During Keysight World 2021, Keysight's head of commercial communications, Kailash Narayanan, kicked off the future of connectivity track by outlining major themes and milestones shaping the future of connectivity.
He described how customer needs and expectations have changed in the past 18 months due to COVID. Fast, dependable connectivity has become our collective lifeblood and is essential for consumers, enterprises, and governments. Increased dependency on connected devices has also led to new and more urgent customer expectations. This, combined with increasing technology adoption, is driving the need for better connectivity.
"In a bit of serendipity, the ongoing rollout of 5G is enabling game-changing connectivity," said Kailash. "The power of 5G will also accelerate the digital transformation of multiple industries."
In this article, we break down the key takeaways from Kailash’s keynote, including a vision for the future of connectivity and how we'll get there.
Three Requirements for Better Connectivity
Network modernization, new use cases and business models, and the evolution of 6G are three themes paving the way for better connectivity.
Some have joked that when it comes to modern networks, everything but the antenna is software. "This is getting closer and closer to the truth," said Kailash. "To meet the demands of consumers enterprise for connectivity, bandwidth, and latency, the network needs to offer unprecedented scale at a lower cost. Solutions include virtualization and autonomous management."
Broader network coverage and higher bandwidths will enable a myriad of new vertical markets and industrial applications and provide additional growth.
Next, the development of new use cases and business models will enable new revenue streams. For mobile network operators, consumer wireless still accounts for more than 70 percent of annual revenues. Broader network coverage and higher bandwidths will enable a myriad of new vertical markets and industrial applications and provide additional growth.
As the global rollout of 5G continues, research into 6G is picking up, the goal is to deliver the evolutionary and revolutionary changes needed to enable a vision of pervasive connectivity.
What to Expect in the Next Five Years
Kailash focused on the benefits that commercial communication can deliver to consumers, businesses, and governments in the next five years. In parallel, the pressure from customer expectations continues to increase as more users, devices, and use-cases demand the best quality of service (QoS).
"These expectations are all about dependable, pervasive, and seamless connectivity—and 5G will enable this, likely being available to 60 percent of the global population by 2026," said Kailash. Ericsson expects 5G subscriptions to grow to more than 3 billion, and some forecasts predict that by that time, 5G networks will carry more than 50 percent of total mobile data traffic.
These expectations are all about dependable, pervasive, and seamless connectivity—and 5G will enable this, likely being available to 60 percent of the global population by 2026.
His proposed predictions are based, in part, on an expanding array of new possibilities:
- Mobile cloud-gaming, expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 41 percent
- New industrial use-cases, which could be a $1 trillion business by 2028
- Connected transportation, which is crucial to autonomous vehicles
- NTN uses constellations of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites
- As many as six billion cellular IoT connections, with half being "mission-critical IoT"
While growth may come from the next "killer app," significant opportunities are likely to come from areas such as new services for retail and industrial applications, including private networks. He noted that there could also be opportunities to create lucrative new marketplaces no one has yet imagined.
What to Expect in the Next Decade
Early 6G networks are expected to ramp and create a convergence of the physical, digital, and human worlds through applications, computing, and communications in the next decade. Some have called this new level of interaction the Internet of Everything.
"One key characteristic will be the co-existence and seamless integration of heterogenous radio-access technologies, far beyond what is possible today," said Kailash. "6G use cases will also drive the need for higher data rates. This entails using a spectrum above 100 GHz with multi-gigahertz bandwidths while also making even more use of bands below 100 GHz. Spectral efficiency, energy efficiency, and waveform design will play crucial roles."
With such dramatic changes in the interactions of humans, machines, and the connected world, trust and security must be designed from the beginning.
He posed that AI-driven network management will enable flexibility, and time-engineering will be necessary to facilitate new use cases. 5G's low-latency benchmarks will be augmented by time-predictability, in which the absolute time of arrival of data (neither too soon nor too late) will be precise. Time-predictability requires exceptional capabilities in time synchronization and routing control.
"With such dramatic changes in the interactions of humans, machines, and the connected world, trust and security must be designed from the beginning," said Kailash. "The consequences of hacks and breaches are already severe—so 6G will need to achieve high levels of sophistication in detecting and neutralizing threats while enhancing threat prevention and organizational resiliency."
To realize some of these future benefits, fundamental changes need to start now. One of the approaches leading the way is the open radio-access networks or open RAN, which rearranges traditional monolith radio access networks into modular and disaggregated building blocks.
"This approach standardizes interfaces in a disaggregated RAN architecture to enable flexible network deployment, and it also drives a common approach to virtualizing the RAN," said Kailash. "Open RAN has evolved into the concept of the RAN intelligent controller or RIC, which is an initial step towards the inevitability of merging the RAN and the core network."
While this has the advantage of reducing infrastructure costs and enabling flexible expansion for mobile operators, it brings new challenges:
- Interoperability amongst network elements from different vendors, both software and hardware
- Open interfaces also increase the security attack surface, demanding more and better security measures
He noted that Keysight and industry leaders are actively engaging together to address these challenges through an organization called the O-RAN Alliance.
This is a unique opportunity to facilitate change within organizations and across the industry. The opportunity starts with developing ways to accelerate new use cases, but it is also critical to managing crucial risks.
"A clear mindset can help accelerate new use cases," said Kailash. "Moving from vision to action to success starts, as always, with speed of execution. This is even more important for those seeking differentiation through new business models that will focus the technology on areas that will ensure the most impact."
Moving from vision to action to success starts, as always, with speed of execution. This is even more important for those seeking differentiation through new business models.
He continued, "Business is always about managing risks. New technologies must be developed and validated quickly and confidently. So, whether you are making semiconductors, network systems, or user equipment (or other new devices); whether you are a service provider, hyper-scaler, or an automotive OEM, creating new alliances based on shared goals has proven to be another key to success."
Ultimately, the new critical use cases will require research, design, and validation alongside processes. From semiconductor device physics to advanced radio systems to autonomous and virtualized network systems, making it all work will require expertise and tools that assess everything from physical and functional behavior to QoS.
Making Our Way Forward
For companies such as Keysight, our role is to help the industry accelerate innovation and thereby accelerate progress towards dependable connectivity, new possibilities, and exceptional user experience. Keysight is looking forward to partnering with innovators and the industry to forge this new path together and shape connectivity's future.