& cplSiteName &

China Unicom to Build 'Thousands' of Edge DCs

Iain Morris

THE HAGUE -- SDN NFV World Congress -- China Unicom will invest in thousands of edge data centers in the next few years as part of a broader network overhaul linked to the rollout of 5G services, a senior company executive said in The Hague on Tuesday.

The Chinese operator, which competes against China Mobile Ltd. (NYSE: CHL) and China Telecom Corp. Ltd. (NYSE: CHA) in its domestic market, plans to build "thousands" of edge data centers alongside "hundreds" of regional facilities and "tens" of core data centers, said Xiangyan Tang, China Unicom's chief technologist, during a keynote presentation at the SDN NFV World Congress.

"Today we have constructed core and many regional centers and as a next step we will migrate to edge data centers," Xiangyan told attendees at the conference.

China Unicom Ltd. (NYSE: CHU) is eyeing a launch of 5G services in 2020 and the edge data centers could help to support a range of new services requiring much lower "latency" -- the delay that occurs when sending signals over data networks -- than today's 4G-based offerings.

Edge computing promises to reduce this latency by moving IT resources out of centralized facilities and relocating them near basestations or other access network equipment, where they are much closer to end users.

The move could open up opportunities in areas such as factory automation, robotics and connected cars.

Xiangyan's comments further suggest that operators covering vast geographical areas are showing greater interest in edge networking than telcos in much smaller markets, where the benefits of a costly network overhaul may not be as obvious.

"Customers in those markets might already be physically close to the network core and all the content," said Gabriel Brown, a principal analyst with the Heavy Reading market research group, during a previous conversation with Light Reading. "Deploying in that gap can be expensive and messy, and in a 4G environment how much benefit do you get?" (See Edge Inertia Grips Telcos as Rival Interests Jockey for Position.)

All three Chinese national operators are now looking at opportunities outside the consumer market following the smartphone boom of the last few years, which has seen millions of Chinese consumers sign up to higher-speed 4G services.

For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.

Besides alerting conference attendees to China Unicom's edge networking plans, Xiangyan also said the operator would continue to make investments in software and virtualization technologies to support the rollout of new services and boost efficiency.

But he outlined several challenges the industry has yet to address in this area, complaining that "ossified management and operation don't fit SDN and NFV" and noting the lack of software and IT engineers right now.

Xiangyan also complained that open source software and white box hardware technologies are still not ready for commercial deployment.

The construction of new edge facilities could prove costly for many telcos, although China Unicom plans to spend just 45 billion Chinese yuan ($6.8 billion) in capital expenditure this year, down from RMB72.1 billion ($11 billion) in 2016 and RMB133.9 billion ($20.4 billion).

The reduction follows a period of heavy investment in the rollout of 4G networks as operators raced to sign up customers to more lucrative data services.

China Unicom saw revenues dip by 1.5% for the first six months of this year, to about RMB138.2 billion ($21 billion), compared with the year-earlier period.

Its net profit rose by nearly 70% over the same period, to about RMB2.4 billion ($360 million).

— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
10/12/2017 | 2:18:18 PM
China Unicom does compete against China Telecom. However, I'm not sure how true that competition really is, given that both companies are state owned. 
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading is spending much of this year digging into the details of how automation technology will impact the comms market, but let's take a moment to also look at how automation is set to overturn the current world order by the middle of the century.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue – London
November 10, 2017, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
November 16, 2017, ExCel Centre, London
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Is US Lurching Back to Monopoly Status?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/16/2017
'Brutal' Automation & the Looming Workforce Cull
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/18/2017
Muni Policies Stymie Edge Computing
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/17/2017
Pai's FCC Raises Alarms at Competitive Carriers
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/16/2017
Worried About Bandwidth for 4K? Here Comes 8K!
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 10/17/2017
Animals with Phones
Selfie Game Strong Click Here
Latest Comment
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives