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Telco edge to accompany 5G roll-outs in APAC

Pilot projects are underway in the Asia-Pacific to deploy telco edge infrastructure to support high-bandwidth, low-latency applications

The roll-out of 5G networks by telcos across Asia-Pacific (APAC) will be accompanied by telco edge infrastructure to support 5G-enabled applications, including the internet of things (IoT), according to IDC.

In a research report, the analyst firm said several telcos in the region are already looking at deploying the telco edge, such as Telstra, Bharti Airtel, Rakuten, SK Telecom, China Mobile, among others. China alone has over 100 pilot projects underway.

IDC defines the telco edge as infrastructure located near mobile cell sites and regional or local datacentres that are smaller than a traditional datacentre. This creates a heterogenous network of far edge and regional datacentres, enabled by open source and cloud-native technologies as well as industry standards.

The motivation for the telco edge – also known as multi-access edge computing (MEC) – is to bring distributed cloud computing technologies, digital platforms and business models together in order to construct a multi-tenant distributed edge cloud ecosystem, IDC said.

It added that while the European Telecommunications Standards Institute has developed a deployment framework for MEC, telcos will still need to build their own cloud-native server infrastructure and software stacks that integrate with 5G networks to support applications such as autonomous transportation and real-time image processing.

Compared to the centralised architecture of cloud computing that lowers IT costs through shared infrastructure, IDC said MEC is about distributed computing at the telco edge to enable low-latency and high-bandwidth use cases that otherwise would not be feasible.

By distributing the compute and storage resources into the telco edge, the amount of internet traffic flowing back into cloud datacentres can be reduced significantly, extending the lifespan of a service provider’s network infrastructure, it added.

Against this backdrop, IDC said the telco edge will become an important new source of revenue not only for telcos, but also public cloud suppliers including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Tencent, Baidu and Alibaba.

Even though partnerships to develop and support telco edge infrastructure are underway, such as the agreement between Amazon Web Services and Verizon on Wavelength, the business models for MEC is still a work in progress, IDC said.

“The scaling IoT use cases and adoption of wireless SD-WAN [software-defined wide area network] devices, and SDN [software defined network]-enabled transport are key drivers for telco edge infrastructure,” said Bill Rojas, adjunct research director at IDC Asia-Pacific.

“In large telco edge implementations, there will be many edge applications from different stakeholders, which means the telco edge will need to be managed and operated as a multi-tenant edge-cloud system,” he added.

Leung Wing Kin, chief technology officer of enterprise business group at Huawei, told Computer Weekly that the rise of edge computing will drive the development of more edge datacentres in order to manage a growing number of edge devices.

“Cloud computing is a centralised model, but when you start moving intelligence to the edge in applications like self-driving vehicles, you will need edge datacentres to fulfil your requirements,” said Leung. “It’s not easy, but that’s the direction the industry is heading.”

Read more about 5G and edge computing in APAC

  • China and Japan will account for the lion’s share of Asia-Pacific’s edge computing market as more organisations in the region look to streamline processes and improve productivity.
  • Amazon Web Services rolls out Outposts in Australia, enabling enterprises to run a consistent version of the AWS platform at locations that require low latency.
  • More edge datacentres will be needed in the Asia-Pacific region to cope with greater adoption of edge computing and IoT when 5G networks are up and running.
  • 5G will account for a fifth of mobile subscriptions by 2025 in Southeast Asia and Oceania, underscoring the keen adoption of emerging technologies in the Asia-Pacific region.
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