In this new era, 5G telecommunications services will be a critical enabler of the digital transformation of the enterprise.

For years, people have been talking about the transformative power of ultrafast, high-bandwidth 5G telecommunications networks. Today, we’re at the dawn of this new era, and it’s time for business and IT leaders to lay the groundwork for capitalizing on the opportunities enabled by 5G and its complementary technologies, included Edge computing.

In this new era, 5G telecommunications services will be a critical enabler of the digital transformation of the enterprise. These emerging technologies provide the foundation for new products, services and business processes that will keep enterprise at the forefront of their industries.

These opportunities stem not just from the faster speeds and lower latency of 5G networks, but also from the way in which 5G is being implemented, which is different from previous generations of network technology. From the very edge of the network, 5G is being deployed on industry-standard servers with a software virtualization layer running on top of them.

This software-driven approach to the network allows communications service providers to offer tailored services and connectivity based on the workload, such as prioritization of data traffic, performance guarantees, enhanced security and network slicing — the creation of multiple virtual networks that run on shared infrastructure. Suddenly the network is more flexible than it has ever been before.

While 5G changes many of the ground rules for the industry, the new Telco is about more than just 5G. It’s also about Edge computing. More specifically, the advent of 5G networks allows enterprise to capitalize more fully on Edge computing, which moves compute and analytics closer to the points where data is generated and used, rather than sending the data to and from servers in cloud data centers.

And this is where the 5G story becomes even more powerful. The combination of 5G and Edge computing enables new use cases that extend from the data center core to the network Edge. Through the ability to bring compute as close to the Edge as possible, these use cases go far beyond enabling people to do more on their mobile devices and in their connected cars.

In a fully realized 5G world, enterprise will partner with their carriers and service providers to build solutions for use cases that wouldn’t have been possible with earlier-generation networks. These use cases leverage capabilities like network slicing and prioritization, along with low latency and high bandwidth, to enable new use cases, from delivering telemedicine and remote surgeries to enabling augmented reality and virtual reality experiences.

Along the way, the crossover between traditional cloud technologies and Telco technologies will give rise to Telco cloud models. Unlike today’s massive public clouds, Telco clouds will encompass tens of thousands of small, interoperable clouds that interact with public clouds. With Telco technology behind them, these geographically separated clouds will offer higher availability and reliability than today’s public clouds to meet the demands of business-critical applications.

The era of 5G will also be marked by the intersection of virtualization and containers for Edge clouds. Containerization is a technology in which applications are run only when needed, and without the traditional full operating system stack that traditional applications rely on. Additionally, containerized applications break down large, complex tasks into much smaller pieces, and instantiate the containerized application rapidly on-demand in various quantities to meet the current demand.

Through containerization of applications, capabilities are delivered in discrete blocks that can be instantiated, replaced and shut down as needed in real time. These containers will be used to provide both core network functions of 5G networks, as well as end-user workloads. Through the implementation of Telco Edge clouds, Telco operators will be able to maximize their investment in 5G by running both network core functions on the Edge, as well as allowing for as-a-service models for customer workloads — on the same underlying infrastructure.

Telco Edge clouds will also support temporal use cases whereby the applications/workloads run for short periods of time, as needed, for specific use cases. Examples of these temporal use cases include augmented reality (AR) whereby information is only needed when requested, or connected cars where individual containers could be run to support each connected car — but only run when there are cars connected. This rapid standup/teardown of containers only when needed allows applications to scale on demand — and from an Edge cloud perspective this dynamic scaling ensures that the limited resources for each Edge cloud node can be tuned based on prioritization requirements.

While enabling these new use cases, the ability to offer disaggregated micro-clouds will allow service providers to more easily monetize unused capacity on the network. Essentially, a telco delivered Edge cloud could consist of thousands of micro-data centers across the country — all interconnected to provide both the network functions as well as host customer workloads. The result is a highly-distributed cloud supporting on-demand consumption models in parallel with core network services.

Key takeaways

The rise of 5G networks is not just the next step in the ongoing evolution of telecommunications. It is a very significant leap forward that opens the door to unprecedented possibilities and new capabilities for enterprises — but only for those that are poised to seize the day.

For IT and business leaders who are laying the groundwork for 5G-enabled solutions, services and business processes, it’s important to think big. Think about things you can do now that you couldn’t do before. Think about how your enterprise can optimize and leverage this new technology to drive new revenue streams, to enhance your operations, to reach more people, to do something better.

Originally published at CIO