The advent of 5G networks represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for global service providers to parlay the technology that will drive innovation for the next 10 to 20 years into sustainable balance sheets and business models.
A decade from now, the term 5G may be as ubiquitous as the word internet — and think of the technological revolution the internet helped spur by providing a platform for the biggest and most lucrative companies in today’s economy to live on.
In the same sense, 5G is expected to usher in a wave of next-generation applications and services that will breed a new crop of Fortune 100 companies.
Service providers, understandably tepid about making big bets on network investments, need to act now to make sure they are not on the outside looking in when it comes to monetizing 5G.
Simply put, the service provider networks of today are not sustainable for the demand of tomorrow. Without overhaul, those networks will eventually become extinct, as will the service providers behind them.
Service providers must change the way they architect networks so they are able to quickly innovate and bring to market new services that create great customer experiences.
The economics of 5G will require investment across all domains of the network.
Networks must be densified. Workloads need to be pushed closer to end users. More cost-efficient approaches to infrastructure will be key to delivering at scale.
To justify these investments, solid business cases for deploying and selling services to monetize such infrastructure will be imperative.
It’s no doubt a costly proposition. But service providers, which invested billions of dollars in 4G networks only to see over-the-top providers like Netflix or Facebook truly prosper, can ill-afford to sit idle and risk being squeezed out.
A 5G network doesn’t just magically rollout and the 5G market is fragmented, thus elevating the value of strategic partnerships — for everything from solution development and integration to knowing when and where to strike.
World Wide Technology’s deep industry relationships with OEMs and extensive lab capabilities in our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) enables service providers to deliver value to end customers exactly when and where they need it.
Further, we can take our strong understanding of what enterprises want to deliver from an outcome standpoint and tie together those commercial use cases and build them through the service provider.
With all this in mind, here are four areas service providers should be investing in today to win tomorrow.
Cable and wireline infrastructure
As society embraces a more digital world, service providers will need to keep up with the exponential growth in bandwidth driven by mobile, 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT) and video. Demand will grow, but service providers’ ability to charge for such bandwidth will not as connectivity is further commoditized.
Within the transport core and access network, two technologies service providers can utilize to help alleviate this disruption are optical networking and Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS).
- Optical networking covers a broad range of technologies to create an efficient, flexible, reliable and scalable network. Optical networking is a key component of today’s multi-layer networks used to extend the reach of traditional pluggable optics, increase or consolidate bandwidth over a single fiber pair through multiplexing and/or provide a migration path for existing legacy SONET/TDM hardware.
- MPLS is widely adopted by service providers to enable popular applications such as Netflix, Webex, Facebook and Spotify, among others. It is widely adopted and highly reliable because it can guarantee traffic throughput and latency.
Densifying the network by deploying new radios will be important. But those towers are rendered useless without an infrastructure to connect them.
A variety of technologies are used to implement a 5G solution:
- End devices such as Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) or IoT devices and sensors.
- Radio access antennas, cell towers and the components that connect the radio network to the transport network.
- Metro and long-haul optical backbone for transport, edge ethernet and optical aggregation devices.
- National, regional and edge data centers built on the foundation of Network Function Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI), Virtualized Network Functions (VNF).
- And automation and orchestration to create, monitor, migrate and tear down services on demand.
Service providers can leverage a plethora of labs and testing environments in WWT’s Advanced Technology Center to discover and better understand new technology, build multi-vendor solutions and develop proofs of concept to quickly make smart decisions before deploying them to the field.
Example of 5G architecture.
NFV and white box
Service providers, to survive in a 5G economy, must become more agile while continuously driving costs out of their business models. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and white box stand as solutions that can act as remedies to accomplish both.
Disaggregating software from hardware allows service providers to leverage the power of software to become nimbler and offer solutions tailored to industry verticals.
But white box is complicated. Service providers desire the value white box can deliver, but typically can’t commit to the labor-intensive processes needed to validate and deploy white box solutions effectively.
Building white box solutions is building something new and unknown. Service providers need the confidence the solutions they deploy will work as intended once deployed in the field.
NFV, meanwhile, has grown in importance among service providers as they seek greater efficiency and agility, while at the same time reducing operational costs. NFV can simplify service provider network architectures and transform their business models by addressing dynamic service requirements, scalable workloads, automation needs, multivendor architectures and the complexities of agile development.
WWT has decades of network architecture experience from end point or customer premise equipment (CPE) to the service provider core network, which allows us to help customers create effective solutions faster and deploy them at scale.
Cloud and mobile edge
Today’s 4G networks can support roughly 4,000 devices per square mile. Networks providing 5G connectivity will effectively double that, boasting a capacity to support up to 3 million devices per square mile.
To put that into perspective, New York City covers just over 300 square miles. We’ll save you the arithmetic — that’s nearly 1 billion devices supported by 5G networks in the Big Apple alone.
With 5G driving a high bandwidth, ultra-low latency network to millions of new endpoints, new applications and use cases will become possible to consumers and enterprises.
Service providers need to build vertical architectures for multi-access edge computing to provide the high speed, low latency connections those new applications require.
WWT is working with Deutsche Telekom-founded MobiledgeX to help mobile operators quickly and confidently deploy edge services at a global scale.
MobiledgeX is leveraging the ATC to conduct pre-validation and certification testing to build service provider confidence that multi-access edge applications will address low-latency requirements when placed at the edge of mobile networks.
With millions of new endpoints gaining access to the network, security will inevitably become a point of focus.
Think of it like a house. Your existing 4G home has the typical entryways: a front door, back door and side door. In upgrading to a 5G model, construction crews have come in to build a delightful new interior but have also added six new exterior doors to improve access and flow.
Is the existing security program you had in place for your 4G home an adequate solution to secure your shiny new 5G model equipped with three times as many doors? The answer is no, of course not.
Service providers should consider security along their entire 5G road map.
Intentional infrastructure investment
Each of the aforementioned areas play into one another. Service providers must consider each area — the entire value chain — to secure success in 5G.
Service providers must monetize their 5G technology investments by selling next-generation services to remain competitive. To deliver those services to customers, service providers need to create a denser network, which requires disaggregated systems and solutions to gain efficiencies and lower costs. Those services will leverage edge computing to realize low latency needed for many next-generation services.
WWT combines our capabilities spanning a service provider’s entire network architecture with our deep experience in serving enterprise customers to help service providers develop and execute on their 5G strategy so they are poised to maximize their return on investment in technology.