Bell Canada is partnering with Amazon Web Services Inc. in a deal that will combine the telecom’s 5G wireless capabilities with the tech giant’s cloud-computing infrastructure to enable new technologies such as immersive gaming, self-driving cars and smart manufacturing.
The announcement comes amid a push by technology mammoths Amazon.com Inc. , Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google to win business from telecom companies by using their cloud-computing infrastructure to help deliver the faster speeds and higher data capacity of 5G more cheaply.
Earlier this year, Telus Corp. announced it has inked a 10-year deal with Google Cloud that will help the Vancouver-based telecom modernize its IT and network infrastructure and deliver fifth-generation wireless services. Rogers, meanwhile, has said it works with different cloud service providers depending on the specific technology being developed; last year it partnered with Microsoft and Attabotics to develop private networks for supply chain operations.
Bell’s partnership with Amazon, announced Thursday, will physically situate cloud-computing and cloud-storage capabilities right next to Bell’s 5G network, cutting down on the distance that data needs to travel, says Jeremy Wubs, a senior vice-president at Bell Business Markets, which provides broadband and wireless services to mid-sized and large businesses as well as government customers.
“You’re taking mini versions of the Amazon capabilities and bringing them right close to the customer, right inside the 5G network,” Mr. Wubs said. “It’s kind of like having a superfast highway right at your front door.”
Reducing lag time, known in the industry as latency, is vital for emerging technologies such as remote surgery or self-driving cars, where precision and fast interaction with the network are vital, Mr. Wubs said. “When you have something that has to happen really fast you can’t rely on that traffic to go all the way back to the data centre – you need it to be processed close by,” Mr. Wubs said. “Milliseconds matter in terms of how fast a car stops, how it reacts to a routing change in traffic.”
Bell and Amazon will begin deploying the technology immediately, starting in Montreal, the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver, and will expand the services based on demand.
Finding new applications of 5G technology is top of mind for Canadian telecoms as they look to recoup the massive investments needed to build out new wireless networks. While some consumers may be willing to pay more for services that will provide them with better gaming experiences, industry observers say the true revenue opportunity of 5G lies in the types of industrial Internet of Things applications that the technology will enable.
It’s still early innings in the years-long buildout of 5G, with most carriers rolling out initial 5G service by installing 5G-capable radios on top of existing 4G network backbones. Bell’s 5G service is currently available to roughly 35 per cent of the population, with plans to cover 70 per cent by the end of the year.
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