The coming year is likely to bring more progress with 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC), but the progress is expected to be gradual and not without its challenges, according to GlobalData.
This past year saw AT&T and Microsoft team up, as well as Verizon and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Both initiatives are similar in that they aim to combine cloud resources with newly deployed 5G network infrastructure and position those resources close to places where low-latency and high-performance applications will be developed and consumed, the research firm said.
“Just last year, 5G mobile communications and edge computing were still unrealized technologies of the future, along with many of the digital services and applications they promise to enable such as autonomous cars, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR),” said GlobalData technology analyst Chris Drake.
“Both the AT&T/Microsoft and the Verizon/AWS initiatives are still at the pilot stage and only available to a limited number of customers within limited geographies. AWS has a similar partnership initiative in Europe with Vodafone, which is also hosting AWS Wavelength at the edge of its 5G network to support new service innovation. It too, however, is currently limited in scope and will focus on the UK and Germany,” Drake said.
At a recent investor conference, Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said meaningful revenue from mobile edge compute is expected in 2022.
He explained how Verizon decided “we are not a cloud company, we’re not going to build that,” while Amazon is “very, very progressive.” Amazon’s new Wavelength software is supported on the data center sitting on Verizon’s real estate. “That’s what is the 5G mobile edge compute. Right now, we do 5G mobile edge compute for the public. That means if you’re a developer on Amazon’s system, you log into Amazon.com or whatever it’s called, and you click on Verizon edge, Verizon 5G edge. And then you can start developing, getting latencies down to 20 milliseconds,” he said, according to a transcript.
The first site was in Chicago, with Bethesda Software as one of the first customers. It’s a gaming company with a lot of graphics, and it can’t have its games on 4G because there’s too much latency and throughput is too low. “They can do it on 5G mobile edge compute,” Vestberg said. “So suddenly, they have the 5G phone, and they can run it on a 5G phone. So in the 2020, we're going to open more centers because the distance to the user and the application developer is important. So we're going to open much more mobile edge compute centers together with Amazon during next year or in our premises.”