The “access” network traditionally has been--and remains--a way for users to get access to communication features provided by the core network. That feature of access networks does not change with the advent of fifth generation networks.
What might be quite new--if anticipated new applications are enabled as many believe--is that the 5G network will be the first access network whose value, features and business models are shaped and determined by the core networks in a new way.
For service providers concerned about “dumb pipe” and “low value commodity services,” 5G could be a breakthrough.
It is more than a breakthrough in mobile access network speeds that make mobile access a full substitute for fixed access, for the first time. Access speeds between a gigabit per second and 10 Gbps represent the biggest breakthrough in mobile access network capacity, ever.
That might not be the most-important change, though. Traditional core networks provided differentiated services for business customers. But 5G might be the first network to enable differentiated services for consumers, appliances and sensor networks.
In fact, it might be feasible to build custom networks--tuned or optimized for particular applications, using a single, unified network, not an overlay--at prices the end users and networks can afford to buy.
You might say the access network features become a richer part of the core network. That has potentially significant implications for the threat of “dumb network” status.
To be sure, access networks traditionally have been “dumb pipes” giving users connections to value provided by the core networks.
That will continue to be true for 5G and future network generations. What is new is the degree to which the access network will be recreated as a platform for differentiated services.
If regulators do not get in the way, that is a big deal.