Bell Canada builds out edge with AWS, but at what cost?

Bell Canada builds out edge with AWS, but at what cost?

AWS notched up another telco customer win with Canadian incumbent Bell Canada. Under the tie-up, Bell Canada will offer AWS-powered MEC (multi-access edge computing) to business and government users. What does that mean in practice? Bell Canada is going to base its new service on AWS Wavelength, AWS’ cloud-in-a-box for telcos. With Wavelength, carriers can run AWS services from their own data centers using their own network. Customers create a subnet in a Wavelength Zone such as Bell Canada Toronto, and are then able to launch services like EC2.

The idea behind Wavelength, like other edge cloud services, is to reduce latency. By setting up application infrastructure in a Wavelength zone, end-users don’t have to wait for all the network hops it would take to get back to the AWS infrastructure sitting in one of the main regions. Instead, with Wavelength, traffic can stay on the mobile network going from the device to the tower, then directly to the metro aggregation point. This kind of edge infrastructure will basically allow developers to distribute and decentralize application architectures and even split functions to optimize performance. Bell Canada specifically cited streaming video, a ‘bandwidth hog’ application that creates many headaches for carrier network engineers, as an early use case for Wavelength.

A number of telcos have signed up to AWS Wavelength such as Verizon and Vodafone. Ease of market entry and risk-sharing is a clear benefit to operators in having a partner who can stand up and manage a key piece of edge infrastructure. There are also risks in handing over a core part of their next-generation platform to a third party, especially one that has been such a ruthless competitor across so many verticals.

Verizon itself spent billions of dollars on acquisitions such as Terremark in order to bolster its cloud services ambitions, only to wind up disposing of data center and cloud infrastructure to Equinix and IBM in 2017. Perhaps telcos think they can still own private edge cloud and 5G opportunities while splitting the public edge cloud opportunities with hyperscalers like AWS. But with tech companies like Microsoft investing heavily in software-based wireless network management via acquisitions, partners aren’t looking likely to stay out of the telcos’ core business for long.

Jim Davis, Principal Analyst at Edge Research Group, contributed to this report

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