, enabling them to have a pivotal role in 5G while ensuring their network needs continue to be met. 

Accelerating together towards the Gigabit era

Mobile operators will need long term solutions for 5G to cover new cell sites and keep up with the demands of its networks as they scale.

FTTH networks are ten times denser than radio cells, and can offer a strategic, long-term solution for bandwidth-intensive services. Of course, a full suite of FTTx technologies is still essential to connecting more people sooner to a Gigabit experience, and operators will continue to select the best tool for the job.

But where 5G and fiber do combine, they truly bring better broadband to more people, more quickly, than either can alone.  

It’s clear that 5G is quickly becoming a reality that will deeply impact our everyday lives. But the secret ingredient to a successful, high-performing 5G network will continue to depend on a high-performing fixed access network to succeed.