Immersive virtual reality (VR), self-driving cars and remote controlled robots are just some of the things telecommunications service providers expect future 5G mobile networks to make possible. However, most large service providers are in agreement that higher bandwidth 5G networks will, by themselves, be insufficient to support these emerging applications.
Recent initiatives by large service providers, including Verizon, AT&T and Deutsche Telekom, illustrate the importance that is being attributed to edge computing as an essential component for unlocking the benefits of 5G.
Chris Drake, Principal Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his take on the implications of these developments and the longer-term opportunities and challenges facing the application of edge computing to 5G mobile networks:
“Edge computing involves the deployment of computer power, data storage and management closer to the end users of digital content and applications. This allows the associated data to be processed, analyzed and acted on locally, instead of being transmitted over long distance networks to be processed at central data centers.
“The benefits of handling data and running applications locally include cost-savings, based on a massive reduction in the amount of bandwidth that’s required to transport data across long distance networks for processing. Benefits also include the higher performance that’s achieved by running applications closer to end users.
“At the end of January 2019, Verizon announced that it had successfully tested edge computing technology on a live 5G network at its testbed in Houston, Texas. According to Verizon, the use of edge computing within its Houston 5G network resulted in a 50% fall in latency, or the lag-time, associated with sending that data for processing by computer servers.
“Nevertheless, plenty of challenges lie ahead for 5G and edge computing, including the need to develop viable business models around the new technologies, and a host of security concerns created by emerging 5G and edge computing use cases, whose distributed architectures will include many more locations at which security breaches can occur. These and other concerns mean that, for many, new 5G applications may be slow to materialize.”