The Impact of 5G on Major Events Around the World

The transition from 4G to 5G wireless networks is a hot topic at Mobile World Congress 2017, with various industry players speculating on the near-term and long-term impact of fifth-generation cellular technology. Against that backdrop, VMware’s own Pat Gelsinger, along with Patrick Adiba, Group EVP & Chief Commercial Officer at Atos, took to the keynote stage to share a perspective on what it will take to deploy 5G successfully in the coming years, with a focus on global sporting events as a natural proving ground for the promise and potential of 5G.

Gelsinger and Adiba explored several provocative questions related to 5G: For example, with the exponential increase in data speeds promised by 5G, can we expect a new wave of immersive 3D experiences at massive scale? What are the security implications of the 5G standard? Can 5G address some of the economic constraints currently holding back innovation in new mobile services? When you consider global sporting events such as the World Cup or Olympic Games, is there an opportunity to fundamentally change the viewing experience for billions worldwide, especially as we move to a software-driven, cloud model for media production and distribution?

Together, VMware’s Gelsinger and Atos’ Adiba laid out three imperatives for the mobile industry in order to realize the full potential of 5G.

  1. There will be two kinds of 5G deployments – successful ones that leverage Network Functions Virtualization — and a second category that fails because they did not harness virtualized networks.

5G networks are the next wave of mobile infrastructure upgrades; it will be largest capital investment in our lifetimes. We are already looking toward building platforms for APIs and services not yet invented. One of the most exciting aspects of 5G is that it is natively based on a virtualized architecture. Highly personalized services like network slicing, which are enabled by virtualization, will make very efficient use of new spectrum while allowing carriers to deploy a multitude of new services.

Today, wireless carriers have massive reach and capacity via their sophisticated networks, but they lack compute capacity. For their part, over-the-top players bring massive compute capabilities via their investment in sophisticated cloud services and server capacity, but they lack network capacity to support such major events.

In an era defined by the consumerization of IT, the customer experience drives everything – and in real time. With 5G, capacity will move around where it’s needed – in mere milliseconds. 5G networks will constantly adapt to customer behavior, in real time.

  1. Cyber security and physical security are intrinsic and integrated – they are one and the same in a 5G world.

Much like athletes constantly strive to improve their performances, cyber training never stops as hackers are always on the lookout to thwart flaws in a system and technology companies improve ways to protect customers. The reality is that the more data you transmit over the air, the greater the attack surface and the more exposed you are to the threat of cyber-attacks. At VMware, we’re driving breakthrough innovation in how you manage and secure billions of devices – extending out to the growing cadre of “things” now connected to the internet.

Security principles are now less about the multitude of security products and more about a well-built secure infrastructure where capabilities are foundational. You can’t turn it off because it’s micro-segmented out of the box – another key innovation migrating from the enterprise world to the benefit of telco networks.

The traditional approach is all about developing strong perimeter protection to keep threats on the outside of a network. However, this model is ineffective for handling the increasing influx of new types of threats – including advanced persistent threats and coordinated attacks. Micro-segmentation compartmentalizes your environment, creating more in-depth data center security. It’s like staging a bank break-in, but only breaching the lobby instead of getting near the vault. Breaking. Using micro-segmentation to leverage 5G innovations in IoT & identity management will help secure athletes, journalists, and fans alike at major events.

  1. New, immersive experiences become possible with 5G+NFV – but we need to master physics in new ways.

Immersive experiences require a new mastery of physics. The laws of physics continue to stand – despite Moore’s Law in the sphere of technology innovation – but we can continue to improve immersive experiences by improving our understanding and ability to direct actions.

Experiences such as virtual reality create massive demand on the “capture side” enabling viewers to experience an image of what it’s like to stand on the soccer pitch, with players wearing wearable cameras. Traditional demand focused primarily on downloads. But 5G enables the ability to stream similarly for uploads – streaming multiple syncronous video because you can’t deliver an immersive experience on something remote.

However, 5G lies within the extremely high frequency band, making it extremely succeptible to atmospheric absorption, thus restricting the transmission range. This brings us back full circle to the importance of NFV, allowing virtualization to create a highly distributed cloud edge architecture.

Mobile technology plays a pivotal role in the modern event experience, from broadcasting, fan engagement, crowd management, to ticketing and security. In effect it is a showcase for how mobile can be used diversely and most effectively. But it’s not just about the sporting events engagement and management, it is also critical to monitoring and improving sporting performance through wearable technology.

There are multiple elements required to deliver a major event on a global scale – media production, distribution, business service systems, networking and security, and IoT and analytics – all currently at different points on the journey to a more agile, virtualized and software-defined model. Previously, each of these building blocks would require its own dedicated silo, but with the adoption and development of 5G, in the future all this will become one large virtual cloud.