AlefEdge, a company that provides a software stack for edge computing, worked with partners to deploy edge computing capabilities over Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum.
AlefEdge deployed its software at a tower location in Foxborough, Massachusetts. The tower location includes a small data center that’s fitted with bare metal servers provided by Packet. Federated Wireless also participated in the deployment, bringing its shared spectrum controller.
The deployment is significant because it’s one of the first live deployments over CBRS spectrum for an edge computing use case. In September five companies that operate CBRS Spectrum Access Systems (SASs) were approved to begin their initial commercial deployments. Those companies are Federated Wireless, Google, CommScope, Amdocs and Sony.
For its part, Packet already had a relationship with the tower company that was involved in this CBRS deployment. Packet provides about 10 racks of servers with compute and storage capabilities along with switching and connection to the internet. “Packet already has servers at the tower data center,” said Ganesh Sundaram, founder and CEO of AlefEdge. “We pay Packet for consumption. They give us an API to their bare metal, and we install our software through their API. The actual integration took 15 minutes.”
There were other participants in the deployment that weren’t named. For instance, a company provided a CBRS base station. Sundaram said although he couldn’t name the base station provider, he could say that there are four companies that currently sell CBRS base stations: Nokia, Ericsson, Ruckus and Airspan.
In addition, the tower company was not willing to attach its name to the project. But based on prior public announcements, we can deduce that the tower company is SBA Communications.
Sundaram said AlefEdge has already deployed its software at edge locations on 4G networks in India, but it has never used 4G technology on CBRS spectrum before. “CBRS is more than just the base stations,” he said. “The reference architecture doesn’t really exist. We brought that to the table.”
He also said that although edge computing is associated with 5G standards, the deployment in Foxborough proves that “you don’t need 5G to enjoy the benefits of edge.”
First edge-CBRS use case
The first use case that AlefEdge is selling for its CBRS edge compute capabilities in Foxborough is digital advertising on connected screens. “We are getting ready to onboard customers,” said Sundaram. The tower location is close to an outdoor retail mall and entertainment complex — Patriot Place. There are already digital screens in the mall, but “they’re just dumb terminals,” he said. The AlefEdge technology located at the nearby tower can turn these digital screens into smart advertising opportunities. Sundaram said that cameras on the screens can capture information about the gender and age of people looking at the screens, and, using artificial intelligence, it can immediately determine which ads to target to a viewer.
Low latency is important for this use case though because if an advertisement doesn’t start almost immediately, people won’t watch it. “You need a computing environment that is very close to this screen,” said Sundaram.