5G Creates Once in a Life-Time Opportunity for Telcos

With 5G, network operators can exploit their position as telecom infrastructure providers to deliver new, value-added services at the edge, according to Satyam Vaghani.

By Brian Carlson

By Brian Carlson March 24 2020

Telecommunications operators who are leading the way on 5G implementation are in a unique position to provide the infrastructure for 5G and additional value-added services for third parties.

To build, deliver and manage these new services, telecom companies will want to modernize their IT systems with hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) in order to scale their edge computing and meet the growing needs of Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) applications, according to Satyam Vaghani, SVP/GM of IoT and AI for Nutanix.

Vaghani said 5G has quickly moved past the hype phase and into the implementation phase. 

“I am surprised with how much is going on with 5G,” he said. “Originally, I thought there was a lot of noise and not a lot of action. I was proven wrong. Telecom operators are leading the journey.”

Monetize the Edge

Vaghani sees telcos taking a two-part journey.

“The first part is to modernize the edge in preparation of 5G,” he said. 

“Telcos used to run monolithic virtual network functions. Firewalls, intrusion detection, that kind of thing. Now, it is universally accepted that HCI is a great way to modernize the edge. HCI gives them simplicity and the scale they may need at the edge, without extra complexity.”

Modernizing network functionality away from monolithic systems to a more micro-service-based, containerized approach will make it easier to simplify, manage and scale edge computing resources, Vaghani said.

This will also allow telcos to better monetize new 5G services.  

[Related blog post: Telecom Providers: Trouble Making Money Off of 5G?]

“We are moving from VNF (virtual network functions) to CNF (containerized network functions),” he said. “So to modernize the edge, you modernize the applications they are already running there into a more contemporary framework.”

He said modernized networks provide a flexible foundation that can more easily deploy applications on the edge. A containerized model for network functions brings more predictability and scalability to meet changes in demand.

“Monolithic systems can be deployed once, but as capacity demand increases, it creates a different engineering problem,” said Vaghani. “To go from one-to-many is inherently built into the whole microservices, containerized world due to the underlying orchestration frameworks.”

5G Changes Where Bandwidth is Consumed

5G brings more bandwidth to the edge, closer to where people and machines produce and consume data. Data volume on previous generation networks more heavily relied on bandwidth between cloud or backhaul and the edge. This shift from cloud-to-edge to predominantly consumer-to-edge will benefit emerging technologies like IoT, AI and AR/VR.

They connect to the edge and then to the cloud.

“Because of 5G, for the first time, the bandwidth between the consumer and the edge is going to be dramatically higher than the bandwidth between the edge and the cloud,” Vaghani said. “That requires us to deploy a whole new generation of applications, especially around AR/VR, AI apps, IoT apps.”

This shift in bandwidth demands and consumption is what’s driving telcos to expand their services beyond infrastructure to value-added service.

“These service applications need to go on the edge because they need that bandwidth between the consumer and the edge,” said Vaghani.

This has created a great chance for telcos to be a first-class provider of highly-valued applications on the edge.

“With 5G, telecom companies are not only the provider of infrastructure, they are also the provider of value-added services that third parties can use,” he said. “For telco, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. If they play it right they could be the AWS for edge infrastructure.”

Vaghani wants telecoms to modernize their IT systems so they can fully exploit the potential that 5G offers. 

“My job is to help them succeed by providing the technology component that needs to run on the edge to make it a modern substrate for all these microservice-based applications,” he said. “For example, we work with telecom providers to create predictive maintenance applications for their manufacturing end-users. Instead of a manufacturing users having to deploy an edge computing system at the factory, they can use a service from the telco.”

Editor’s note: Learn more about how Nutanix Edge helps telecom providers modernize edge infrastructure, monetize and standardizing operations across networks. Test drive it at nutanix.com/iot.

Brian Carlson is a contributing writer. He is Founder of RoC Consulting and was Editor-in-Chief of CIO.com and EE Times. Follow him on Twitter @bcarlsonDM

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