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Wednesday, October 02, 2019

5G & Neutral-Host Thought Experiment #1

Reposted & extended from original LinkedIn post (link) - main comment thread on that page

Here's a thought experiment, to test your ideas about 5G, indoor wireless, neutral-host networks, URLLC and network-slicing.

It's a plausible scenario which seems simple, but actually has lots of complexities. It's the sort of thing that marketing departments might suggest as a use-case for 5G, but in reality, "it's not that simple".

Imagine it's the year 2025. 

There's a large office building on a business park... with a faulty elevator. The elevator company sends out one of its local maintenance engineers, who works as a contractor. 

He arrives with an AR headset, running an application to deliver repair instructions and record the fix, linked to the manufacturer's cloud-based diagnostics, image-analysis and compliance/recording platform. Given the safety issues such as fall-risks, it needs a low-latency connection to avoid the risk of nausea and distraction. 

But.... what's the network coverage like in the lift-shaft? Is there outside-in signal with <1GHz 5G? Or is there a DAS or multi-operator small-cell system? Is there a private cellular network with local spectrum? Does it support integration with all outdoor / public networks equally well? Can it support URLLC with a guaranteed SLA? What network is the engineer's headset SIM registered on, anyway? Is there a voice/video connection for looping in a remote expert? And how would that work?

Whose responsibility is all of this? Is it down to the building owner? A smart-building specialist? A neutral-host provider? Should the elevator manufacturer integrate local connectivity with Wi-Fi or 5G NR-U? How do they deal with sub-contractors? Is it possible for "slices" or performance guarantees to work on the indoor (possibly private) network? Is there a separate core network for the indoor system? Who designs, tests or pays for it? Who's liable if the network fails? Is there any need for edge-compute and storage as part of the application design - and if so, where is it and how is it accessed?
There are no easy answers here. The real world for many "5G" applications is going to have to deal with these heterogeneous situations, with workarounds and fallbacks. 

In this case, it seems pretty clear that the AR headset will have to have an offline mode, with blueprints & manuals stored on itself, or the engineer's phone or PC. Or the engineer will use the headset to record video, and then go back outside the building to upload it & call in for advice. Inefficient, but safer. When good-quality coverage is available inside the elevator shaft, the work can be concluded faster & more reliably - but it won't always be possible.

This is the first of a series of "5G Thought Experiments" that will help people think more about realistic scenarios and use-cases. I'll be focusing on ones that touch on opportunities for 5G, Wi-Fi6, neutral-host, cloud-native and private cellular. I'll be doing some as podcasts, so sign up here. I'll also be touching on these in my upcoming Neutral Host workshop on November 21st 2019. Details here.

1 comment:

Rashmita said...
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