There is significant momentum building across the world for 5G networks, with commercial launches in full swing. According to the GSM Suppliers Association, there have been over 300 commercial launches at time of writing.

Moreover, several markets are rolling out the standalone (SA), or true version of 5G. Incremental changes and hybrid architectures of 5G radios with a 4G core network are giving way to full-fledged 5G SA deployments.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Singapore is a great example of a market that didn’t push for early adoption of the NSA standard but is now rolling out SA across the island nation. 

COVID 19 is a driver for 5G and distributed computing

It has become almost obligatory to discuss, debate and analyze industry activity through the prism of the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic. The pandemic has elevated the importance of broadband connectivity and digital technologies for work, school and play, with workers, students and consumers needing to stay connected. As workloads become untethered to a specific physical location, the network needs to adapt, and telcos across the globe have performed admirably under extreme conditions to “keep the lights on” and their customers connected. 

However, connectivity alone isn’t enough. IT departments at enterprises, schools and other institutions need to embrace cloud-native network architectures as an important part of their overall technology strategy. The same will also apply for consumers who will do more of their digital activity from anywhere. To be clear, not all applications and resources will move to the cloud, but the network of tomorrow will be a varying mix of on-premise and cloud resources.

Communication service providers (CSPs) and hyperscalers are investing heavily in deploying compute and storage resources closer to the edge of the network and the end user. 

Distributed computing will also be boosted with the advent of 5G network deployments. New 5G base stations operate on new frequency bands with much wider channel sizes that generate a massive boost in bandwidth and speeds to the end user. As a result, 5G will enable several new use cases not only for the consumer segment but specifically for the enterprise user, regardless of the specific vertical they operate in.

Indeed, 5G is really an enterprise technology in terms of the new use cases that it will enable. By design, 5G networks will be much denser than their predecessor 4G LTE networks, with the ability to support up to a hundred times the number of devices within a given cell. Most of these new connected endpoints will be IoT devices, as opposed to smartphones.

RELATED: Verizon offers its IoT ThingSpace service on 5G

Telcos need to invest in new data platforms

The emergence of technologies like 5G and edge computing has massive implications for the CSP. Many CSPs have embraced digital as a strategic imperative and have been on a journey of digital transformation. However, and despite all the investments made so far, CSPs cannot afford to rest on their laurels as the real transformation journey has only just begun with 5G. Battle weary and capital starved CSPs can be excused for wanting to delay further investments, but the truth is that the immense benefits of 5G cannot be realized without commensurate investments in new data platforms and architectures. 

Take the previously mentioned example of greater cell density with 5G. With so many connected endpoints coming onto the network, data volume and velocity will both increase exponentially. CSPs will need to be prepared for and address new questions on how they will manage the coming boom in data traffic, starting with what data types to store, what to process and what to move toward resources further away from the data source. Several new use cases and applications being enabled by 5G and edge computing will need “real-time” decision making, which means that CSPs simply can’t rely on traditional batch processing methodologies. 

The answer is to move compute resources closer to the data source by deploying an “edge cloud”, as the traditional cloud computing paradigm begins to struggle with increasing data volume and velocity.

RELATED: Dish taps Dell for its 5G ‘edge cloud’ ambitions

Moving data not only creates security risks but also introduces latency into the network. Beyond the security risks, there are also concerns raised by increasing regulatory compliance burdens focused on privacy and in-country processing of data.

Cloudera and LG Uplus

Beyond deploying an edge cloud, CSPs also need to adopt a hybrid data cloud architecture to manage these concerns and avoid vendor lock-in. Technology vendors like Cloudera are increasingly moving their CSP customers toward hybrid data cloud architectures to help them manage, process, and analyze data in the new emerging models enabled by 5G. CSPs are using products like the Cloudera Data Platform (CDP) and Shared Data Experience (SDX), to embed comprehensive data security and governance into the platform to manage data and analytics in both private and multiple public clouds with a single consistent data context.

Applications enabled by 5G can be processed at the network edge, and data collected and analyzed to generate “real-time” insights for customers. Apps can also be containerized to enable them to be moved to the edge and processed close to the source.

In Korea, LG Uplus has recently made great strides in charting a course to using data as a competitive differentiator. Being one of the first CSPs in the world to launch 5G, LG Uplus made a critical and early decision that its existing platforms on the 4G LTE network would need to be upgraded. LG Uplus wanted full visibility into the new 5G network and all nodes across its network, while having a single platform across legacy technologies like wireline. Moreover, it wanted to have a common network management system that cut across all service offerings.

This new “NMS 3.0” platform was built over three hundred Cloudera nodes and is already processing data volumes of up to 300 terabytes per day. LG Uplus is also already seeing significant improvements in customer response times and time-to-action metrics, which are manifesting in improving net promoter scores and customer experience. With this foundation, LG Uplus can undertake the next step in its digital transformation journey with further investments in hybrid cloud, machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

Shiv Putcha is the Founder and Principal Analyst at Mandala Insights, an independent, boutique analyst firm that offers insights, opinions and research on the network and emerging technologies that will drive the next billion digital opportunities in Asia. Shiv is also keenly focused on the intersection of rising enterprise productivity, Industry 4.0 and 5G. Prior to founding Mandala, Shiv covered the telecommunications industry in Asia-Pacific for IDC and Ovum, along with stints at the Yankee Group, Qualcomm and LogicaCMG while based in the United States.

“Industry Voices” are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.

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