Virtualisation and vendor diversity for 5G

When addressing media in Southeast Asia, VMware’s EVP and GM for VMware’s Telco and Edge Cloud Business, Shekar Ayyar described 5G as critical in delivering enterprise services. He said, “We expect 5G technology will be critical in creation, delivery and consumption of services across different verticals, with focus on enterprises and businesses.

“The opportunity we see, is immense.”

Carriers spend several billion dollars in development (of telco technologies), and the expectation is that this figure will exceed USD1.25 trillion in 2026, according to Shekar.

5G in this region

He gave examples of 5G’s impact upon many different sectors in the SEA region, currently. “In Thailand you have examples where a combination of AI technologies and 5G is looking to transform the healthcare landscape and enable hospitals to better handle onslaught of diseases.”

He also referenced Langkawi, Malaysia, where a combination of technologies have transformed cities into smart cities, and have taken communications technologies to rural areas and large, underserved parts of the country,

5G is leveraged as basis for airports in Thailand and Hong Kong to improve their efficiency, he had also pointed out.

So 5G is already starting to become pervasive, Shekar opined, to improve everything from day-to-day services, to businesses’ most mission-critical services.

“We are seeing that the generic ability of 5G to impact experiences is often characterised through improved bandwidth and lower latency, and the number of devices that can be service.

“This is all based upon the ability to have, for example, technologies like network slicing that have now become possible because of 5G. The idea that you can have different slices of networks, carrying different types of data, this is a fundamental premise of what enables 5G us to do,” he explained.

Because of this capability also, 5G is enabling ‘service’ to a myriad of devices. On top of that, is the massive number of IoT devices that can now be serviced by 5G.

“The bandwidth improvements you are talking about are in orders of magnitude 1000 times in some cases.” Shekar pointed out.

Infrastructure support for 5G

For all of these to happen, requires support from infrastructure like those that are found between the carriers’ data centres, their cell towers, their base stations and so on.

Shekar wanted to uncover and demystify this portion of the value chain, because it is this area where VMware’s technologies can work some magic.

He outlined 4 priorities for telcos and operators, right now.

The first is to build out their core networks and make it more agile. This is where NFV or network function virtualisation comes in, and suffice to say it has become a very significant priority for carriers since a few years’ back.

The second priority they want to address is how to extend that core, up to the edge of the network? “You don’t need the intelligence to be) in the carriers’ premises or in clouds consolidated in far flung points in heir architecture,” he proposed.

You can, in fact, bring these compute instances, or nodes, much closer to the points of consumption. And that could be an enterprise, an automobile or a mobile device.

Shekar said, “This is another big priority, and by design what this means is that the carrier network is going to get a lot more distributed, as you get closer and closer to these edges. This also enables more operations and functions, due to compute instances being closer to points of consumption.”

Opening up the ecosystem

The third area of prioritisation that Shekar saw is disaggregation of the radio access network (RAN).

The access network is what connects the devices, to people and it’s almost like the last mile of network. Fixed protocols in closed environments are used to govern access networks, but this is changing, Shekar pointed described.

“We are now getting to a phase with 5G, where we are opening up these protocols to a much more open architecture, so that many vendors can come in and provide sections of this network and services that can get decoupled and orchestrated in order to form an end-to-end service like a voice call or a data transmission,” he said.

This is important because it leads to a lot more vendor diversity, and agility in providing services.

The last but not the least priority, is serving enterprise customers with a private network.

According to Shekar, a lot of networking on campuses or enterprises is done by using some version of WiFi. The anticipation is that with 5G, radio-based technology is going to become very popular in terms of how enterprises get connected particularly with private spectrum that they can operate within their firewalls.

What these 4 priorities try to achieve, require carriers and telco operators to take siloed vertical architectures and transform them into common horizontal platforms. These common horizontal platforms, can then accommodate all these use cases because of the uniform underlying infrastructure.

“This is where VMware comes in because our strength is in building this common infrastructure,” Shekar concluded.