Bell Canada is latest telco to succumb to AWS at the edge
Besides death and taxes, the two greatest certainties in life today are that news headlines will mention a previously unrecognized coronavirus mutation with vaccine-evading potential and that public cloud companies will continue their unstoppable drift into telecomland. Sure enough, in the same week, the UK’s Daily Mail screamed panic about a Nepalese COVID-19 variant and AWS notched yet another telecom conquest, welcoming Bell Canada into its muscular embrace.
It’s not as far-reaching a deal as that between AWS and Dish, a US telco-in-waiting that has gone the whole hog and plonked just about everything it can inside AWS data centers. Rather like some other “brownfield” service providers, Bell has for now stopped at the “edge,” the term used when applications are hosted not in massive data centers but much closer to the customer.
A massive data center might, of course, be smack bang next to a customer. But in a country the size of Canada, millions of users could be hundreds of miles from the nearest such facility. That is a long and tiring roundtrip for any mobile data signal, regardless of the underlying technology. By using a bigger number of smaller facilities, operators hope to cut “latency,” a measure of the journey time in milliseconds. This reduction, they believe, will give rise to all sorts of whizzy new applications.
So why is it an opportunity for AWS? Largely because the edge is a natural extension of cloud capability. Bell Canada, accordingly, is to make use of an AWS technology called Wavelength, which provides a platform for the developers writing new edge applications. Once it has installed Wavelength at the edge of its network, a smorgasbord of services should follow.
Anyone for sub-10-millisecond latency?
That is the basic pitch, at least. The first big unknown is whether business and government customers – the initial target markets for Bell Canada – have been mewling frustratedly about the lack of edge services. AWS has already announced similar deals with KDDI (Japan), SK Telecom (South Korea), Verizon (US) and Vodafone (UK and Germany), and yet the edge, from a telco perspective, still seems to be all marketing and no action. There is no obvious sign most companies are thirsting for low-latency connections.
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