Incremental path to 5G posited by BT Network Architect with 2019 launch the next milestone.
- Capacity to remain a short-term priority, with more use cases under review.
- Role of Wi-Fi at gigabit speeds under active consideration.
Away from the doom and gloom that surrounded BT Group’s pension, results and strategy update, and the razzamatazz of BT Consumer’s relaunch under Marc Allera, Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architect, BT TSO, set out his take on the evolution of the 5G services that will underpin the Group’s services in the longer term.
Sutton was the keynote speaker at an Institute of Telecommunications Professionals’ half-day event dedicated to exploring the theme “5G – more than yet another generation of mobile”. The presentation (slides from ITP) is timely; across the telco BT is looking to a converged infrastructure of next-generation fixed and mobile as a springboard for recovery. And while there is much to do before current network capabilities are fully integrated, being first and faster to 5G in the UK is hoped to assist BT in building momentum.
Sutton presents a one step at a time approach to 5G
Sutton stressed that progress on 5G would be incremental, and the first priority is increasing network capacity to deliver Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB) for 2019.
What Sutton called “pure-play” 5G remains a much longer term project, not least because many of the standards are not yet in place, although a substantial tranche, known as Release 15, is set to be “frozen” by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) in June 2018.
The publication of Release 15 is expected to firm up standards for a 5G core (5GC, described as the next-generation core/NGC by Sutton) which will join existing specifications for the 5G New Radio (5G NR) air interface, and 5G enhancements to the 4G radio network (eLTE). These relatively set-in-stone specifications are expected to enable operators to progress towards near-term deployment of services that can legitimately be labelled 5G, while setting the groundwork for an architecture expected to enable the technology to reach its potential.
- Publication of 3GPP’s next round of 5G specification, Release 16, is expected in December 2018.
Sutton’s focus in his presentation was on the architecture for infrastructure, based on a series of Options put forward by 3GPP.
The starting point for 5G, at least for BT, looks set to be an eLTE interface, linked to an evolved packet core (EPC), supporting converged voice and data on a 4G network. The end point, ultimately, will be an all 5G network where the interface and core, and all the user and control planes in the process, are based on 5G standards.
In 3GPP thinking, these standalone (SA) start and end points are known as Option 1 and Option 2 respectively. On the way between the two, there are a range of hybrid set-ups which include non-standalone (NSA) access, or dual connectivity, which enable end users to be linked to the core through both 4G and 5G air interfaces.
Sutton suggested that many operators will start on the 5G path by leveraging eLTE assets to support the introduction of 5G services linked to the EPC (Option 3x from the 3GPP). This would enable the creation of “5G hotspots” that would facilitate 5G services and applications in limited areas, without overloading the EPC.
Then, as standards develop for the NGC (anticipated as part of June 2018’s Release 15), there would be a route to directing both the eLTE and 5G NR interfaces onto the new core, with the EPC out of the picture.
From here, transition to full 5G infrastructure would be possible.
However this end game is a distant prospect at this stage, with Sutton noting that “Option 2 will eventually be the way the mobile network is, but that can only be realised once all LTE spectrum is re-farmed to 5G NR or in a standalone use case”.
Sutton also highlighted that the architecture’s control plane would remain on the key network, eLTE, until the full migration to 5G is completed.
- Sutton also made reference to further evolutions that could maintain dual connectivity and would be a possible step for operators once 5G coverage is on a par with 4G (Option 4).
No hurry beyond better mobile broadband
While the details of the map are being filled in, BT Group’s plans for 5G are expected to address the challenge of explosive growth in the need for network capacity.
Sutton showed a photo of a huge crowd at Waterloo railway station in London to help visualise why eMBB is the initial use case for the technology, saying, “Almost everyone will have a device of some kind and that device will probably be connected to the network even if it’s not in use, for example, with apps generating traffic”.
Beyond capacity for the masses, though, more challenging and interesting use cases will emerge, and Sutton highlighted ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (URLLC) as the next blip on his radar. The BT technologist anticipates use cases that will see URLLC-enabled functionality pushed out to the edge of the network. There was a note of caution, however, with Sutton stressing that any deployment would be “business-case specific”, and must justify driving distribution out to the node.
Current multi-access edge compute (MEC) approaches to service delivery could also be extended to optimise ultra-low latency services.
”We could host content, or supply Compute-as-a-Service, or host web apps…and we could continue that model by pushing that functionality right towards the edge if we wanted to deliver ever-lower latency… If you wanted to build an automated factory environment, you could build a dedicated node in a factory with a complete 5G network and the compute you need to drive robotic machines. ” – Sutton.
Sutton sees less urgent need for another 5G-enabled technology – massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC). He did not mention mMTC during his presentation and, when prompted on the topic, said “We are in no great rush for [mMTC] and it will be a natural evolution of NB-IoT [narrow-band Internet of Things] which we are rolling out on our 4G network today.”
