AWS Telco Symposium: 5G, Edge, and IoT Come Together

K. Weldon
K. Weldon

Summary Bullets:

  • AWS partners with telcos in four primary domains: digital transformation and modernization; applied AI/ML; business automation; and monetization of 5G, edge, and IoT. At a recent virtual symposium, presentations on each area were replete with solutions and use-case examples, shedding considerable light on the breadth of AWS’s vision.
  • 5G, edge, and IoT are increasingly linked as key technologies that work together for telco growth. The event illustrated how AWS is already playing a key role as a partner and enabler, helping telcos bring new solutions to light as 5G emerges, while expanding its own opportunities.

AWS held a half-day virtual symposium on July 8 that focused on its telco business; the solutions the hyperscaler and its partners detailed were extensive, highlighting how telcos of all shapes and sizes have extensive relationships with AWS. Carriers often depend on the provider for much more than cloud infrastructure. While these alliances are often synergistic and reciprocal (as telco relationships also are with Microsoft and Google), and clearly the two ‘camps’ of telco and cloud provider can’t quite live without the other, there is also some level of ambiguity/co-opetition as they offer joint or highly enmeshed solutions to many of the same enterprises.

While the symposium had four tracks to cover – digital transformation, automation, ML/AI, and IoT/edge/5G – the latter domain is particularly interesting, as solutions from telcos for enterprise customers that will take advantage of the convergence of these three technologies are still in their formative years.

AWS sees its role in this area as providing tools, technologies, and infrastructure that will help telcos monetize their investments by more effectively leveraging the inherent operational efficiency and potential revenue boost (to telcos and their customers) from IoT. By adding the AWS ‘edge cloud’ to 5G network speeds and latency, the theory is that telcos can further reduce latency and integrate with a wide variety of cloud services and capabilities (including the AWS IoT Core platform and a growing set of IoT utilities). These add data processing and storage, visualization, analytics, and an expanded cloud infrastructure with which telcos can provide customers with processing at the edge of their networks (or on the customer premises) to optimize workloads, add security, and further enable low-latency use cases by processing data nearer to where it is produced and collected and/or allowing processing and analytics to be done locally rather than sending it to a faraway cloud or data center.

At the virtual symposium, Verizon and Vodafone discussed anticipated 5G/edge use cases (from industrial robots to augmented reality, drone management, video analytics, assisted and autonomous driving, interactive gaming, and railway management). Both operators announced an alliance with AWS to be a primary strategic partner at the end of 2019 to make all of this a reality via the AWS Wavelength service, which allows developers to use their familiar AWS development tools to create these kinds of solutions easily while having built-in access to telco edge and 5G networks.

This is all heady stuff, and operators acknowledge that they are still at the very beginning of this ‘journey.’ In particular, their customers have to wait for some level of 5G ubiquity and for abilities like 5G SA and network slicing to be available.

And what is never quite clear is the monetization part: Who makes the most money in this arrangement? Do operators still mostly get connectivity revenues or do they get to participate extensively in the value-adds with generous revenue shares for app enablement, app access, and app security; for orchestration of edge assets; and for service enablement, connectivity management, security add-ons, etc.? And who gets the revenues for consulting, integration, and professional services?

Meanwhile, AWS is also providing telcos with digital transformation, AI and machine learning tools, OSS/BSS automation, and a host (no pun intended) of other capabilities. We look forward cautiously to the future, hoping that 5G + edge will really bring AWS and its telco partners substantial gains.

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