CenturyLink's Walker on Why 5G Demands Efficiency at the Edge

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser
5/5/2019

In order to excel at 5G deployments and deliver on the promise of improved customer experience, telcos need to "find more efficient ways of running traffic, rather than going back to central sites," says CenturyLink's Bill Walker.

One of the ways to more efficiently manage traffic and meet increasing bandwidth demands is to make use of edge computing resources. And this is where CenturyLink comes in to the 5G conversation, on the transport and infrastructure side -- "obviously we're not a 5G carrier so we're fronthaul and backhaul for other people," explains Walker.

CenturyLink's Bill Walker will deliver a presentation on 5G and edge computing on Tuesday at the Big 5G Event in Denver.
CenturyLink's Bill Walker will deliver a presentation on 5G and edge computing on Tuesday at the Big 5G Event in Denver.

"Everyone is talking about edge and we believe there are multiple edges," says Walker, senior director of Strategy & Advancement for CenturyLink. "We have always had the edge between the customer and carrier. Now that we're doing NFV and disassembling the network connections, it's not just a pipe between places. We're more cooperative with customers. It's more of a set of paths than a pipe."

So what are those multiple edges? There's the aggregation edge, metro edge, regional edge and core network edge -- to name a few. Walker explains that edge computing provides telcos with the tools to "engineer the paths for employees to get back to the data center or connect between sites."

Edge computing will be critical for the advent of 5G as operators look for more direct paths for network traffic versus the traditional method of routing traffic back to central sites.

"One of the promises of 5G is the incredible latency and throughput -- it's kind of rearranging how we did things with 3G and 4G," says Walker. "5G will look a lot different from how we've run 3G and 4G."


You're invited to attend Light Reading’s Big 5G Event! Formerly the Big Communications Event and 5G North America, Big 5G is where telecom's brightest minds deliver the critical insight needed to piece together the 5G puzzle. We'll see you May 6-8 in Denver -- communications service providers get in free!


The old method of managing traffic demands by leasing more dark fiber was easy, says Walker. But 5G presents new questions for service providers striving to deliver cloud connectivity in an on-demand way for customers. As a result, service providers' company culture and identities are in flux.

"The hardest thing for us is the culture problem," says Walker. He adds that operators will need to improve response time to customer requests, and 5G will also impact relationships between service providers and how they will "order, bill and interact with each other," he says.

CenturyLink's Bill Walker will explore the challenges and opportunities edge computing presents in the 5G landscape during his presentation, "Transforming Enterprise Service Delivery with Edge Computing," this Tuesday at Light Reading and Informa's Big 5G Event in Denver, Colo.

Andrew Dugan, CTO of CenturyLink, will also speak at the event on Wednesday morning on the main stage. In a fireside chat with Light Reading's Editor-in-Chief Ray Le Maistre, Dugan will address how the CenturyLink is prepping its network for 5G, and the impact of 5G on network capacity planning and future fiber buildouts.

The Big 5G Event will bring together over 1,500 telecom executives to piece together the 5G puzzle and examine topics such as SDN, NFV, "anyhaul" transport, edge computing, AI/analytics, IoT and C-V2X platforms, 5G RAN, 5G core and devices and more. It's not too late to register and service providers get in free -- take a look at the full agenda here.

The event will examine the deployment of 5G from all sides -- addressing both business strategies and cultural challenges in additional to technological obstacles and opportunities.

"4G isn't that old and now we're going to 5G," says Walker. "Expectations for throughput and bandwidth are huge compared to 10 years ago… the culture change and agility required just to implement new services, maintain it and keep the quality of service high has turned us all upside down."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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