If you want to reduce the amount of time it takes to get from A to B, you have a couple of options. You can try to go faster, or you can reduce the distance between A and B.

5G (and all networks) are constrained by the speed of light. So achieving lower latencies means bringing the network closer to the user.

Core Network Virtualization is an exciting new way to do that — and the impact on business services and applications is profound.

Here’s how.

In today’s mobile networks, your data has to travel from you to the nearest central network node and back.

But, for many users, the core network node may be thousands of miles away – a long, laggy round-trip.

We can’t ask users to get closer to core network nodes, so we need to figure out how to get network nodes closer to users.

It’s good to virtualize

Core Network Virtualization applies the well-demonstrated principles of IT virtualization – as applied to servers, storage and computing in today’s data centers and clouds – to the network node.

In a traditional mobile network, core network functions – traffic aggregation, user authentication, call control and switching, invoking gateways and services – is all done on dedicated hardware full of specialized chips. They’re expensive, so they tend to be centralized.

Network virtualization means using smaller, lower-cost, standardized hardware to do all those core network functions in software. It’s still carrier-grade. But it’s all done in software: a similar principle as software-defined networks in your company’s SD-WAN.

Virtualized network nodes are much smaller and lower cost than traditional ones. So operators can deploy many more of them and, crucially, put them closer to business customers.

The business impact

By giving operators new flexibility and agility, Core Network Virtualization delivers significant benefits to business, including:

Optimized services – virtual nodes can be easily and remotely configured and reconfigured to optimize services for specific, demanding use cases. It’s no longer one-size-fits-all.

Low latency – more network nodes that live closer to business customers mean significant latency improvements, most significantly in urban areas and regions closest to these added, decentralized nodes.

Critical communications in the low-latency economy

Critical communications are going to be a big winner with edge network virtualization.

Because we’ve lived in a high-latency world for so long, businesses don’t really think about latency – until they run up against a barrier. Instead, they build applications with latency limitations in mind.

In a low-latency economy, businesses will start to develop applications and use cases that seize this new opportunity.

A key theme will be enabling remote and autonomous devices without paying the latency penalty.

Use cases will include:

Remote surgery

With immediate haptic feedback.

Smart factories

That react in milliseconds to quality issues or changes on the line.

Remote construction

Guiding robots around unsafe or difficult-to-reach sites.

Massive, multi-user VR experiences

From group simulations to ‘walk-through’ holograms.

Autonomous vehicle fleets

Optimizing routes in real time.

These are the kinds of use cases that only become possible when you virtualize the core network and seriously reduce latency.