When talking about GitOps and Kubernetes powering edge infrastructure (as previously discussed here), the conversation can get so technical that the real benefits of such infrastructure can be missed. In reality, telcos have a lot to gain from 5G and edge networks, and this has ripple effects on their customers. These customers may be end users or organizations. In this post, we look at four key benefits of the 5G edge from the perspective of a telco, and what this means for their customers. We also connect these benefits to Kubernetes (learn more about Kubernetes at the edge in this two blog post series) and GitOps practices, which is the key enabler.

1. Move up the value chain with smart city services

The biggest benefit for telcos when adopting the right strategy towards 5G and edge is that they get to move up the value chain. Thus far, the focus of telcos has been to gain dominance in connectivity. With the 5G edge, the game is now set to become more strategic where telcos compete on how much value they can add to each consumer and service provider they serve.

According to Cognizant, ‘With their experience in technology, scale and subscriber management, telecoms are well positioned to be the managed services provider for smart cities.’ Smart cities is a great example of an intricate mesh of services that will be powered by 5G. Telcos are well positioned to be the key providers of end-to-end smart city services. However, with this opportunity comes the challenge of being able to rollout and manage a complex platform for smart city services. GitOps practices on top of an end-to-end Kubernetes platform can help with tackling the operational complexities.

2. Leverage network slicing for a better end user experience

Telcos can deliver better end user experiences and intelligent services with the power of 5G and edge computing. 5G is about ultra-low latency and ultra-high proximity to end user devices. This is the perfect combination to enable services like self-driving cars, and smart home appliances.

Not only this, network slicing is a huge opportunity for telcos to leverage technology to provide differentiated service tiers. Users pay only for the bandwidth they need. This means a premium pricing tier for activities that require greater bandwidth like real-time gaming, and a lower-priced tier for less data-intensive devices like IoT sensors. With the amount of dynamic provisioning, and fine-grained changes to be made, network slicing is a prime candidate for GitOps.

3. Bridge the gap between service providers & the data they need

Telcos have a wealth of data in their possession. This includes data like the number and type of devices within their network, applications being used, and location-specific data. This data will only get richer with the expansion of 5G. Telcos have the opportunity to build new services around this data that they can offer to government organizations, and service providers. Needless to say, the compliance and regulatory issues around this needs forethought. However, this presents a great opportunity for telcos to be a key enabler of high-value, data-powered experiences of the future. GitOps’ ability to manage data storage and processing at scale will be key to realizing this opportunity.

4. Solve network congestion issues globally

Network congestion is a big issue with the current 4G networks. Users experience varying download speeds depending on what time of the day it is, and on where they are located. OpenSignal reports that the download speed at night when fewer users are active is 2x that of the day times when many users are sharing the same network. Similarly, disruptive.asia has found that the download speeds vary greatly across cities globally due to network congestion. Here are the download speeds according to their tests:

  • Singapore 47.7 Mbps vs Hong Kong 17.3 Mbps
  • New Delhi 7 Mbps vs Karachi 12.9 Mbps
  • Oslo 59 Mbps vs Helsinki 36.7 Mbps
  • Toronto 41.1 Mbps vs New York 30.8 Mbps

They note that these cities are very similar in most aspects, but their download speeds vary due to intense competition between telcos leading to higher density in their networks, and also due to higher population density.

These issues will be a thing of the past when 5G reaches maturity. Part of the solution is that 5G involves higher frequency bandwidth, which means higher speeds. But the big difference is in the ultra-high proximity of network locations to end users. 5G edge networks will be hyper-distributed and will enable telcos to host fewer users per edge node.

Provisioning and managing these numerous edge nodes is new to telcos. They will not be able to set up these nodes the same way they set up 4G infrastructure. It will require application of cloud-native principles. This means leveraging Kubernetes, and GitOps for a holistic rollout strategy that can handle the complexity of edge infrastructure.

Conclusion

Telcos sense the excitement and opportunity around 5G and the edge. This post merely scratches the surface of what’s possible with 5G. The 5G adoption strategy of telcos from here on is key to telcos realizing these benefits.

451 explains: Combining 5G and cloud changes the economics of digital experiences – software can be delivered anywhere it is needed and with a high-bandwidth internet connection for user experiences. Everything will be managed remotely using software, which means fewer expensive hardware renewals and on-site visits. These are replaced by a shift to edge computing in software.

Download the full 451 report to learn more about Telcos adopting Kubernetes for end-to-end orchestration, GitOps for edge and Weaveworks position in the market.