20 Words for 2020 Networks – Part 2 (11-20)

By Dudy Cohen

2020 is here and I’m trying to anticipate the 20 words and phrases that will dominate our network-related discussions in 2020 and the coming years. In part 1  we covered words 1-10.

Now let’s move on to words 11-20…

11. Disaggregation

Disaggregation is a major building block of open networks, and it’s anticipated to gain momentum in 2020. While not a new concept, I believe we will see more and more disaggregation efforts in different parts and directions of the network. In vertical disaggregation, we will split software from hardware in order to leverage COTS hardware economies of scale. In horizontal disaggregation, specific building blocks of the network (base station, optical transport, and wireless backhaul, to name a few) are split into smaller building blocks, enabling greater flexibility and scalability – including the possibility of migrating some network functionality to the cloud.

12. Cloud

The public cloud industry will continue to grow rapidly in 2020, with public cloud spending expected to reach $500B by 2023. This major trend calls for more capacity, higher availability and lower latency from networks in 2020. It also allows hosting of network functions and bundling of cloud offerings by network operators such as AT&T (partnering with Microsoft) and Verizon (collaborating with Amazon). On top of that, this will also require additional attention to network security.

13. Security

Security is becoming more of an issue as networks become more crucial for business continuity as well as personal and road safety, and in general as networks become mission-critical infrastructure. All these trends will keep the 5G security discussion a major part the agenda in 2020. This will also include, as in 2019, some geopolitical forces such as US President Trump.

14. Trump

In 2019, the US president led a trend of raising security concerns with regards to the role of Chinese vendors in the buildout of 5G infrastructure. This discussion is likely to continue in 2020 and will affect, one way or the other, mobile networks around the world.

15. AI / BD / ML 

As networks become much more complicated, they are harder to manage, maintain and optimize. In 2020 we will see more and more artificial intelligence, big data and machine learning tools that will help network operators plan, simulate, analyze, optimize and predict network and service performance. Some say it will lead to making networks cognitive. On the practical side, operators are building big data platforms to help them handle the above-mentioned challenges and the multiplied magnitude of those challenges as they undergo network slicing.

16. Network slicing

5G brings a multitude of new services. For each service, networks need to provide a totally different set of resources (imagine the differences between mobile gaming and agriculture sensors in terms of capacity, mobility, coverage, etc.). This calls for network slicing, which will also allow operators to offer new services to business customers, creating more revenue streams. Network slicing shall be implemented in all network domains, from network core to 5G NR, and will require advanced provisioning mechanisms that probably will be based on SDN.

17. SDN

Software-defined networking (SDN) is not a new concept, but it is considered to be a key enabler of 5G services. The need for service orchestration and service provisioning in a sliced network environment make the old-school domain-by-domain manual provisioning practice a not-scalable one. SDN can resolve this challenge and provide networks with the flexibility, efficiency and agility they will need to carry much more content in 2020.

18. Content

If content was king in 2019, it’s even more than that in 2020. After discussing gaming earlier, let’s have a look at video content. The trend of content-owner to content-consumer direct engagement was led for many years (and still is) by Netflix, with some competition from Hulu (now owned by Disney) and Amazon Prime Video. 2019 saw the introduction of Apple TV+ and, perhaps more significantly, the successful launch of Disney+. Those will be joined in Q2/2020 by two operator-owned content giants, with the launch of AT&T/WarnerMedia’s HBO Max and Comcast/NBCUniversal’s Peacock. This practically means that the move to on-demand TV is almost completed. This also means a lot more unicast traffic across any type of network. This is why smart ways to handle content and content delivery are crucial parts of any discussion about networks in 2020. On the other hand, linear programming is not dead altogether. There are two areas in which linear programming cannot be replaced in the foreseeable future – news and sports. And in 2020, sports are all about Tokyo.

19. Tokyo

The 32nd Olympic Games, to be held in Tokyo in mid-2020, much like other global sporting events will surely break records – not only in sports, but also in content consumption and technology innovation. The Olympics are often the ground for testing and demonstrating new services as well as enabling new ways of watching the games (interactive views, any-device streaming, 4K resolution, etc.) All of this means a lot to network infrastructure, from international connectivity to 5G NR.

20. 5G NR / mmW

5G NR (New Radio) is one of the most important and innovative of 5G developments. Its support of physical-layer network slicing, massive MIMO, wide channels and millimeter wave (mmW) spectrum makes it a vital part of any network discussion in 2020. One sub-topic that will be of extra importance is mmW. In 5G, mmW spectrum is considered anything above 24GHz (even though the accurate range starts from 30GHz) and is usually referred to as high-band. This is the holy grail of wide channels, allowing up to 400MHz channels that enable the true promise of 5G ultra broadband capacity. Initial 5G deployments used, in most cases, low and mid-band spectrum, but current and planned spectrum auctions suggest high-band 5G NR rollout in 2020. One cannot stress enough how important this is to networks and services in 2020.

That’s it. Those are my 20 words for networks in 2020.

I wish all of us an extremely successful, interesting and peaceful 2020.