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5G Networks: The 20/20 View on 2020

Tomorrow isn’t the time to start building for tomorrow. Future viability depends on building a solid infrastructure today

This article is an excerpt from James Carlini's upcoming book, Location Location Connectivity:

5G Networks are being discussed and better defined by key industry manufacturers and network carriers so they can be deployed in the 2020 time period.  They will represent a giant leap in capacity, baseline speeds and overall capabilities.  They have to.  Consumers are turning to Smartphones and tablets as the new ubiquitous edge technology for all their applications.

Many people have gotten a good taste of smartphones and all the applications they can utilize with them.  Now, the growing demand is there and both the framework of networks as well as their capabilities must be upgraded dramatically to keep up with user demand and exponentially growing traffic.

When approaching a new dynamic area in infrastructure, real estate, or technology, a whole new framework for analysis may be necessary.  Too many people try to fit something new into a traditional framework or traditional analysis model which does not fit as a metric.

Looking into what is needed for a solid platform for global commerce, the main issues are to offer the best and the fastest capabilities.  Speed is always a factor in any transportation medium, including communications. Anyone, or any corporate or political sales pitch, who tells you otherwise is trying to protect obsolete infrastructure and/or poor competitive strategies.

There needs to be a good education of all interested parties instead of having some people hypothesize concepts that will never be prevalent or even applicable. Remember, the network infrastructure is part of the Platform for Commerce. The Platform for Commerce's five millennia focus has been on increasing trade routes and commerce.

Any network being planned today for tomorrow should be conceptualized like this. (See Chart 1)

Chart 1: Design Criteria for Network Speeds




Common End-User/ Subscriber

1 Gbps (One Gigabit per second)

This includes wireless due to what Smartphones are demanding in bandwidth

Industrial Park, Business Campus

Commercial Space


This would include next-generation Intelligent Business Campuses. (Some parks already have multiple carriers providing 40Gbps today.

Downtown/ Commercial Space


For downtown urban areas.

Backbone/ Carrier Backhaul


1 Tbps (One Terabit per second)

This sounds high, but the way demand is growing, this should be the goal.

Let's examine this table and clarify the numbers.

  1. These suggested speeds are for networks that have yet to be installed.  If you are going to build something, at least build something that should last for awhile.
  2. For next-generation Intelligent Business Campuses/ Intelligent Industrial Parks what you offer at any one location is going to dictate what gets puts in (i.e.  if you don't offer high enough access speeds, certain  corporate site selection committees will pass you by depending on what they are looking for)  So if you do set your sights low when it comes to speed, you won't be able to land that corporate facility that you think will move into the business park.
  3. As smartphones and tablets become more ubiquitous, demand for speed (for new apps) will increase and not go down.  Some new installation endeavors (like stadiums and ball parks) have already shown they have been under-engineered, so engineering "rules-of-thumb" haven't caught up with actual demand.  They have fallen behind.

If anything, they (those in long-term network engineering - including those at the carriers) have to leapfrog what is already a current market condition.

We need to focus on getting back in front of the pack when it comes to network infrastructure and moving to Terabit speeds can only open up a whole new class of applications which can only be feasible when networks run at terabit speeds. For the future, we need to strengthen the resiliency of networks as well as increasing their speeds.

5G Networks will be providing some very high speeds to the average user. This means building out the network to specifications which have to include terabit backbones.

Having more bandwidth available will accelerate the amount of applications that are feasible for customer service, video, high-definition video, social networking, and so many other applications.

Data Rate for 5G Networks



100Gbps +

Specialized enterprise users (stationary)


Low-mobility users


High-mobility users


Anywhere (baseline speed)

This gives you a clearer picture as to where network infrastructure is evolving (see Chart 2).

Chart 2: 5G Network Elements


This was an initial concern of network designers for 3G and 4G.


This became a bigger concern as 4G networks got tested by users' applications and increased traffic.


How long will services last before being replaced or discarded?


This is constantly evolving and will impact the above elements.  Influencers in this level include manufacturers, software/ app designers, and customer demands.



Think of this as the political, regulatory, and regional economic development link for the network.  User demand will shape the network, but so will strong regulatory guidelines that could hamper or promote network resiliency and capabilities.  Smart communities will realize that having a solid network infrastructure will directly translate into having a solid economic base.



This is the carrier's focus as to what it wants to provide to the region:  The most advanced, the status quo, or trailing-edge capabilities because they don't see a market or a big return on their investment.


This is the foundation that must be strong and resilient enough to handle everything put on top of it.

Source: James Carlini, All Rights Reserved

In addition to being aware about the growing demand for speed, become more aware of new building blocks for technology as well as the infrastructure and real estate. The faster we can apply cutting-edge solutions to problems, the more competitive we become in the global markets.

More Stories By James Carlini

James Carlini, MBA, a certified Infrastructure Consultant, keynote speaker and former award-winning Adjunct Professor at Northwestern University, has advised on mission-critical networks. Clients include the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, GLOBEX, and City of Chicago’s 911 Center. An expert witness in civil and federal courts on network infrastructure, he has worked with AT&T, Sprint and others.

Follow daily Carlini-isms at

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