Large scale architecture upgrade needed to deal with growing network use

Posted by: Jo Love
Category: News

We read with interest this article by Daniel Thomas at the FT. He looks at the growing pressures of internet use and cloud based networks and how the next disruption will be upgrading the network infrastructure so it’s fit for purpose.

The holy grail for the telecoms industry is a network that is all-powerful, always on and everywhere. This may sound fantastical to those using an unreliable mobile or home broadband connection, but it may be closer than many imagine.

“We think we are at a point where there is a huge disruption coming,” says Marcus Weldon, chief technology officer at Nokia and president of Bell Labs. Telecoms networks have already seen increases in speeds, but experts say a bigger change is needed in order to connect billions of devices in homes, work places and public spaces.

The past few technology cycles have been driven by devices or web services, Mr Weldon says, but the next disruption will be about creating cloud-based networks from which we can instantly access data.

Streaming ultra high-definition television, internet banking, remote healthcare and virtual reality will increasingly depend on near-perfect network quality. A connected car is useless without a connection, and that connection needs to be flawless to prevent accidents.

“Every device, every media, every person will be connected,” says Mr Weldon. “Mundane tasks will be taken away by algorithms that can automate large chunks of everyday life. The network is cool again because it enables a new human existence.”

Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms group, expects there to be 28bn connected devices by 2021 — of which only 9bn will be traditional mobile subscriptions. The rest will be “things”, as applications for connected homes and cities become reality.

But new network architecture is needed. “All available tech is maxed out,” Mr Weldon says. “We built a network for people but in future every person will have 100 connected things.”

Fibre networks capable of carrying vast amounts of data across countries will need to be expanded. Telecoms groups are squeezing more out of the older copper cables using technologies such as G.Fast or vectoring, which can achieve speeds of 500 megabits per second (Mbps). But many analysts see this as a stopgap.

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