Opportunity or Hype? A Virtual Networks Event Review

On Wednesday 8th February, CW ventured to Adastral Park to host the first Virtual Networks SIG event of 2017. It was kindly sponsored by BT and run in association with Innovation Martlesham which welcomed around 70 delegate to the impressive John Bray Lecture Theatre.

The event kicked-off with lunch and networking which included a technical demo by Cambridge Consultants. Mark England, Associate Director at CCL said

 ‘5G will bring a significant increase in radio complexity which, with traditional analogue RF architectures, may be difficult and costly to realise.  This demonstrator shows how a fully digital transceiver,  with a 1GHz bandwidth and outputs of up to 12GHz, can be built using current digital technology in a cost and power effective way. The demonstrator gives us a glimpse of how it might be possible to realise the kind of radio that the 5G vision requires.’

Cambridge Consultants demo at a CW Virtual Networks event

 

The audience included a variety of delegate expertise spanning technical, consultancy and marketing across the CW membership, Innovation Martlesham hi-tech cluster and a generous handful of BT engineers. Those not familiar with the work of BT at Adastral Park were well informed by Kevin Woollard, Operations Director, R&I and Adastral Park who shared a rich history of the oldest telecoms park.

Slide showing a variety of BT milestones

BT Firsts. Do you remember them?

Aria CTO Jay Perrett opened up the technical presentations by pointing out that 5G will present new challenges of operating at speed and scale. While tremendous opportunity exists, it is really dependent on being able to make complex, objective-driven decisions – exactly the sort of problem that AI and Machine Learning are essential for. [Read their post-event write up here]

The 5G Driver for BT, Andy Corston-Petrie continued the momentum of a phenomenal demand for slick broadband networks in today’s culture of content sharing across multiple devices. Being able to share infrastructure is important and 5G helps network slices to be elastic and flexible. Regardless of the business mission, integration all the way to the customer domain should remain a core focus, was Andy’s trailing keynote.

Reiterating the previous speakers demand that network slicing should be flexible, agile and adaptable, Julian Ramos of Intel  continued but with this hardware hat. Intel are striving to innovate in the hardware, leaving software innovation for a crowded marketplace. His final point; ultimately, NFV is fundamental for 5G.

Building on Andy’s presentation around todays social network society, Stewart Lacey of Ericsson gave a nod to digital disruption which is generating a latent market for the internet of things. He believes 5G isn’t a ‘thing’ that will arrive a specific point in time, instead proving itself more and more to be a gradual process. What does the future network actually look like? There is a reasonable consensus that virtualisation is needed for a 5G ready core. The bigger debate seems to be around network slicing and the extent to which it is needed as a dynamic/ scalable capability.

This subject was explored further in the panel discussion. Scalable network slicing (ie the ability to support a large and growing number of slices) will require a significant investment in automation. Operators will only invest if they understand how they are going to monetize the resulting opportunities. 5G will need to support many different business models and relationships. Network slicing could provide the necessary flexibility and separation of concern, potentially providing a vehicle to enable new business opportunities

Innovation Martlesham, a key strategic partner of CW, was delighted to support this and they look forward to working closely with CW on future events.

To view the speaker slides, please download from the CW website here. 

Dirk Trossen presenting at Virtual Networks event at Adastral Park