Much like their enterprise customers, network service providers (NSPs) are learning the importance of shifting away from a CAPEX-intensive approach to digital infrastructure. Building out private infrastructure generally worked fine in the days of wireline networks and during the early generations of wireless. Now, the advent of 5G networks has changed the equation.
5G rollout is a fundamentally new kind of investment for NSPs; it’s not something they can achieve with a few inexpensive tweaks to their existing infrastructure. Building out 5G network infrastructure using a traditional, owned-and-operated approach may require billions of dollars in up-front capital expenses. Add in rising interest rates that make financing capital improvements untenable, and it’s easy to see why so many NSPs have neither the wallet nor the stomach to build 5G infrastructure for themselves.
Connect digital infrastructure at software speed
Scale hybrid deployments, achieve network agility, directly connect to partners and providers easily and securely.DOWNLOAD THE EQUINIX FABRIC GUIDE
Solving the Z-side problem
Fortunately, there’s already a well-established way for NSPs to shift their 5G infrastructure spending from CAPEX to OPEX. Telco cloud has been around for at least a decade now, and most NSPs have already begun working with cloud providers to help keep costs manageable and speed up service provisioning. However, to truly take advantage of telco cloud—and to build a strong foundation for multi-access edge computing (MEC)—NSPs need a fast, reliable way to get their data to and from the cloud. In telco speak, they need to solve for both A-side and Z-side connectivity in their network infrastructure.
To put things more specifically, it’s reaching the Z-side—the intended final destination of the traffic—that really creates the conundrum for NSPs. Ensuring Z-side connectivity over the public internet is fairly straightforward, but public IP transit also comes with a variety of performance, cost and security drawbacks. NSPs need private interconnection to enable telco cloud and MEC, but reliably reaching the Z-side via private interconnection can be much more challenging.
A carrier-neutral colocation provider such as Equinix can help address this problem. To put it simply, Equinix has already solved the Z-side problem for NSPs. Thanks to our global footprint of 240+ data centers in 70 metros—many of them home to on-ramps to top cloud providers—NSPs can safely assume that any Z-side they might want to reach is accessible via Equinix.
Deploying adjacent to aggregation points helps improve performance
Back when NSPs primarily offered voice services, traffic volumes on the wireline side typically stayed quite low. On the wireless side, there were no enterprise-grade use cases to speak of. For both these reasons, NSPs generally weren’t that concerned with ensuring very low latency.
Now, with 5G making enterprise wireless applications possible for the first time, the traffic volumes NSPs must move back and forth to cloud providers are scaling up quickly. The network infrastructure that NSPs have traditionally operated out of their own private data centers simply can’t scale fast enough to keep up.
Large volumes of NSP traffic are starting to aggregate at a few key locations, such as cloud on-ramps at Equinix IBX® data centers. Having to “trombone” their data back and forth between their own infrastructure and an Equinix facility can create higher costs and unacceptable levels of latency. In turn, that latency will directly contribute to a poor user experience. This problem will only continue to get worse as the volume of NSP traffic increases. Moving their service logic to an Equinix facility—adjacent to the traffic aggregation point—helps NSPs take full advantage of telco cloud while also keeping latency low.
In a previous blog post, we spoke about the benefits of using Equinix Fabric™ as a neutral third-party platform for network-to-network interfaces (NNIs). If you’re one of the many NSPs already taking advantage of Equinix Fabric for NNIs or other key use cases, then working with us to provide the connectivity for your telco cloud and MEC efforts may be the next logical step forward.
Think of NNIs like roads that form a major intersection, and telco cloud like a gas station that sits at that intersection. The roads give drivers a way to get there, while the gas station gives them a reason to stop. To take things a step further, MEC is like the convenience store you’d build next to the gas station. You’d build a store in that location specifically because so many potential customers will be coming there to get gas. Unlike the roads or the gas station, the convenience store gives you the opportunity to make some real money off of drivers that are already passing through the area.
In the same way, MEC-based applications can help turn data traffic into business value for NSPs. However, the whole idea only works if all three strategic components—the NNIs, the telco cloud and the MEC—are located adjacent to one another. For this reason, if you’re already doing NNIs with Equinix, there’s no reason to do telco cloud anywhere else. If you’re looking to get started with NNIs, why not do it with the partner that can also set you up to do telco cloud quickly and flexibly in locations throughout the world?
Equinix provides the services and flexibility NSPs need to do telco cloud right
The value NSPs can derive from placing service logic adjacent to traffic aggregation points is clear. However, the best way for them to do that may not be so obvious. When you work with Equinix to support your move to telco cloud and MEC, you’ve got options. You can mix and match services from across our product portfolio and our partner ecosystem to create the network infrastructure that best meets your needs and the needs of your customers. This could look like any of the following:
- A colocation-only approach, where you bring your own infrastructure into our facilities.
- A hybrid infrastructure approach, where you bring your own white boxes and software, but integrate them with our services.
- An as-a-service approach, where you run your software on Equinix Metal™, our dedicated bare metal solution.
No matter which option you select, you’ll have access to software-defined interconnection from Equinix Fabric in more than 50 global metros and counting. This helps you take full advantage of the cloud providers of your choice, while also placing service logic adjacent to the cloud on-ramps. You’ll be fully prepared for 5G and everything it entails without creating higher latency that can degrade the customer experience. In addition, you’ll be able to start driving new revenue streams via MEC-enabled applications.
To learn more, read the Equinix Fabric for Service Providers data sheet.