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Why the 5G era relies on a new breed of CDN – new Vision Paper

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A new Vision Paper from Varnish Software, which provides advanced CDN technology for network and content owners, argues that a new breed of CDN is needed for telcos to fully monetise 5G and to support the enhanced services and applications that will separate the 5G era from the 4G world, including enhanced video services.

5G networks are 10-50 times faster than 4G LTE, capable of delivering an enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) experience in which users should experience a minimum of 50-100 Mbps everywhere and see peak speeds greater than 10 Gbps with a service latency of less than 1ms. But the big question is what telcos and application providers on their networks can use this performance for.

Lars Larsson, CEO at Varnish Software, believes that enhanced video will be the killer app in the early years of 5G – a key reason why consumers will want to buy 5G phones and pay extra for 5G data plans. And it is not just VOD that will define the 5G mobile video era, or even live events streamed in 4K and eventually 8K.

“With 5G you have the opportunity to stream live sport and provide multiple streams so you can follow your favourite player on the field,” says Larsson. “You can have a 360-degree view of a stadium; you can choose your commentator and have a co-viewing mode with friends, and since you have low latency you can innovate new video services with a high level of interaction. The technology is there to do live betting and that will open up new revenue streams and user experiences that will help subscriber conversion from 4G to 5G.

“Every telco is thinking about what they are going to do with this new speed and capacity. They have to provide a reason for the consumer to switch from 4G LTE.”

Varnish Software believes telcos can become the 5G network provider of choice, in the eyes of consumers, by delivering the best mobile video QoE. But this is not possible if you only upgrade the Radio Access Network (RAN). An optimal 5G solution requires a completely new approach to the CDN as well: rearchitected, virtualised and localised.

“The problem is where CDNs are currently situated,” Lars Larsson explains. “Trying to achieve 5G era performance with a traditional CDN will be super-expensive and would actually slow down the Internet because 5G applications are stuck returning to the core network and centralised cloud compute and storage.”

Fully optimised 5G requires a new CDN frontier closer to consumers than has ever been possible before, according to Varnish Software. “The edge of the network could reside in a PoP but also in a metro location, between 5G base stations as well as in virtualised base stations, or even in customer premise equipment. It is entirely customisable depending on use case and customer need,” Larsson explains.

It is possible to locate the edge within a small data center in the mobile tower. For some applications, getting as close to the antennas as possible will be the key to success, the vision paper says.

Varnish believes that as telcos architect their networks to support the applications that will sell 5G, they have the chance to become key players themselves in this CDN market, harnessing their unique ability to place resources closer to the end users than anyone else. By building their own CDN, whether managed internally or using an ‘as-a-service’ model, telcos can support their own content services if they have them, help service/application partners (including video content owners) to achieve the performance they need to innovate in the 5G network, and also sell content delivery capabilities (5G CDN services) to these service/application partners. That means taking money that previously went to third parties in the 4G environment.

According to Larsson: “Not all telcos will be interested in being the CDN but some will, because working with a third-party CDN vendor and having them outside the network, or even bringing them into the network, means leaving a lot of money on the table.”

The Vision Paper discusses:

  • The growth path for 5G
  • Why 5G requires a network transformation that goes beyond the radio access network
  • The value of virtualisation in 5G content delivery
  • How the CDN edge is becoming more localised
  • Why video is the killer app for the early 5G era
  • How telcos can monetise their own 5G CDN

You will find an ‘Edge of network checklist’ and ‘Six takeaways for the C-Suite’ in the document. You can download a copy of ‘Why the 5G era relies on a new breed of CDN’ here.


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