Hanif returns with more urgent message
The ITP event was held at BT Tower, and saw the return of the recently-departed BT Director of Converged Networks and Innovation, Mansoor Hanif (BTwatch, #294; slides from ITP). Speaking in his new role as an advisory board member of UK 5G, the government-backed innovation network, Hanif stressed that while 5G will offer higher capacity more affordably “that’s not enough”.
Hanif pushed the need to build demand for new use-cases for 5G that would justify its cost, and play to its strengths, with the potential of end-to-end network-slicing critical to this drive.
“The UK is a very tough, competitive market and no-one wants to pay more. True network slicing is about single investment, a single platform, satisfied customers and new revenues from industrial sectors where we have no presence at the moment and we need to show them there are benefits. That’s the fundamental point to make the 5G business case positive.” – Hanif.
A challenge to this progress is accelerating the gestation process to provide useable, promotable applications for the technology more quickly. To enable this, 5G UK is seeking more cross-sector collaboration based around its test beds, with more participants wanted. BT is already ensconced in the innovation process in the UK, with studies and research programmes underway at the three UK test bed sites.
UK 5G describes itself as a world-leading, national-scale, publicly-funded test-bed infrastructure, which is multi-vendor and multi-access. It allows parties to interconnect to any testbed from any trial location. So far, there are three test beds that are up and running, which have received £16m in funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and are located at University of Sussex, and in Bristol and Worcestershire.
Don’t forget Wi-Fi…
While solving the challenges of creating commercially viable 5G was naturally at the core of the ITP event, it should be noted that the role of Wi-Fi in next-generation networks was also highlighted.
Sutton described Wi-Fi as “a big part of the story” alongside unlicensed spectrum. Release 16 [amended 12Jun18: previously incorrectly referred to Release 15] is expected to support greater Wi-Fi integration, and increasing numbers of operators are expected to include the wireless technology in evolution plans, including the potential for WiGig, which could offer gigabit speeds using unlicensed 60GHz spectrum. Sutton also said that a research paper on the subject generated within Adastral Park will soon be forthcoming.
“We are heading towards a multi-access model. Wi-Fi has a huge role to play, so does unlicensed spectrum. I think we’ll see a move to…[WiGig].” – Sutton.
Notably BT is renewing its emphasis on the role that Wi-Fi can play in delivering seamless services, starting with its new Consumer offerings (see separate report).
- ITP event overview.
- ITP photos.
- ITP’s seminar videos.
- Tim Wright’s write-up at ComputerWeekly.com — Tim from the ITP moderated the panel session, and also covers the less-BT specific presentations from Cisco’s Bhupinder Singh (network slicing, including hard and soft; slides from ITP) and Nokia’s Paul Adams (the quest for 5G use cases; slides from ITP).
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Patterson bites the bullet [p6]
- Du Plessis rips off the plaster
- History may be kind to the BT’s fallen action hero
- CEO search – keep an eye on the arrivals board from Bonn?
- New face, familiar problems
- A match made in Heaven?
BT unleashes pension, results and strategy triple bill [p8]
- Analysts: disappointment and scepticism remained
du Plessis puts case for defence, with Patterson in the dock [p9]
- A tough taskmaster getting BT in lean and agile shape
- Lowth and Patterson present business as usual
- New Chairman, new dynamic
- Analysts: disappointment and scepticism remained, cont…
- du Plessis’s money where his mouth is
- Management remuneration could also embrace a longer term outlook
Differentiation, integration, transformation [p12]
- More management accountability and increased productivity
- Procurement: why buy when you can strategically source?
BT’s 5G and fibre diet [p13]
- 5G switched on by 2019
- Sherman and Watson could be a critical double act for 5G
- Fixed-line networks also heading for next generation
- Capex up on network plans
Convergence: start with Consumer, Enterprise to follow [p14]
Global Services accelerating, backed by digital kick-off [p15]
- Patterson praises Security blanket
Regulatory: bruised egos massaged, truce called [p15]
Pressure points: the hopes and fears on management minds [p16]
- Table 1 Expectations and risks for BT’s top management
- BT promotes its sustainability credentials
- Tech Mahindra brings new R&D to Adastral Park; supports UK-India Tech Partnership
- BT works with Netcracker on slicing benefits
Digging in ahead of the rebuild [p20]
- Table 2 BT Group, financial highlights, FY17-18
- Table 3 BT Group, performance by unit, FY17-18 (adjusted) *
- Divisions: enterprise challenges underline need for transformation
- Table 4 BT Group guidance, FY18-19 and beyond
FY18-19 guidance: a long slog ahead [p22]
- Cash river drying up
Deficit chokes cash flow as BT calls for oxygen [p23]
- Table 5 Revised pension contributions 2018-30
- Lowth bites the bullet, but no short-term solution to the pension problem
- Trustees keep a say on any ambitious BT activity
Deal speculation bubbles up post-results gloom [p25]
- Potential for mast sale floated
BT pushes 5G, but in no hurry beyond better broadband [p26]
- Sutton presents a one step at a time approach to 5G
- Table 6 BT’s potential path to 5G
- Options, options…
- No hurry beyond better mobile broadband
- Hanif returns with more urgent message
- Don’t forget Wi-Fi…
- Table 7 People movement highlights
- Allera’s six pillars
- The A-Team
New Consumer chief, new strategy, familiar buzzwords [p34]
- Brand identity
- Network evolution 2018-22
- When the smoke clears after the fireworks…
- Table 8 Key new BT and EE launch dates, 2018-19
- Allera’s approach more aspirational than attritional
- Potential for BT/EE expansion significant, but unchanged two years in
- Table 9 Rearranging deckchairs: change in BT/EE place in market 2016 to 2018
- Barrage of announcements kicks off strategy event
Consumer: all new and improved? [p37]
- BT TV experiments with YouTube promo
BT family appeal keeping it out of old people’s home [p39]
- BT in its Prime?
