Telecommunications and IT are two industries that, over the years, grew to be inseparable from one another. The advent of 5G enhanced the synergies between the two fields to become almost indistinguishable, allowing us to enjoy the best of both worlds. It is only fair to say that 5G is driving the 4th industrial revolution leveraging this new Telco Cloud field.
The revolutionary transformation kicked off thanks to disaggregation of software from hardware in network functions and the rise of SDN and NFV which are at the main enablers of 5G.
This strong synergy of 5G, IT and cloud has granted Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) tools and methods enabling them to propose new services with a shorter time to market (TTM), and to integrate, automate and deliver faster than ever before.
Being an in-demand skill on the job market, learning 5G is undeniably a good path to take. However, getting started in the field, given the important number of articles and information out there, proves often to be a very difficult challenge.
So, I’m writing in an attempt to clear some of the common misunderstandings and offer a little guidance for you in your exciting journey.
Here are four things you should keep in mind if you want to learn 5G the right way.
Learning 5G means a lot of practicing of the cloud technologies
It is tempting to treat 5G as a pure 3GPP standard evolution with new protocols and options on a new spectrum frequency. However, that would neglect the radical changes it made on the deployment and the significant influence it had on the design. As you know by now (if you haven’t skipped the introduction), 5G is more than just telco. On your learning journey, you’re likely to encounter many cloud technologies that you need to get familiar with in order to fully understand 5G.
It’s now possible to build a lab environment for practice
In my previous point, I emphasized practicing the technologies. Theoretical knowledge is fundamental, but it will only get you so far, and it’s necessary that you put that knowledge to work in order to fully grasp the concepts. Practice and exploration are some of the most efficient learning techniques.
Thanks to the advancements of software and open-source in the telco industry, we are able to build a lab environment where you’ll be able to replicate small-scale MNO setups to master 5G fundamentals. The lab is on a functional level compliant with 3GPP (core and RAN), and on a runtime deployment infrastructure level (OpenStack, Docker, Kubernetes) representative of real-world use cases.
The cloud is redefining the traditional roles of telco engineers
The cloud is revolutionizing the whole industry, and the workforce is no exception. For instance, to integrate new VNFs with cloud-based monitoring solutions (Prometheus, Grafana), integration engineers work in a DevOps setup. Their mission is to integrate the requirements of this monitoring job into the DevOps loop (the Dev phase), before delivering to the Ops team. This shift-left DevOps practice intends to deliver a high-quality 5G product that is ready for production, shortens the TTM, and meets the potential that the cloud promises.
Another reason 5G engineers need to be familiar with cloud technologies is the redefinition of usual tasks at the light of this revolution. For instance, tasks that are not mainly operational, such as sales and purchases, where requests for proposals made by MNOs towards vendors for a 5G solution will be answered by a mix of functional responses and deployment constraints. This mix of functional and deployment driven responses that dictate the performance and integration cost of the solution with the MNO environment need deep understanding of the technology.
If there is one thing you should take with you after finishing this post, it’s that 5G is as much cloud as it is telco. And looking at it through these new lenses will clarify things for you and make the learning process much more efficient and fruitful.
Another crucial thing to a better learning experience is practice, and I understand that setting up a lab for that is easier said than done, or at least it seems like it is. Because with LabLabee’s hands-on telco cloud labs, it’s actually easy! All you need, is to plug into our instantly accessible 5G lab and you’ll be able to test real-world scenarios while advancing at your own pace.
If that's something you're interested in, you can learn more about it here.
And as always, I’ll see you very soon.