5G poses both opportunities and challenges for how telcos, network service providers (NSPs) and enterprises evolve their respective mobility services and connectivity solutions. The potential enhanced bandwidth and reduced latency gains are unequivocal, but the challenge of scaling 5G infrastructure is not trivial. As 5G technology deployment starts to more fully develop, it’s useful to understand how IT decision makers across a spectrum of industries and global regions view the relevance of 5G in their planning.
We recently released the results of our 2020-21 Tech Trends Survey, which includes insights into how IT leaders around the globe see 5G influencing the shape of networking and connectivity going forward. With the growing optimism around the global 5G rollout, we see four scenarios for carriers and enterprises based on best practices for accelerating 5G deployments.
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Tech Trends 5G findings point to a bright future
Our independent 2020-21 Global Tech Trends study was commissioned with Dynata, a leading online research and data collection company. It surveyed 2,600 IT decision makers in diverse enterprises across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and EMEA.
Responses to two key survey questions capture the 5G-related infrastructure insights:
Question 1: How would you rate the progress of [Country] government’s implementation of 5G?
Overall, 38% of the respondents said progress on 5G is going well versus 17% who reported it was going slowly. Asia-Pacific decision-makers are most satisfied with their country’s implementation of 5G, whereas EMEA digital leaders are least likely to describe their government’s implementation as going “very well.”
Global Views on 5G Roll-Out Progress
Question 2: Regardless of current progress towards implementing 5G, in which ways do you think it will have the biggest impact on your business?
The greatest impact of 5G is viewed as enabling businesses to take advantage of new technologies. This was consistent across all regions. For the Americas, increasing partner connection was the next priority. Asia-Pacific saw the need to rearchitect infrastructure as the second biggest impact. And for EMEA, the ability to develop new products followed leveraging emerging tech.
Implementing 5G today for future success
5G technology implementation is still far from completely evolved, with both underlying infrastructure and associated advanced services yet to be fully rolled out. Nonetheless, there are ways that 5G can be leveraged by both service providers and enterprise IT organizations today with best practices that present potential paths to support future services and solutions. One thorny roadblock to more rapid deployment of 5G services is the daunting cost of scaling up infrastructure to deliver system-wide service capabilities across multiple physical geographies and diverse architectural platforms. A good way to mitigate that problem is for service providers to move from a CAPEX to an OPEX model when deploying 5G services.
At Equinix, we’re taking a multi-faceted approach to 5G deployments provides an incremental and disciplined approach to leveraging the current state of 5G capabilities, while ensuring a cost-effective path to 5G enhancements as infrastructure evolves and applications emerge. An important consideration is the ability to incrementally build test implementations leveraging the globally distributed portfolio of interconnected Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers. This obviates the need to build out a costly, CAPEX-burdened infrastructure and facilitates the assessment of traffic breakout initiatives.
For example, as shown in the map below, Equinix already has the “plumbing” in place with Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection to support any 5G deployment that a service provider or enterprise requires across 79 locations in the U.S. within an 10 ms round trip time (RTT). Equinix Fabric also provides 5G service providers direct and secure connectivity to foundational infrastructure building blocks, such as automated, interconnected bare metal-as-a-service, Equinix Metal™, and access to interconnected ecosystems of network and cloud providers and enterprises in every industry. This is key given that carriers and cloud providers need to work together on enterprise 5G applications, and Equinix provides the proximate, low-latency connectivity to accomplish that.
Four use cases for enabling and assessing 5G
Four “use case” scenarios provide a tiered approach to enabling and assessing 5G implementations within the extensive portfolio of Equinix IBX data centers in 63 metros around the world:
Use Case #1: Interconnect the existing 5G non-standalone (NSA) aggregation centers to multi-tenant data centers that house existing private enterprise and public cloud deployments, such as Equinix. This is the quickest, easiest and least expensive way to enable RAN (radio access network) traffic to reach existing multi-access edge compute (MEC).
Use Case #2: With connectivity established, operators can leverage Equinix Fabric to enable hybrid, multicloud scenarios supporting 5G access and monetize access into the RAN. Equinix already has thousands of users on Equinix Fabric, thereby providing operators immediate access to enterprises looking for proximate access to the 5G RAN in adjacent metros.
Use Case #3: As operators implement 5G standalone (SA), they should enable the packet core (vEPC) at Equinix IBX data centers. This enables lower latency access between wireless endpoints and MEC. Further, Equinix Metal provides an on-demand, OPEX-based approach to enable vEPC functionality.
Use Case #4: If there is an Equinix data center in a carrier’s market, it is an ideal location for RAN aggregation. In this context, you would use Equinix IBX data centers to aggregate 5G RAN equipment, supporting front-haul and mid-haul aggregation models. Once again, Equinix Metal can be leveraged to enable an on-demand, OPEX-based deployment model, supporting RAN Distributed Unit (DU), Centralized Unit (CU) and vEPC.
Leveraging foundational infrastructure building blocks for 5G
As the world’s digital infrastructure company, 5G carriers and enterprises can integrate 5G technology on Platform Equinix today. Equinix Fabric enables the scaling of hybrid infrastructure deployments, achieving network agility and making secure, direct connections to dense ecosystems of network and cloud service providers and enterprise customers. Our customers also leverage Equinix Fabric on Platform Equinix to access foundational physical infrastructure via Equinix Metal on-demand.
Watch our 5G-focused webinar for additional insights into this evolving technology and learn more about how digital business connects with Equinix Fabric.