EE promises dynamism with hybrid engine [p40]
- Hybrid router coming at convergence from 4G side
- …hybrid prepay tariff to deliver EE new channels
Pay-TV super aggregator to the rescue [p41]
- BT talking its TV offering down to build it up
- What’s so super about aggregation?
BT Sport: Modern sport all about the money [p42]
Watson, the game is afoot! [p42]
BT TV enters pay-per-view ring, renews BoxNation deal [p43]
- EE pipes up on Scottish 4G reach
BT Sport extends production contract with Sunset+Vine [p44]
Premier League finally completes rights auction [p45]
- Amazon joins the game
- Report casts doubt on LTE for ESN
Motorola predicts five more years of Airwave [p47]
Ericsson joins EE on CX frontline [p48]
- EE systems exposed by security hacker
- A mobile deal in a converging world?
- Ericsson making presence felt in IT
Products and services
BT Plus launch ramps ultrafast drive [p50]
- Bells and whistles
- Plus size model wearing emperor’s new clothes?
- BT Plus a full-fibre spoiler?
- BT losing its voice?
Products and services
BT launches 4G back-up broadband solution [p53]
BT turns to Cisco Meraki in the UK [p54]
Public sector contracts
Controversy clings to legacy BT council contracts [p55]
- Radianz Cloud adds more partners
BT trumpets more security collaboration [p57]
Cisco and BT take another step with SD-WAN [p58]
Riverbed recognises BT DNS relationship [p58]
BT Global Services Sales Kick-Off
- Table 10 Partners prominent at the Global Services Sales Kick-Off 2018.
Corvil secures Global Services contact contract [p59]
Openreach to roll out 12,000 FTTP connections in London [p61]
- City held up as shining example
- Kent Council to extend Phase 2 BDUK project with BT
Edinburgh to see fibre battles as Openreach gears up [p62]
Analogue switch-off inputs sought by Openreach [p63]
- Openreach to open fibre training school in Scotland
- Openreach gets naked
- All-IP at the core of BT’s hopes
- Watson five years into a long-term plan
- CityFibre acquired by Goldman Sachs-backed consortium for £538m
- TV a success for BT – as a network transformation driver
- Threads pull through, from 2013 to 2016 to 2018
- IT running alongside infrastructure
Openreach distances itself from LR-VDSL [p66]
TalkTalk flags new G.fast trials [p66]
- It’s official: G.fast offered in consumer pilot
21st Century Fox
– – NOW TV 35
– – Sky Box Office 43
– – Sky Sports 35, 41
Activ Financial 57
– Sanford C. Bernstein 10
– – Android 53
– – Chromecast 39
– – YouTube 39, 42
– Sidewalk Labs
– – Intersection 53
Amazon 34, 35, 39, 40, 41, 42, 45, 49
– Amazon Prime 34, 35, 45
– Amazon Web Services 49
Apple 35, 39, 40
Arbor Networks 59
Arqiva 25, 30
Aspect Software 59
Astute Solutions 59
AT&T 17, 20, 38
BAE Systems 30
Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) 62
BT Group 7, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28, 30, 31, 34, 39, 44, 54, 55, 57
– BT Consumer 6, 16, 26, 30, 31, 36, 38, 39, 63, 67
– – BT Broadband 41
– – BT Cloud 58
– – BT Infinity 53, 55
– – BT Mobile 50, 51
– – BT TV 30, 34, 35, 39, 41, 43, 45, 65
– – BT Wi-Fi 37, 54
– – Plusnet 34, 36
– BT Enterprise
– – BT Business & Public Sector 21, 54
– – BT Wholesale & Ventures 31
– – InLinkUK 53
– – Liverpool Direct Limited 55
– – Tikit 31
– – TV Connect 31
– BT Global Services 6, 7, 12, 15, 16, 20, 21, 30, 38, 54, 56, 57, 58, 59, 63
