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by Glenn Uidam, Senior Director, Operations, Equinix Australia

As 5G networks roll out across Australia we gain access to more information, commerce, and entertainment on our mobile devices along with countless new wireless capabilities and services.

5G promises higher data rates (up to 20 Gbps), reduced latency (less than a thousandth of a second), and the ability to intelligently manage an increasing range of data types and usage.

5G redefining industries

The speed and capacity of 5G networks will prompt the creation of new applications and use cases for IoT technologies across a range of industries. For example, manufacturers will wirelessly connect machinery on the factory floor to improve productivity, quality, and safety.

Wearable devices and telemedicine will bring advanced warnings of illness and more accurate diagnoses. Vehicles with 5G modems will more efficiently and safely navigate streets and highways. Surveillance devices have potential to improve municipal, commercial, and domestic security, as well as raise a new set of concerns regarding privacy.

We’re becoming surrounded by smart connected devices as a result of greater network density and access to network services. More information processing is taking place closer to the edge to minimise latency.

5G for a multitude of services

With the evolution of mobile networks from initial voice applications to a growing range of data applications, communication and network service providers (CSP/NSP) must implement the infrastructure needed to support the new services. A major challenge to successfully rolling out 5G is meeting Australians’ expectations of quality service across the wide variety of 5G uses—voice, data, commerce, healthcare, IoT, machine-to-machine (M2M) and surveillance.

To successfully deliver 5G, providers will need to deliver these capabilities as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, using flexible infrastructure. For this, many providers will need to look beyond their own data centres. The use of geographicallydistributed colocation and interconnection providers, like Equinix,which provide proximate access to a multitude of partner and customer ecosystems, will become essential.

SDN and NFV Solutions critical

Software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) are critical features that enable providers to meet the functional needs of the various services supporting 5G networks. Software-defined networks treat network device management separately from the data plane controlling network traffic. Network functions virtualisation provides actual services managed in a software-defined network.

SDN focuses on the control plane. NFV focuses on the network services that manage data

flows. SDN and NFV flexibility and adaptability allow independent scaling and deployment of services to meet throughput, processing requirements of the different 5G services.

NFV for fast, flexible deployment

A 5G network functions as a unified, intelligent entity, yet supports the independent services from different providers to meet the data communications and processing needs of customer segments—video, images, commerce, transportation, healthcare. Network functions virtualisation plays a critical role in the fast and flexible deployment of services such as security and network access, and deployment on third-party hosting infrastructures.

NFV solutions enable the physical network to be sliced into multiple virtual networks supporting the radio access networks (RAN) that handle different customer segments and environments. Network slicing is essential in supporting the availability and throughput requirements of the different services in a multi-tenant environment. With NFV solutions, software running on commodity servers replaces functionality traditionally provided by dedicated hardware devices:

High-speed gigabyte connectivity to support the increasing data demands and adoption of the latest smartphone applications worldwide. Firewall and verification services deployed at the network edge to detect and prevent intrusion by malevolent entities.

Routers deployed to minimise latency and create more intelligent networks to support critical municipal monitoring activities involving traffic, environment, utilities, and safety. Virtual switches to optimise M2M traffic, latency, and processing on the factory floor in manufacturing environments.

In the context of a SDN, NFV solutions are deployed quicklyin the data centre, on third-party hosting infrastructure, and remotely. They scale easily to support 5G expansion and are programmatically configured to allow different services inside the core network to interact and continually enhance performance.

The Potential of NFV Solutions

5G networks hold great promise and the potential to transform several industries, as well as the way we work, live, and travel. To deliver the broad reach and deployment of 5G services across the nation and at the digital edge, CSPs will need to work with colocation and interconnection providers offering carrier-grade infrastructure and a wide range of easily-deployed NFV solutions. Equinix offers a growing selection of NFV solutions to help communication and network service providers deliver the promise and potential of 5G networks.

SDN capabilities enable ever-more efficient performance and monitoring of 5G networks. The growing number of NFV solutions allow providers to quickly deploy and scale needed services across the network. NFV solutions will play a vital role in bringing the benefits of 5G to Australians everywhere.