The telecommunications industry is once again facing significant upheaval. It’s driven by a new wave of innovation shaped by open source technology. Networks are also becoming more capable of offering new platforms and connectivity capabilities. This is giving rise to ‘network natives’ – industrials and enterprises whose business depends on reliable, high performance connectivity.

The real power of 5G

With this backdrop, my focus for 2020 is on the platform created by advances in technologies such as 5G NR, network slicing and edge computing. It is here where ambitious operators should be alive to the huge revenue potential offered by sectors such as automotive, healthcare and manufacturing.

We’ve arrived at this threshold of opportunity after a few short years of rapid evolution. The easy availability of broadband connectivity has spawned the Netflix generation of cloud native companies. With little infrastructure of their own, they typically rely on public or hybrid cloud infrastructure to bring best effort broadband connectivity to their customers. Such companies are characterised by fast service launch, fast growth and optimised financials – their costs scale with traffic and are driven by the subscription fees they pay to their cloud hosts.

What’s the significant shift? We are now seeing more and more companies with infrastructure that consists of both cloud and private networks for high-performance service enablement (a growing opportunity with the advent of private, virtualized 5G networks). We’ve coined the term ‘network native’ to reflect their ability to provide significantly higher levels of quality and experience by customising connectivity. Just as powerfully, they are integrating their customer-facing operations with internal business processes to achieve levels of automation and efficiency well beyond the reach of other enterprises.

Huge value for the telecoms industry

‘Network native’ capability, then, represents huge value to the telecoms industry. But what does it take to move beyond a one-size-fits all network approach and integrate a much more customised model? Let’s start by providing some context. It is already clear that simply providing more and more network capacity is not enough to release the desired new revenue streams of 5G. There are many services that industry is seeking to address with Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) capabilities where the experience is closely coupled to the capabilities of the underlying network. They include radio networks for emergency services, railways, resource extraction, manufacturing and air traffic control.

Intimate knowledge of the challenges of those environments and the requirements of those industries is needed to ensure that solutions address expectations. It’s also necessary to augment the 5G platform with other capabilities to support high-performance connectivity. A good example is the provision of functionality executed at the network edge to be tightly integrated with device functionality via URLLC.

Device complexity and cost is optimised by locating functionality in the network edge and incorporating it seamlessly into the functionality of the product. Take, for instance, augmented reality spectacles. The compute needed to create the augmented image is performed in the network edge and combined with the spectacles via URLLC 5G connectivity.

Cellular connectivity continues to extend into increasingly demanding environments. At the same time, the services in question are becoming more safety critical. Just look at the control of robots in warehouses and factory environments. The precise orchestration of large numbers of robots is just as essential for human workers as it is for the efficient operation of facilities.

Robust, high-performance technologies

As a society we have become more and more accustomed to always being connected, and we expect it everywhere – from aviation and underground trains, to remote and rural areas. To keep us all happy, the provision of mobile broadband service is becoming increasingly reliant on technologies capable of coping with long range, high speed and high Doppler shift requirements. We’re on firm ground here at Cambridge Consultants, thanks to our record of developing robust, high-performance technologies for the likes of aviation, satellite, manufacturing and transportation.

As well as entire systems and solutions, we have developed several specific products and technologies. They include advanced antenna systems, semiconductors and devices, PHY layers for demanding applications and techniques that optimise the handling of interference, propagation challenges and Doppler impact. Developing software defined radios that allow highly adaptive and flexible performance is another string to our bow. The video below tells the story of our game-changing air traffic control radio system for Northrop Grumman Park Air Systems. The sector is defined by its incredible focus on robustness, reliability and quality. This key enabling technology for the business provides highly reliable voice and data communications to much of the commercial air traffic between Europe and North America.

If you’d like to explore any aspect of connectivity – including how we can help realise your business ambitions – I’d be more than happy to chat. Please don’t hesitate to drop me an email.

Dr. Derek Long
Head of Telecoms & Mobile

Derek leads our collaboration within the telecoms and mobile sector, helping create breakthrough innovations that transforms the delivery of high-performance communication - for mobile carriers and ISPs to vendors and component manufacturers. With over 20 years’ experience in mobile technology, Derek has held a range senior management roles with multinationals and has a wealth of expertise across all generations of mobile and broadband technology, including LTE-A and 5G. Derek holds a PhD in telecommunications from the University of Bristol.