Verizon official outlines potential 5G benefits for critical-communications users
Public safety and other critical-communications users should benefit significant from Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband, the millimeter-wave offering that promises to deliver unprecedented data speeds, low latencies, quality of service and security, according to an official for the nationwide carrier.
John Harris, Verizon’s federal director of mobility solutions, said during his keynote address at IWCE Virtual 2020 that the company’s 5G Ultra Wideband—utilizing hundreds of MHz of millimeter-wave spectrum—“will give you incredible speeds” of 2-4 Gbps, but such data throughputs are only the beginning.
“Thinking about previous changes, they really have been focused on speed or generating something new or connecting new devices,” Harris said. “Now, it’s really about delivery in real time. So, this Fourth Industrial Revolution is at our doorstep, and it’s really something that I think will make a meaningful difference to so many of us in ways we really have not been able to probably understand or recognize today.
“It’s also about providing quality of service and reliability of service that we’ve really not been able to see in wireless networks before … There are many, many things that we should be thinking about when we’re talking about 5G that are more than a faster phone, that are really powering this platform of technology and this platform of industrial revolution.”
While nationwide competitors AT&T and T-Mobile also are deploying 5G, those carriers have focused their efforts on limited amounts of spectrum below 1 GHz, resulting in vast amounts of 5G coverage but only modest performance gains over the most recent generations of 4G. In contrast, Verizon’s 5G strategy emphasizes the use of massive amounts of spectrum in millimeter-wave band—an approach that delivers high data throughputs but typically provides only spotty coverage in cities where it is deployed currently.
In an effort to make this vision a reality, Ultra Wideband leverages a dense array of small cells, “a lot of fiber” for backhaul, software-defined networking and edge computing to deliver what Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg calls the “eight currencies” of 5G, according to Harris.
One of the most-anticipated of these 5G features is network slicing, which lets carriers provide precisely the type of connectivity needed for a given application, instead of simply treating all packets the same, according to Harris.
“If you have a high-definition video camera on the street corner, that certainly has specific needs. It requires a specific amount of data. It requires a quality of service that needs to be delivered,” he said. “If you have a sensor sitting in a trash can or tracking a shipment that’s going down the road, that solution also has very specific requirements—very specific data sensitivities.
“What we can now do with network slicing is provide a very specific quality of service or solution inside of the network for that particular use case. So, the video camera can get the high bandwidth that it needs. The sensor can get the constant connectivity—but low bandwidth—that it needs. It create the ability for us to slice the network and provide dedicated resources to each one of those end devices in a way that has not been able to be done before.”
Combining this network-slicing capability with machine edge compute (MEC)—also known as multi-access edge compute—“is where it gets really exciting,” Harris said.
“Now, instead of applications running applications all the way back to a data center—wherever that might be—and then back to the edge device, now the processing is happening at the edge of the network,” Harris said.
“So, for an augmented-reality or virtual-reality solution that requires ultra-low latency, we now get sub-10-millisecond latency for those type of solutions and a truly transformative experience. You can now start to see things like an augmented-reality solution come to life in the real world—not just on TV or in the movies.”
Perhaps most important to the public-safety and critical-communications sector, 5G Ultra Wideband is designed to deliver enhanced security and reliability to end users, Harris said.
“All of this great stuff—the density of network, the amount of information we can move, the analytics that we can get with all of this information—it wouldn’t be worth it, if it was in the wrong hands, if we were not able to secure the communications,” Harris said. “One of the things that is critically important … is that we build this network with security in mind, using things like a software-defined perimeter and very specific security protocols.
“We’re taking all of those precaution into mind, to ensure that—as we build this platform and as we see this fourth industrial revolution really come to light—there is security, there is confidence, and there is reliability built into the network.”
Such security and reliability is designed to let a variety of critical-communications user sectors—governments, utilities and enterprises—feel comfortable enough about the network to trust it to perform appropriately when delivering packets that drive smart-cities, smart-grid and smart-building initiatives.
“When you take the eight 5G currencies, you mix that with the network slicing, and then start to add the edge computing, you really have an experience that we’ve never been able to see before in a wireless environment,” Harris said.
“All of these pieces coming together—that software-defined networking, that multi-access edge compute—really starts to deliver the transformative, industrial-revolution kind of experience we’re talking about.”
With this in mind, Harris said he believe the transition to 5G services will be the most impactful wireless-generation to date.
“I have been at Verizon for 15 years, and I have to say that I have never been more excited than I am right now to talk about what we have going on, where we’re headed and all of the things going on inside of the Verizon world and ecosystem,” Harris said.
“When you’re thinking about 5G, yes, it will be a faster phone. And yes, I will be able to watch a video on my phone in a quicker way or download it in a faster way. But 5G will truly be a transformative experience that will power hundreds of thousands of devices around you—some you may not even realize are there—in order to make your experience, your life and your world better.
“What’s possible with 5G and augmented reality and virtual reality and smart communities and this density of massive IoT connections and sensors? I think it’s really exciting to think about that, and I’m really looking forward to see where this goes.”