Life on the edge: how new platforms are enabling new services

Let’s explore what can be achieved by bringing advanced operations close to users with sophisticated edge architectures.
Arthur Cole

A veritable wealth of 5G and business services is about to flood the world marketplace, and much of the attention is on building the wireless infrastructure to support these data loads. There is also crucial work underway on the edge technologies that will integrate this environment into the wired world.

A properly designed edge is essential to deploy services to the public. It will lower costs, improve crucial functions like security, interoperability and governance, and ensure that data flows can be managed effectively from the enterprise to individual devices and back again.

But as they say, the devil is in the details, and at this stage of development choosing the right edge technologies could have a dramatic impact on the future of wireless services. Perhaps two of the most crucial decisions are the ways to architect edge demarcation and aggregation. After all, this is where key functions like bandwidth allocation, timing delivery and service demarcation are performed, any one of which could make or break a 5G or business service. At the same time, implementation must be done in very tight power envelopes and physical footprints given the limitations that exist with such a broadly distributed infrastructure. 

Because application demands are expected to be high, demarcation/aggregation platforms should also feature fully programmable capacity and compute capabilities up to 10Gbit/s and beyond for both Carrier Ethernet and IP services. In the UK, for example, BT Group’s Openreach Limited is rolling out new Ethernet Access Direct (EAD) services that leverage the advanced processing functions of ADVA’s FSP 150-XG100Pro Series to deliver advanced applications to businesses and consumers, while other operators are using its embedded server to deliver virtualized firewalls and SD-WAN endpoints.

Programmability is also a crucial enabler for users to access services as quickly as possible and for data to be properly backed up and retrieved when needed. This means providers will need the ability to remotely provision Ethernet capability and set up the billing for dynamic services through largely automated processes. Long-Term Evolution (LTE) capabilities on the edge go a long way toward achieving this goal, not just for emerging 5G services but 6G and beyond.

In Australia, Telstra Wholesale is already deploying this level of service using the ADVA FSP 150-XG300 Series solution to support its Rapid Mobile Activation service. Now the firm can use wireless Ethernet to enable services at new customer sites in days rather than weeks or months. And this connectivity can then be converted to a backup service once fiber links to the home are established.

Access networks also need to see lower costs and latency, which will depend largely on the sophistication of edge architectures. Again, size, efficiency and power are all key attributes in the drive to boost capacity and overcome the existing constraints of last-mile infrastructure. Going forward, it is hard not to see multiple bidirectional 10GbE optical interfaces at the access edge, and since these upgrades should be done with relative ease and at low cost, organizations would be wise to build around modular, pluggable form factors. And naturally, these architectures should support wireless and wireline connectivity, including 5G, and provide the scalability to rapidly accommodate burgeoning workloads without having to lay new fiber.

Rural and remote communities will also benefit from a more robust and rugged edge. Using temperature-hardened housing and the rapid activation tools of the FSP 150, UK provider Quickline is pushing new services out to remote areas in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire using 5G and FTTP for last-mile connectivity. The architecture allows Quickline to maintain 100Gbit/s connectivity from the national network to its PoPs in hard-to-reach places, while also supporting the precise phase and frequency synchronization required by 5G. In this way, the company can serve these remote areas with cutting-edge, high-speed applications at scale without pushing budget envelopes to unsustainable levels. 

The edge is not just a routine stop in the data chain. It is an active, dynamic component of an increasingly integrated and interoperable network ecosystem. The quicker providers can deploy advanced capabilities in close proximity to users, the better positioned they will be as the next generation of services emerges.

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