Verizon continues to pledge interest in edge computing

Verizon's Bill Stone discusses the company's wireless network. (Mike Dano / FierceWireless)

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Verizon’s Bill Stone said that the carrier remains interested in providing edge computing services, services he said the operator could sell to companies looking to provide offerings ranging from drones to autonomous vehicles.

Stone, who made his comments here at the SCWS Americas trade show, explained that Verizon’s efforts in edge computing stem from the carrier’s moves to densify its network and to virtualize parts of its network functions. Those efforts, he said, create a foundation for Verizon to eventually run edge computing functions for third parties.

Stone’s comments on edge computing were part of a larger presentation he made about Verizon’s overall efforts to improve its network as it works to launch 5G services. He explained that the carrier continues to bolster its 4G LTE network with new technologies while concurrently working to deploy 5G services. He added that Verizon’s 5G Home offering—which beams internet services into homes and offices—will be just one of many services that Verizon will eventually launch via 5G technology. Indeed, the carrier has promised a mobile 5G launch sometime in the first half of next year.

To be clear, Stone’s comments on edge computing don’t break new ground. For example, Verizon’s Ed Chan spoke several times about Verizon’s edge computing ambitions. And Verizon’s technology partner Nvidia earlier this year offered a detailed look at the potential for Verizon’s edge computing services to more quickly analyze data from video streams inside a smart city deployment.

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Further, Verizon isn’t the only wireless player eyeing the edge computing space. “There’s no doubt in my mind that this is a thing,” Igal Elbaz, AT&T’s SVP of wireless network architecture and design, said of edge computing in September. “Now it’s a question of timing, of deployment, of getting people engaged, and shaping the use cases and the development and optimization. But it’s a thing.”

Edge computing promises to provide faster responses to complex computer problems by physically moving computers closer to where people are. Such a design would represent a major change from most of today’s computing designs, where queries are sent hundreds or thousands of miles away to be processed in a data center.

“According to Gartner, there will be an estimated 25.1 billion devices connected to the internet by 2021, up from 3.6 billion in 2016,” wrote the analysts at Wall Street research firm Barclays in a recent report. “This will require resources to be located closer to the edge of the network so they can be accessed with minimum latency and jitter while securing maximum bandwidth speeds. For example, in the future, self-driving cars will not only have to communicate with other cars but also the infrastructure around them. This will present an opportunity for edge data center providers given the needs to process data flow from vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure.”