The emergence of 5G technology heralds a pivotal technological inflection point for digital communications. It promises to offer unprecedented, always-on and nearly instant access to content, data resources and yet-to-be created interactive services—all with real improvements in capacity and performance. The success of 5G will be a function of both the underlying digital infrastructure and surrounding ecosystems.
At Equinix we see our role as enabling and driving that operational integration. Our Dallas-based 5G and Edge Technology Development Center (5G ETDC) provides an agile framework for assessing, incubating and testing new 5G deployments for real-world implementations today and exploring what will be possible in a 5G-dominated future. We help service providers and enterprise customers alike establish the digital infrastructure necessary to support the high-throughput, low-latency applications and services.
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5G ETDC: An incubator and proving ground for 5G co-innovation
The 5G ETDC at the Equinix DA11 data center was designed to allow our service provider (network and mobile operators, cloud and IT services and applications) and enterprise customers to collectively incubate, develop and test solutions to leverage the coming 5G wave. By collaborating with leading companies and using open, interoperable, real-world architectures at the 5G ETDC, participating companies can optimize 5G infrastructure and edge services.
Using Nokia technology, Equinix has deployed a fully functional non-standalone (NSA) 5G network from radios to the cloud. This comprehensive edge “sandbox” environment is the first of its kind. It is providing a foundation for Equinix and our technology partners to develop and deploy proven end-to-end architectures for the top enterprise use cases at the 5G ETDC. Our focus includes secure access, multi-access edge compute (MEC), network slicing, AR/VR, AI at the edge, private networking and multi-domain orchestration.
Providing real-world 5G capabilities
The Equinix 5G ETDC supports two use cases for optimized and interconnected 5G and edge infrastructure deployment strategies:
- Ultra-low latency implementations in the Micro Edge domain directly adjacent to the Radio Access Network (RAN)
- High-performance, low-latency and secure implementations in the Macro Edge domain that are directly adjacent to public clouds and hybrid infrastructure
With those two core deployments scenarios in mind, several foundational architectures frame our 5G ETDC proof-of-concept initiatives:
Our 5G ETDC environment offers the following infrastructure elements for creating robust, thorough assessment and proof-of-concept environments:
- User equipment
- 5G residential gateways
- Radio Access Network
- Fronthaul Time Sensitive Network
- 4G/5G baseband units
- Precision Timing
- Virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC)
- Virtualized Multi-Access Edge Computing (vMEC)
- Software-defined network (SDN)-enabled networking
- Test and measurement tools
At our 5G ETDC, we offer seamless integration between 5G technologies and relevant Equinix services, including Equinix Fabric™, Equinix Internet Exchange™, Equinix Metal™, Network Edge and Equinix Precision Time™. Businesses can leverage these services on Platform Equinix™ to create and connect 5G-enabled digital infrastructure.
In cooperation with Nokia, Equinix has deployed a fully functional non-standalone (NSA) 5G network from radios to the cloud."
As companies develop new 5G technologies and services, they need a real-world environment to test and bring their concepts to life. With Equinix’s rich ecosystem of service providers, partners, and clouds, the 5G and Edge Technology Development Center is the only place to fully test their concepts in a real way, enabling them to bring new capabilities to market, accelerate adoption and deliver new revenue streams faster.”- Justin Dustzadeh, CTO, Equinix
Focusing on common 5G use cases
Key objectives for 5G ETDC use cases include modelling traffic control points, understanding how data moves in this emerging environment, identifying where the handoffs occur and determining where applications will be instantiated. In addition, to recoup investment in 5G network rollout, the mobile network operators (MNOs) must drive high growth in subscriber base and bandwidth utilization with balanced CAPEX and/or OPEX rollout. This will require technology solutions from vendors throughout the edge ecosystem. It’s equally important to remember that MNOs must look beyond the consumer market to enterprise use cases to expand revenue streams.
Our initial emphasis at the 5G ETDC will focus on early 5G and edge adoption enterprise use cases, including:
- Enablement and orchestration of infrastructure—Explore optimal deployment strategies for 5G RAN, fronthaul, core and edge computing infrastructure and functions management across domains.
- Mobile hybrid multicloud connectivity—Assess strategies for ensuring that 5G user traffic can effectively and efficiently reach multiple clouds and hybrid edge computing resources.