– – BT Americas 58
– – BT Connect 58, 59
– – BT Ignite 30
– – BT Italia 9
– – BT Security 15, 54, 57
– – One Connect Limited 55
– BT Pension Fund 23
– BT Technology, Service and Operations 13, 16, 18, 26, 34
– – 21CN 31
– – Adastral Park 18, 29
– – Infinity Lab 55
– – Innovation Martlesham 18
– BT Tower 29, 55
– – Ball, Tony 11, 30
– – du Plessis, Jan 6, 8
– – Hoettges, Timotheus 38
– – Rake, Sir Michael 7, 10
– – Richardson, Karen 30
Rose, Nick 11, 30
– EE 6, 9, 17, 21, 25, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 44, 47, 48, 49, 50
– – Emergency Services Network 14, 25, 38, 44, 47
– – MBNL 25
– – Bland, Sir Christopher 7
– – Allera, Marc 7, 14, 26, 34, 41, 51
– – Brown, Kevin 57
– – Burger, Bas 7, 57
– – Chanmugam, Tony 9
Ginér, Gabrielle 17
– – Harris, Stephen 34
– – Haworth, Andy 34
– – Hindhaugh, Jamie 31
– – Logan, Mark 63
– – Lowth, Simon 6, 8, 9, 14
– – Mears, Kim 62
– – Oliver, Pete 34
– – Patterson, Gavin 6, 8
– – Sabey, Jim 58
– – Selley, Clive 7, 62
– – Sherman, Michael 13
– – Stagg, Matt 31
– – Taylor, Max 34
– – Watson, Howard 13, 18, 42, 64
– – Alvarez, Luis 59
– – Bonfield, Sir Peter 7
– – Bronsgeest, Rogier 30
– – Bushell, Delia 30
– – Chanmugam, Tony 9
– – Hanif, Mansoor 29
– – Livingston, Ian 7
– – Petter, John 35, 37
– – Reynolds, Paul 31
– – Verwaayen, Ben 7
– Openreach 6, 7, 9, 13, 14, 16, 21, 22, 24, 25, 30, 38, 42, 51, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67
Check Point Software 59
– Meraki 54, 70
Cisco Systems, Inc. 15, 54, 58, 59, 70
CityFibre 62, 65, 66
– Three Group
– – Three UK 25
Colt Technology Services 30
Commonwealth Games 30, 31
Computer Sciences Corp 31
Daisy Group 53
– Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) 62
Deutsche Telekom 7, 17, 24, 25, 38, 48
– T-Mobile 48
Digital Britain 62
Ericsson 13, 17, 48, 49
European Union 25, 57
Football Association 44
– Football League 44
– Premier League 44, 45, 69
Genesis Technical Systems 67
Getronics NV 30, 31
Goldman Sachs 65
Google 39, 40, 53
Home Office (UK) 47
Huawei Technologies 13, 17, 31, 67
IR Prognosis 59
KDDI Group 20
Kent County Council 62
KCOM 21, 65
Korea Telecom 31
Lancashire County Council 55
Liberty Global 17
– Virgin Media 21
– – Virgin Mobile 21
Liverpool City Council 55
London Stock Exchange 31
M&G Prudential 31, 66
– InfraCapital 31, 66
Mobile Broadband Network Ltd (MBNL) 25
– Airwave 47
National Audit Office 47
– Netcracker 20
NetApp, Inc. (Network Appliance) 59
Netflix 34, 39, 41, 42
Nokia 17, 58, 64
– Nuage Networks 58, 59
Ofcom 9, 15, 22, 31, 45, 66
– USO 66
Orange 20, 31, 58
Orange Business Services 58
Palo Alto 59
Phorm, Inc. (121Media) 31
Post Office 45
Riverbed Technology 58, 59
Samsung 17, 39
Scottish Football Association
– Scottish Premier League 44
Skybox Security 59
Sunset + Vine 44
Symantec 54, 59
TalkTalk Telecom Group 31, 35, 51, 53, 66, 67
Tech City 55
Tech Mahindra 18, 20
Telecom Infra Project 67
Telecom Italia SpA 20
Telecom New Zealand 31
Telenor 17, 20
Telstra 17, 31, 58
The Number 45
TM Forum 20
Transport for London 31
– Champions League 44
– Europa League 44
Ultimate Fighting Championship 43
United Nations 17
Verizon Communications 17, 31
Vodafone 47, 62, 65
– UK 47, 62, 65
Walt Disney Company, The
– ESPN 44
– MEC 28
YouView 25, 31, 39, 41
– Meek, Kip 31
Published: May 2018
Next report: June 2018
For more information visit: BTwatch