The Okay, But How? Show, Episode 2: 5G and low latency


– You know when you pick up
the remote control for your TV and you press Power but nothing happens, so you press it again and the TV finally reacts
to the first button press and switches on but now
your second button press, delayed, cancels out the first one and the TV switches off again. That’s latency. The lag between an action
and the expected reaction, and that’s what this show is all about. (upbeat music playing) Hello, I’m doctor Shini Somara and this is the Okay but How Show. The series that explore the
ins, outs, ups, downs, whys and hows of 5G networks for business. As we saw in the series opener, 5G is much, much more than
just a faster network, though it’s that too. In fact, 5G would take businesses forward with some really big leaps
in speed, capacity, coverage, network density and one of
the most important dimensions of all, the one we’re going
to talk about today, latency, or more specifically, low latency. First, a definition. Latency is the lag between the instruction and the resulting response
between the user’s action and the technology’s reaction. Well, networks have latencies too, and they can cause the same kind of user experience glitches. You send an instruction or a
request to a server somewhere and you might get what feels
like a pretty fast response. But in most cases on
today’s 3G and 4G networks, there’s actually a lag. Anywhere from about 50 milliseconds to a few hundred milliseconds
is fairly normal. The folks at Nokia recently posted a great demonstration of network latency on youtube, using
robots being controlled over a real cellular network. – In this first demonstration, you can see on the screen here behind me, we’re showing the current latency of what would be a 4G network, it’s around 90 to 100 milliseconds. And on the right hand side, you’ll be able to see this line move as we move the ball on the plate. So what I’m gonna do is
move this ball right now and we can see the oscillations
here tracked on this graph and how long it takes for
the robots to collaborate with each other to get
the information they need to balance the ball on the plate. And then we’re gonna switch to 5G mode and we can see on this graph here that we’ve now gone from
around 90 milliseconds to around three milliseconds so much, much lower
latency on the network. And I’m gonna do exactly the same again, and we can see that it only took one oscillation there to correct the ball. So you can see how of the reduction of the latency of the network improves the communication between the machines. – It’s such a simple but
really memorable demo. It lets you see clearly the impact of network latency in action. Now for most applications
the 50 to 100 millisecond lag of a 4G network is not a problem, the user probably doesn’t even notice it. But for some applications, 50 milliseconds of
latency is a real barrier. I’m talking about very real use cases that would be possible
today if only latency could be brought down to
subhuman detectable levels, like 20 milliseconds or less. Because 5G can deliver this
low-latency performance, these applications all of
the sudden become possible. There are lots of applications that need this kind of haptic feedback, that instant touch, like sending
in a remote control robot into a collapsed building. You need the operator to be there without actually being there, to react instantly to
changes inside the building but still keeping a safe distance. Latency is also a big
factor in the realism of virtual reality worlds, the responsiveness of
massive multiplayer games, the sensitivity of complex simulations in manufacturing or engineering or the safety of autonomous vehicles. Remember this is over a wireless network, not a fiber connection. I know what you’re
thinking, ”Ok, but how?” To deliver this kinds of latency levels, mobile network operators
are doing some cool things. One of the most important, is
Core Network Virtualization. Basically, that’s applying the principles of IT Virtualization, like for servers or storage in a data
center, to the network node. So think about the things
the Core Network has to do. Things like, aggregation of traffic, authentication of users,
call control and switching and invoking gateways in services. In a traditional network,
that’s all done on big, expensive, dedicated hardware
full of specialized ASICs and multiple cores right? And so they tend to be centralized. There might be a network node here to serve a really big area. So, a network might only have a handful of nodes for the whole country. Each covering maybe a
million square miles. With Network Virtualization, the operator can deploy smaller, low cost standardized hardware so instead of three of four traditional network nodes for the whole country, there could well be over a hundred. When you do these Core
Network things using software, you get a lot of benefits. For one thing, the network
node becomes rapidly and remotely configurable. So the operator can optimize services for specific demanding use cases. Maybe this node over
here has a network slice, that is optimized for speed for example. And this one here, dedicates
its slice that’s all about security and
availability instead of speed. That configurability of the 5G network will be a recurring theme in this series as we explore the potential of 5G. It changes everything
but just as importantly doing these Core Network
functions with software, also pays dividends for latency. Partly because these lower
costs Virtual Network Nodes can be decentralized so they can live closer to the customers. Essentially, it’s bringing
a virtual representation of the entire Core Network out of the edge where the users are. So now instead of the one big network node we have lots of smaller virtual ones where they’re needed most. So, round trips can be much faster switching a request
straight to a nearby node instead of ratting it halfway
across the country and back. Network Virtualization is hugely powerful, for flexibility, configurability and performance dimensions like latency. So as 5G rolls out, you
want to start thinking for the potential for your business. What kinds of things could you do over a low-latency network that you couldn’t do today. Maybe it’s new customer experiences or new remote field applications, robotics or autonomous equipment. With 5G the network won’t
be the obstacle anymore. For business, it’s disruption
time. Get creative! I’m doctor Shani Somara and
you’ve been watching the Okay but How Show brought
to you by Sprint Business. See you next time. (upbeat music)

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