It’s now clear to anyone who’s been paying attention that the traditional incumbent network service provider (NSP) model is facing a variety of changing market forces. Chief among those forces is the growth of 5G technology. It’s simply not possible for NSPs or their enterprise customers to realize the full potential of 5G ecosystems without completely overhauling the way they deploy and operate their networks.
5G is enabling enterprise-grade use cases at the edge that would have been literally impossible before now. This means that 5G is revolutionary for NSPs, not evolutionary. NSPs must act now to meet demand for 5G capabilities in locations throughout the world, from both enterprise customers and content providers.
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To support 5G buildouts, it’s essential that NSPs have all their critical network elements deployed in the right locations. This includes the timely, efficient deployment of both physical assets and digital network assets, as well as application enablement to support better results across the entire network infrastructure.
Deploy physical assets in strategic locations
The defining characteristic of the 5G revolution is the low latency required to support new 5G applications. For this reason, enterprises and content providers are working to deploy their physical assets in strategic metro locations, in close proximity to end users. Ideally, these physical assets would be positioned within 10 ms roundtrip latency of as many potential end users as possible. The right colocation partner can help make this happen, with a network of data centers in major urban areas throughout the world.
In addition, a colocation provider can help enterprises and content providers make the shift from CAPEX to OPEX spend for their critical physical assets. This is especially important at a time when deployment costs are on the rise, and higher interest rates make large up-front costs increasingly untenable. Moving to OPEX spend helps these businesses get the right network infrastructure in the right places, without having to make speculative financial bets to do so.
Shifting network assets to digital enables greater agility
5G buildouts are generally proceeding at a slower, more incremental pace, with many industry observers predicting a 5–10 year wait for 5G to truly begin paying off for NSPs. However, enterprises and content providers recognize they can’t take a “wait and see” approach to preparing for 5G success. They need agile, flexible network infrastructure, and they need to start deploying it now. For this reason, many organizations are relying on digital network assets that can change and scale quickly based on shifting demand and market trends.
For most NSPs, building out multi-access edge compute (MEC) at the digital edge will generally be the first phase in these new deployments. Once complete, the MEC deployment will allow NSPs to host application services at the edge as part of their 5G infrastructure.
Application enablement requires businesses to balance different criteria
The “sweet spot” that covers the widest range of potential edge use cases and applications is the 5–10 ms roundtrip latency range. However, latency is only one factor out of many that organizations have to consider when doing application enablement at the edge. Exactly where an organization might choose to deploy at the edge will differ based on the specific applications they want to enable.
Even within the same application, there will be different requirements for different elements. From a 5G perspective, an organization might choose to position the radio access network (RAN), user plane function (UPF) and MEC across different edge locations to properly balance the need for latency with the need to process very large volumes of data quickly. Organizations can deploy a single application across multiple edges using containerized platforms.
Network deployments are changing across NSPs, enterprises and content providers
For all the reasons named above, the 5G revolution is changing the ways NSPs and their customers deploy network infrastructure.
NSPs traditionally hosted physical and network assets within proprietary real estate, which was then connected to PoPs and carrier hotels. Traffic generally moved over the public internet, which meant it didn’t always follow the most direct, secure path possible.
Now, NSPs are bringing their physical presence to the edge using public, OPEX-oriented environments, often supported by colocation providers. These environments improve traffic flows from end to end, thereby easing application enablement and increasing quality of service. They also support edge-hosted applications and cloud application access.
In the past, enterprises traditionally routed their local and global traffic across Ethernet and MPLS-based networks. To do this, they typically relied on physical network equipment, making it slow and costly to update the network.
These days, it’s becoming much more common for enterprise users to replace traditional routers with SD-WAN solutions, which help intelligently manage multiple access transports globally. Traffic aggregation happens regionally at the cloud edge.
Up until recently, most content providers leveraged their peering relationships with NSPs to optimize content distribution and limit their CAPEX spend as much as possible.
Now, they are still leveraging NSP relationships to optimize content distribution, but are increasingly doing so on a global scale, using highly interconnected colocation facilities in key locations. This helps greatly improve the quality of experience for content consumers, while also unlocking new value propositions and revenue opportunities for the providers.
Guide network infrastructure placement with Equinix
Equinix is uniquely qualified to be the colocation partner that helps you place your critical network elements in the right locations. Only Equinix can offer strategic asset location via our global footprint of Equinix IBX® data centers in more than 65 metros worldwide, digital service realization via powerful software-defined offerings, and application enablement via our ecosystem of thousands of partners and customers.
As the graphic below shows, Equinix sits at the center of your critical network infrastructure, bringing together everything you need to be successful in the era of 5G. This could include:
- Your 5G ecosystem (hosted in the ideal location, whether that’s in the cloud, in a colocation facility, or on Equinix Metal®, our automated Bare Metal as a Service solution).
- Customer and partner ecosystems covering all industry verticals.
- Connectivity to hyperscale partners and global NSPs.
- Global connectivity via Equinix Fabric™, our software-defined interconnection service.
- Deployed AI and automation capabilities.
To learn more about how Equinix can help you guide the placement of your critical network infrastructure in strategic locations across the globe, watch our TechTalk today.
 SDxCentral, “Verizon CEO Hints at 5-10 Wait for 5G ‘Payoff’”. Matt Kapko, April 2022.
Equinix is uniquely qualified to be the colocation partner that helps you place your critical network elements in the right locations.”