Bottlenecks Be Gone! Unleashing the Potential of 5G







5G is here, and the world-wide rollout is ongoing. 5G is more than simply a faster signal to your cellphone. It’s an evolution across the entire network ecosystem. It promises blazing fast speeds, lower latency, and improved overall coverage to support the full potential of the growing Internet of Things (IoT).

Higher data rates and the network densification needed to support 5G is putting pressure on many elements of an operator’s network. Densification refers to operators integrating more network elements into any given space. This may be through additional cell towers or the deployment of small-cell radio networks, which takes advantage of the newly available mmWave radio spectra. So where are we seeing the bottleneck in these network build-outs? Well, it depends!

What Does 5G Look Like to You?
A bottleneck is a particular challenge as you plan and deploy your 5G network. Where you might see a bottleneck typically depends on the resources currently at your disposal and where you’re planning to build. From an optical networking point of view, whether you’re upgrading an existing rural cellular network or implementing a pole-mounted urban small-cell system – these present their own unique challenges.

  • Small Cell or DAS Density– In dense urban layouts, from lamp pole mounting or going rooftop to rooftop, more densely packed radios means more optics in a given area. Small-cell and DAS (Distributed Antenna System) solutions have been around for a while but are becoming more and more ubiquitous in 5G architectures. Typically, fiber availability becomes the chief bottleneck. CWDM, DWDM, and BIDI optics can help make the most out of limited fiber resources in Small Cell and DAS deployments.
  • Fronthaul Data Rate – What was once a 1Gbps signal to the radio is now 10Gbps, and 25G is on the doorstep. The transceivers may look the same (SFP/SFP+/SFP28), but the jump from 1G to 10G and 10G to 25G comes with technical challenges and limitations. Chief of these technical challenges is the module power dissipation, especially of interest in temperature hardened outdoor environments. The bottleneck in this case is the technological innovation (e.g., introduction of the 4nm silicon process) to help drive down module power dissipation even as the data rates go up.
  • Backhaul Data Rate – If the CPRI/eCPRI fronthaul rates are jumping to 10/25G, so too are the backhaul optics (from 10G to 100G, and soon enough to 400G). For backhaul spans >40km, 100G options are available, but the 400G bottleneck will need to be addressed by 400G ZR/ZR+ optics in the coming year.
  • Single Fiber Solutions – Whether fronthaul or backhaul, if you’re already looking to leverage off your current single-fiber (BIDI) solutions, the bottleneck may be the availability of specific 10G, 25G, or 100G BIDIs as you look at those data rate upgrade options.
  • Datacenter Connectivity – All that wireless backhaul traffic eventually gets pulled back into the core, putting pressure on your core router density. That bottleneck – faceplate density on the core routers and switches – is being addressed by the proliferation of 200G/400G QSFP-DD transceivers, AOCs, and DACs.

Wherever your bottleneck(s) may be, there are optical solutions to help. Depending on the geography, available wireless spectrum, real-estate, and fiber resources, the rollout of 5G will look different from one provider to the next. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The bottleneck in your network upgrade can often be addressed with an innovative and creative optical solution. Reach out to your Integra Sales or Engineering partner to discuss the bottleneck in your upcoming 5G solutions.