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CTO Focus: How to ensure 5G and edge become the innovation platform they’re meant to be

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5G is much more than a network – it’s a platform for innovation with the ability to provide immediate global scale and enable use cases that we haven’t even dreamed of yet. But to achieve this, industry players must come together to drive this growing ecosystem. Erik Ekudden, CTO of Ericsson, and Bikash Koley, VP of Global Networking at Google Cloud, share their insights into the potential of edge and 5G.

VP and Head of Google Global Networking and Head of Technology and Strategy, Google Cloud for Telecommunications


VP and Head of Google Global Networking and Head of Technology and Strategy, Google Cloud for Telecommunications

VP and Head of Google Global Networking and Head of Technology and Strategy, Google Cloud for Telecommunications

Contributor (+1)


Experts consider 2021 to be the year that serves as the inflection point between network readiness and 5G availability. However, communications service providers (CSPs) and the enterprise customers they serve are still faced with the task of modernizing their networks, systems, and infrastructure to maximize the potential of 5G. To tackle this challenge, let’s first examine what’s different about 5G and how CSPs can best leverage 5G and the edge as an even stronger platform for innovation.

5G means applications and mobile networks are no longer isolated

Let’s first address the difference with 5G. Faster speeds and lower latency are expected of course, and throughout the evolution from 2G to 3G to 4G, we’ve seen step function improvements with each of these generations, including better performance. However, with every generation, the applications and the networks have remained somewhat like ships passing in the night. The network has been guessing what the applications have been doing and the applications have been guessing what the network was capable of.

What’s different this time around is that there is some real innovation happening with the development and rollout of 5G itself. The network is on a path to become more accessible via APIs so that applications can call on and consume what they need from the networks in a more programmable way. This sets us up for more open architectures and ecosystems.

5G leverages a more open architecture

One key difference with 5G is that it’s the most open and flexible architecture we’ve seen. This is thanks to its service-based approach and the decoupling of hardware and software components. We are now running core network elements in the public cloud, private cloud, hybrid cloud, and even multi-cloud, which was unthinkable even five years ago.

The flexibility of this more open architecture allows us to push the cloud to the edge while still being able to manage it under one pane of glass. This is a huge leap forward from traditional networks, which have been domain specific, managed in silos, and with slow service creation and delivery. Now, solutions like enterprise service orchestration remove those silos to enable more flexible and automated networks, based on multi-vendor, multi-cloud and multi-hyperscale cloud provider (HCP) environments.

To be a relevant provider of enterprise solutions, service providers must offer capabilities beyond connectivity. Enterprise service orchestration, including exposure of network assets and network slicing, are foundational capabilities to provide value to the application ecosystem and be in control of the network and the delivered services.

Combining 5G and edge to help industries reimagine user experiences

This convergence of compute, storage and networking at the edge coming together for the first time will enable CSPs and enterprises to offer end users completely reimagined user experiences. Consider, for example, how the automotive industry might enhance how customers shop for a car. As part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Virtual Showroom at the recent CES 2021 event, consumers could experience the new innovative 2021 Jeep Wrangler 4xe by scanning a QR code with their phones, and then see an Augmented Reality (AR) model of the Wrangler right in front of them — virtually placed on their own driveway or in any open space.

Visitors could also see what the car looked like from any angle, in different colors, and even step inside to see the interior in incredible detail. That is the true digitization of an industry segment and highlights the device to network to edge to cloud application relationship and how it can impact the user experience.

5G as the programmable network unlocks more application use cases

Additionally, the programmability of the 5G network will truly enable application developers to utilize all the benefits of the underlying network. It’s about ease of use and enabling CSPs, integrated software vendors (ISVs) and the ecosystem to have the right network-level APIs exposed so that applications can be optimized based on the network behavior and vice versa. Imagine leveraging automation to push applications from cloud regions to the edge based on optimal latency and performance.

New services with 5G, network slicing and edge computing

5G as a platform


Finally, it’s also about having the right tools available for developers to build and integrate applications on the network with zero-touch onboarding and validation. With this, we’ll have come to the point where the way we architect, build and deploy networks lends itself to being a “platform” for application innovation.

5G and edge will be all about the ecosystem

One thing is for certain: there will be tremendous focus on the ecosystem, and it needs to be an ecosystem that includes CSPs, public cloud providers, application developers and technology providers all coming together to optimize the user experiences across industry applications. For instance, at Google Cloud we’re teaming up with popular ISVs to deliver more than 200 partner applications at the edge, from 30-plus launch partners, on the cloud.

As part of the technology space, we talk about compute, storage and networking, but when it comes down to it, it’s about optimally placing these resources – whether in the cloud, at the provider core, at the edge or anywhere in between – to maximize the end-user experience.

With collaboration across ISVs, cloud providers and network equipment providers, we are enabling the rapid delivery and deployment of new vertical services and applications, leveraging capabilities like Anthos, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), as well as multi-vendor, multi-cloud and multi-hyperscale cloud provider service orchestration and global edge networks like Google’s and telecom service providers’ networks.

The openness and programmability of 5G lends itself to collaboration like never before. We predict that in 2022 and beyond, it will be all about the ecosystem coming together to leverage 5G and the edge to build innovations that we can’t yet imagine.

To learn more, watch the full Ericsson 5G Things CTO Focus fireside chat with Bikash Koley and Erik Ekudden

Read more

More 5G Things CTO Focus fireside chats, 5G Things CTO Focus Sessions - Edge introduction in phases - Ericsson

Read Erik Ekudden’s blog post, To deliver cognitive networks, we build human trust in AI.

Read more about 5G and cloud: How telecom can architect the next cloud era.

Learn more about 5G.

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