- Distributed artificial intelligence/machine language (AI/ML)—Investigate the optimization of AI/ML applications distributed across the edge, directly connected to 5G and interconnected to clouds for enabling data-dense capabilities, such as scene/video analytics.
- Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality (AR/VR)—Demonstrate uniform experience from edge to cloud.
- Gaming—Demonstrate responsiveness of hosted gaming low-latency peripherals leveraging the metro edge for delivery.
- Network slicing—Evaluate how to enable private wireless enterprise networks that support secure, predictable and end-to-end quality of service.
Key objectives for 5G ETDC use cases include modelling traffic control points, understanding how data moves, identifying where the handoffs occur and determining where applications will be instantiated."
Equinix, Nokia and Exium collaborate at the 5G ETDC
We work with key players throughout the 5G and edge ecosystems to develop a comprehensive, integrated approach to all interconnected edge domains. Two examples of how we’ve collaborated with community members are initiatives with Nokia and Exium.
Working with Nokia, we realized that there was going to be a sea change in the way that traffic moved between networks around the world. Both 3G and 4G have fronthaul and backhaul but with 5G there’s the addition of midhaul. As a result, the Macro Edge—where our data centers exist—now plays a crucial role in how traffic moves. We’ve collaborated with Nokia at the 5G ETDC to explore the role that data centers play in 5G, while strategizing about how Equinix fits into a 5G-dominated wireless world.
With an Equinix-based approach, an MNO can preserve its control plane and continue to use current assets in existing mobile switching centers. Mobile operators do not need to lift and shift any physical equipment into Equinix. Instead, they can leverage interconnection on Platform Equinix to put 5G infrastructure in the right place to achieve end-to-end network slicing enabled by standalone 5G equipment.
5G is a major opportunity for MNOs and enterprises as increasing digitalization drives applications and decision making to the edge. Working with Exium, we have demonstrated the role that 5G and the Macro Edge can play in this transformation. Exium is a 5G cybersecurity and networking company that offers a fundamentally different approach to digitalization by providing cloud-delivered, full-stack security with networking to connect and protect apps, data, devices and users across a global business fabric. This includes a Secure Edge platform that is highly performant, works with Wi-Fi, 4G, & 5G, and secures both edge devices and applications. By deploying Exium’s Secure Edge platform at Equinix’s data centers (the Macro Edge), customers combine the best aspects of being “on prem” (performance) and in the cloud (aggregation). This cloud agnostic edge can then be connected to any cloud via Equinix Fabric to create a hybrid multicloud environment.
Working with Nokia, we realized that there was going to be a sea change in the way that traffic moved between networks around the world."
Real-world benefits to service providers and enterprises
By collaborating with Equinix at the 5G ETDC to prove 5G and edge deployment strategies, companies can take advantage of several inherent Equinix-specific implementation capabilities that can deliver measurable benefits when deployed in the field. These include:
- Revenue enablement—MNOs and system integrators can rapidly create new revenue opportunities by connecting 5G and/or edge networks to the world’s largest edge data center ecosystem platform.
- Automation—MNOs can integrate and automate platform interoperability between the MNO network, private clouds and public cloud platforms for rapid service provisioning and deployment.
- Differentiation—MNOs can leverage our extensive footprint, proximity, connectivity options and bare metal-as-a-service capabilities to gain access to our ecosystem partners in a shared facilities model, retain key control points, and spin up services without heavy upfront CAPEX investment.
- Flexibility—Migration from non-standalone to standalone 5G infrastructure requires the agility and flexibility provided by Platform Equinix to integrate existing and new capabilities and support the upcoming expansive growth presented by 5G.
- Reduced costs—OPEX, CAPEX or blended operational environments are cost-effectively achieved using Equinix edge data centers to incorporate unique Equinix design and operational features and secure a compelling total cost of ownership.
Why collaborate at the Equinix 5G ETDC?
Businesses are working with us at our vendor-neutral Equinix 5G Edge Technology Development Center to evolve crucial systems and ecosystems that support 5G and edge deployments. We will work together to build digital infrastructure on the industry’s most secure, consistent and sustainable global digital infrastructure platform. Best-of-breed 5G providers, regional specialists and innovative new entrants—they are all here in the industry’s largest global interconnected 5G ecosystem.
Learn more about how 5G is changing the game.
MNOs and system integrators can rapidly create new revenue opportunities by connecting 5G and/or edge networks to the world’s largest edge data center ecosystem platform."