AWS Private 5G — Battle Stations or Meh?

Amar Kapadia

Amazon shook the wireless networking industry last week with their disruptive managed Private 5G offering announcement. Though their statement is short on details and is likely to be heavy on marketing and light on implementation, it is nevertheless a very important milestone for the industry.

WHAT DOES THE ANNOUNCEMENT VALIDATE?

The announcement validates a number of important points:

  • Cloudification is now a given: A no brainer—Private 5G is going to be completely software driven with the 5G radio being the only non-cloud hardware component.
  • Private 5G is real: I talk to some people who question the need for Private 5G and hypothesize that Private 5G is years out. Apparently not so, given the push by the most dominant cloud provider in the world.
  • 5G pulls edge computing: It appears that Amazon is betting that Private 5G will massively increase the demand of AWS infra for edge computing applications (MEC). AWS is not interested in Private 5G per-say, the real prize is the demand for AWS infra.
  • Management plane is the key: The management plane is vital to the solution. The entire 5G + edge computing solution is going to be software (see point#1) and will be spread across 1,000s or 10,000s of edge locations. Also, the environment will change dynamically through DevOps. All of this means that the stress on the management plane will go up exponentially, and Private 5G differentiation will center around the management plane as opposed to the data plane.
  • Wifi like pricing: Perhaps the most important aspect of the announcement is the simplicity of pricing, very much akin to Wifi. This is the way it should be. Why should Private 5G pricing be linked to public mobile network metrics such as the number of connected devices?
  • Managed services is the future: This announcement is further validation that enterprises are not interested in building or managing IT infrastructure. They would rather have someone else take care of it.

WINNERS and LOSERS

I think telcos will be negatively impacted by this announcement. A number of analysts are taking the view that telcos need not be terribly concerned about the AWS announcement because it’s too lightweight. Or they take the view that ultimately AWS will be dependent on telcos to sell their offering. In fact, recent news states “Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg not worried about AWS private 5G .“ Hmmm… I am not convinced about this bravado.

I think if telcos are not sounding the alarm bells internally, they are going to be sitting ducks. Yes, I think telcos and hyperscalers can collaborate on public networks. But on private networks, I think it’s an either-or situation. Sure, telcos have licensed spectrum and they have the ability to create interesting offerings like PNI-NPN (public network integrated non public network). But I don’t think these features are big enough in the long term to be a substitute for innovation. The only way for telcos to block hyperscalers is to innovate quickly and get interesting Private 5G solutions out in 2022.

Another group that will be impacted is 5G dataplane vendors. Offerings like the AWS along with SDO efforts and open source projects will increasingly standardize the data plane.

The ultimate winners are enterprise customers. The offering, should AWS pull it off, is in the right direction.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR AARNA

The AWS announcement validates our strategy in a fairly substantial way. The management plane is clearly the critical control point in the AWS announcement.

However, I think AWS is underestimating the problem of multi-domain orchestration. Once the solution goes beyond being a “starter-kit”, it will require integration with radios, SD-WAN, firewalls, edge computing applications, transport networks, heterogeneous multi-clouds, and more.

Aarna leverages open source that enables us to incorporate the learning from numerous customers and use cases, and our packaging will allow users to consume the technology with ease.

Solving this difficult problem is our strength, and this is where we can shine. I am hoping the AWS announcement is the gravity assist that we can use to propel us into orbit in 2022! Stay tuned for more...

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