Big Interview

The 5G Revolution: unlocking the benefits of next generation networks

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Brenden Rawle, Director of Interconnection, EMEA, Equinix

Q. What is 5G going to bring to enterprises in the MENA region?

5G is the first generation of mobile/wireless communications built to handle advanced enterprise services. Compared to previous mobile/wireless networking generations, 5G supports significantly higher data rates (peak downlink data rate up to 20 Gbps), lower latency (1ms one-way latency on the air interface), more concurrently connected devices (up to 1M devices/km2), improved mobility (up to 500 km/h), as well as better network energy efficiency.

The advances it will bring, in everything from self-driving cars and smart cities, to connected healthcare and Industrial IoT (IIoT), will truly revolutionise every industry sector and bring transformational opportunities to businesses across the region.

Q. Which industry sector do you think will see the greatest benefits?

Some of the greatest advances are likely to be seen in manufacturing. The Global Interconnection Index (GXI) Volume 3, a market study published by Equinix, predicts the installed private interconnection bandwidth capacity within the manufacturing sector will grow 57% annually between 2018 and 2022 to 1,547 Tbps. To put that in context, the manufacturing sector will comprise 12% of the total estimated global interconnection bandwidth across all industries worldwide by 2022.

Data collection through IoT devices, coupled with 5G’s lightning fast speeds, will enable this vast amount of information to be analysed and turned into actionable insights. Networked sensors enable manufacturers to derive meaningful insights from real-time interactions among machines, systems, assets and things. That’s one reason why by 2025, the IoT market for manufacturing is expected to grow to $575 billion and the number of connected devices in the automation sector is expected to increase by a factor of 50. To deliver actionable insights, these devices will need to be dynamically integrated with networks, clouds and digital ecosystems via fast, secure, low-latency interconnection. And this is where Equinix plays a critical role.

Q. What challenges will the advent of 5G bring?

In all sectors, 5G opens the door to high-performance edge analytics for deeper insights. This includes gaining intelligence from data generated by IoT/IIoT and from machine-to-machine (M2M) communications. This data must be analyzed for insights into business and network planning, operations and optimization. However, not all data captured can be processed, analyzed and acted upon in real time. Therefore, it can be challenging to derive useful insights from the volumes of data produced by mobile/wireless devices before it gets old and is replaced by new information.

5G will also bring new challenges for network service providers. Higher 5G mmWave radio frequencies can’t travel as far as 4G and will require operators to deploy more radio equipment, optical capacity and network aggregation points to cover the same geographical area. Network automation and software-defined capabilities will be needed to increase the efficiency and reliability of 5G services. This will require a network backbone that enables connectivity at more points throughout the end-to-end network, such as the mobile telephone switching office (MTSO) or central office (CO), instead of bringing everything back to a few centralized locations.

Ultimately, as data volumes grow exponentially, total cost of ownership for mobile access networks is expected to increase significantly over the next five years. This will make 5G deployments cost-prohibitive for smaller network service providers (NSPs) and medium to small enterprises, increasing their reliance on third-party 5G managed services. But in the long term, the benefits will certainly outweigh the challenges.

Q. Why would NSPs and enterprises look to deploy 5G on Platform Equinix®?

To successfully deploy 5G, operators need to optimize their 5G networks for latency and speed. To succeed, they need to be proximate to multiple geographic interconnection points to access network and cloud partners, business ecosystems and customers. Platform Equinix enables them to expand their global footprint with minimal upfront CAPEX by leveraging OPEX-based software-defined interconnection so their customers can create hybrid multicloud infrastructures via Equinix Cloud Exchange Fabric® (ECX Fabric®) and NFV services using Network Edge. This enables NSPs to deploy new solutions for dynamic apps, and implement advanced business use cases to monetize their 5G investments faster.

Enterprises meanwhile need fast and secure interconnection to optimize productivity, collaboration and ensure user satisfaction while accessing multiple digital (e.g., NSPs, CSPs) and vertical industry business partners. ECX Fabric allows service providers and enterprises access to 5G mobile network operators, in addition to some of the world’s largest network and cloud provider ecosystems. It also provides proximate, private interconnection with companies in business ecosystems, such as financial services (1,250+), and content and digital media (650+). Businesses can use ECX Fabric to directly and securely connect distributed infrastructure via software-defined interconnection, while improving local network and application performance via direct and secure low-latency connections.

Brenden Rawle is Director of Interconnection, EMEA, at global interconnection and data center company Equinix.

Equinix connects the world's leading businesses to their customers, employees and partners inside the most-interconnected data centers. On this global platform for digital business, companies come together across more than 55 markets on five continents to reach everywhere, interconnect everyone and integrate everything they need to create their digital futures.