The telecommunication industry has altered drastically amid evolving technology landscape, innovative service delivery models, evolving consumer behaviour, and regulatory requirements from various regulatory agencies. Today, networks are supporting unpredictable traffic volume, connected mobile, and IoT devices. According to the Cisco report, today, there are 20 billion devices connected to the internet. And by 2023, that number will jump to 29 billion, nearly four devices per person. They are also generating massive amounts of data that exceeds the ability of human operators to manage alone in a timely manner. Gartner reported that approximately 70% of data center networking tasks are performed manually, which increases time, cost, and the likelihood of errors and reduces flexibility.
As we go deeper into the digitally connected world, a high-quality network with last-mile connectivity is essential to create immersive and secure interactions, enhance customer experience, and, most importantly, bridge the digital divide that the pandemic has exacerbated.
The need for a new network model
India is accelerating rapidly in its digitization journey and is staring at a 5G revolution. Along with high-speed and low latency, 5G will be about a new framework to cater to the evolving needs of consumers, small businesses, enterprises, and the government. It will enable complex applications of emerging technologies like IoT, AR/VR, AI, big data analytics, and more. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, 5G can have a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion on India by 2035.
Innovations like OpenRAN and routed optical networks provide an opportunity for service providers to connect a more significant number of people cost-effectively. It allows service providers to rethink how networks are built and drive the network transformation through simplification, cost reduction, and increased efficiency. This will fundamentally change the economics of the internet so that it works for everyone, ultimately bridging the glaring digital divide. These new-age software-driven mobile networks bring limitless connectivity and unlock higher predictability and resilience across existing and new businesses and mission-critical use cases.
Innovations that will redefine mobile networks
Controlling how the network transports applications is increasingly important to ensure a superior customer experience and to leverage the benefits of 5G fully. Because not every application is the same – some are latency-sensitive, and some are bandwidth-hungry – hence do not have the same requirements regarding the network.
For example, to boost capacity, the network’s footprint will need to expand significantly. On the other hand, to host new ultra-reliable low latency communication (uRLLC) and massive machine-type communication (mMTC) applications, it should be able to integrate regional data centers and distributed compute seamlessly – closer to the endpoints in the network. In short, we need to look at it like a highway, where not all kinds of vehicles can move in the same lane. Similarly, the bandwidth will vary from use cases and applications in a 5G highway.
Today IT teams across industries are working to accommodate increased video consumption, collaborative applications, edge use cases, zero-trust secure remote access, and a safe return to the office. While it’s necessary to plan for what your network needs in the coming year, it’s crucial to have a long-term vision. We must look ahead and gear up for the possibilities of new applications, the use cases that will drive innovation, and look at what it will take to support those new endeavors.
It’s not just about doing more of what you already do. It’s about reimagining what you can do. Some of the innovations that will redefine networking are:
Converged SDN Transport: A Converged SDN Transport architecture simplifies the network by converging services on a unified, automated infrastructure for maximum scalability and agility to support emerging services for the 5G era and beyond. As a result, it helps fast-track the delivery of innovative services, unlocks investment efficiency, and its fully integrated automation helps achieve operational excellence.
Routed Optical Networking: Simplification is key to allowing service provider networks to continue supporting exponential traffic growth and emerging demands for service agility while reducing the cost of services, power, and footprint requirements. Routed optical networking, part of the Converged SDN Transport Solution, is an architecture that delivers improved operational efficiencies and simplicity.
Network Slicing: Network slicing offers the ability to build segregated end-to-end networks serving different 5G use cases and customers. It is a flexible, scalable architecture enabling the multiplexing of virtualized, independent networks on the same physical infrastructure. When you partition mobile networks into a set of virtual resources, each “slice” can be allocated for a different purpose. An example would be to route latency-sensitive traffic such as gaming into one slice, while another slice is devoted to less latency-sensitive traffic like video streaming.
Secure access service edge (SASE): SASE provides mobile users, branch offices, and retail locations with secure connectivity irrespective of location, thereby offering a single centralized view for an organization’s network. This allows them to quickly identify users, devices, and endpoints for monitoring activities.
Enabling the new era of connectivity
Intuitively, a leaner network with fewer moving parts will be simpler, more efficient, consume less resources, and allow for a smoother operation, thus lowering its total cost of ownership. Even starting small, such as by leveraging opportunities to introduce hardware and software innovations in the network, will put you on a path to fully transform your network towards significantly simpler architectures and substantially increased agility.
Moreover, the future of network connectivity will drive zero-touch automation of network life-cycle management, including optimizing network performance, predicting upcoming outages, and enabling preventive actions. With such a robust network foundation, the new era of digital infrastructure will open up the possibilities for innovation and business delivery that are beyond the imaginable.
(The author is Mr. Anand Bhaskar, Managing Director, Service Provider Business, Cisco India & SAARC and the views expressed in this article are his own)