In many ways, the development of 5G networks represents a revolution, not an evolution of legacy wireless networks. As the first generation of wireless technology capable of supporting business applications with clearly defined SLAs, 5G is truly unlike anything the industry has ever seen before. Since it is so unique, we’re only just beginning to understand the promise of the new business applications it can help enable. It’s almost a chicken or egg situation: until organizations start implementing 5G business applications, we won’t be able to comprehend the full potential of those applications.
Despite this, many business leaders have already begun to recognize the potential upside of 5G. In the Equinix 2020-21 Global Technology Trends Survey (GTTS), 50% of participants named the ability to take advantage of new technologies as the biggest impact 5G would have on their business, more than any other source of impact included in the survey question. The technologies that could be enabled by increased 5G adoption include multiaccess edge compute (MEC), AI, AR/VR, IoT and robotics.
In this, the first post in a three-post series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the current state of 5G technologies, with a particular focus on how network service providers (NSPs) can start capitalizing on 5G monetization opportunities today, using digital infrastructure investments they may already have.
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Overcoming the limitations of the consumer wireless approach
One of the main blockers standing in the way of wider 5G monetization is that mobile network operators (MNOs) built previous generations of wireless networks to move user traffic to data centers over their public IP networks. This worked well enough to support consumer applications such as voice and messaging, but business applications built around 5G will require a different, more modern approach.
By enabling user traffic functions in the data center, MNOs can bypass public IP networks—and the inherent security and performance issues that go along with them. They can also take advantage of data center colocation to directly connect their user traffic to service provider partners and enterprise customers. In short, they can gain the lower latency, better security and quality of service needed to enable new 5G use cases, quickly and with little additional investment required.
Solving for latency with digital edge infrastructure
The quickest and easiest way for NSPs to start monetizing 5G today is to connect their radio access networks (RANs) to the places where the greatest concentrations of cloud infrastructure, service providers, and end users are. 5G networks can deliver latency below 10 ms, representing a dramatic improvement over legacy wireless networks, where latency between 40 and 50 ms would be the norm. These latency benefits are vital to unlocking new business applications, but even 5G networks are not immune from the effects of physical distance. When endpoints must execute transactions with data centers that are located hundreds of miles away, additional latency is unavoidable.
The obvious way to address this issue would be to build out a digital edge infrastructure. This would enable lower latency by breaking traffic out locally, with data center nodes and endpoints situated in close proximity to one another. However, at this point, there is no business justification for investing massive amounts of money to build out the new data center nodes that 5G business applications would require. This is particularly true since we can’t clearly define the business case for 5G applications that don’t exist yet.
Fortunately, NSPs don’t need to make these investments themselves in order to access 5G monetization opportunities—especially since many of them already have a partnership with a colocation provider that can offer the scale and proximity that 5G applications demand.
How Platform Equinix supports 5G monetization
Equinix is uniquely positioned to help our NSP partners take full advantage of the possibilities of 5G technology. Our global network of Equinix International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data centers can be found in 68 metros across 5 continents, with new metros being added all the time. IBX data centers are located within a 10 ms round trip of 80% of the population of the U.S. and the E.U., with similar levels of coverage in parts of the Asia-Pacific region.
This means that MNOs —many of which already have infrastructure in IBX data centers to support their wireline networks—need only take advantage of Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection to quickly expand the reach of their RAN to hundreds of millions of potential end users. Even more importantly, they can make their 5G capabilities available to Equinix’s ecosystem of more than 3,000 cloud and IT services partners and 4,700 enterprise customers, many of which would jump at the chance to start building 5G business applications.
To further illustrate our dedication to helping our partners and customers meet their 5G goals, Equinix opened a 5G and Edge Technology Development Center at our DA11 data center in Dallas. The 5G ETDC will provide a “sandbox” environment for MNOs, service providers and enterprises to co-create innovative new business applications using 5G and edge technologies.
Start your 5G monetization journey today
Platform Equinix™ can offer the unique blend of places, partners and possibilities you need to start monetizing 5G today. And as we’ll see in the next blogs in this series, acting now can also help you prepare to take on more advanced 5G use cases in the future.
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Check out the video below to learn more about how Equinix solutions are helping NSPs prepare for the promise of 5G.