Manoj Paul, Managing Director, Equinix India

By 2035, it is anticipated that there will be about 270 million 5G connections in India. Having the potential to deliver data at much higher speeds, lower latency and higher subscriber capacity, 5G will enable millions of real-time connections and empower a wide range of users while supporting a much larger network of interconnected applications and services. 5G is expected to further empo­wer technological convergence, whereby ma­chines and systems will function with in­telligence levels similar to humans.

5G has the ability to deliver far more advanced technologies and use cases, including autonomous cars, smart cities, connected healthcare and industrial internet of things. Compared to previous networking generations, 5G supports significantly higher data rates (with peak downlink data rates of up to 20 Gbps), lower latency, a larger number of concurrently co­nnected devices (up to 1 million devi­ces per square km), improved mobility and better network energy efficiency. How­ever, the technological success of 5G is a function of both the infrastructure that supports it, and the ecosystems that enable it.

5G implementation challenges

The promise of 5G cannot be met without more data exchange points at the edge to support the proliferation of data and distance limitations inherent in 5G techno­logy. To scale for 5G, network providers ne­ed direct, secure, proximate interconnection points between users and applications, to securely host and stream data at significantly higher speeds, higher volumes and lower latencies.

For network providers that tradition­ally own their physical infrastructure assets, keeping pace with advancing technology and enterprise demands can be an expensive, time- and resource-consuming pro­po­sition, requiring significant capex in­ve­st­ment at edge locations in multiple metros and regions – all prior to realising any revenue benefit. While full operational control of underlying assets gave network providers significant competitive advanta­ges during the 4G/long term evolution era, the 5G era will belong to those who can deliver quality services all the way to the application sites at the lowest cost possible.

Success in 5G will also be fuelled by creating a rich digital ecosystem of producers and consumers, as well as optimising the underlying infrastructure – including spectrum, radio access networks, edge data centres, transport networks, hardware and interconnections.

Getting ready for interconnection

Interconnection at the edge has always been essential for businesses, service pro­viders and partners, to collaborate and ex­change data seamlessly. Making 5G a reality begins with leveraging the existing in­frastructure footprint and capabilities, while identifying and planning for future use cases that could benefit from an expansion of neutral, multitenant physical infrastructure deployments farther out to the edge. This can enable private, dedicated connectivity between businesses and pa­r­t­ners or customers, helping them en­sure reliability, low latency, and data security and privacy. 5G is not any different, but advanced usage will require funda­me­n­tal changes in the underlying infrastructure before it can be scaled.

The only way to securely do this is to re­place traditional, centralised informati­on technology infrastructure with an in­terconnected digital infrastructure that can maintain flexibility and agility in the face of the fast changing ecosystem. Digital infrastructure would become more distributed, cloud-connected, agile and flexible. By in­terconnecting with partners and custo­mers across their expanded digital footprint, businesses can become both suppliers and consumers. This would help organisations build a “network effect” that would continuously multiply their value over time.

A robust hybrid infrastructure plays a vital role in ensuring quick network support. With hybrid and multi-cloud connectivity, software-defined interconnection and network functions virtualisation-based automation and orchestration can help organisations achieve higher agility and flexibility. Organisations striving to deliver the best connection for each business location, and creating an application-centric network that supports the best low-latency and end-user experience, are taking a distributed approach to digital in­frastructure to create regional hubs interconnected with software-as-a-ser­vice, network and cloud service providers.