Crown Castle continues trials on network edge

cell phone tower
Crown Castle is still in the learning and trial phase but expects its assets will be valuable in an increasingly edge-driven world. (Image: Pixabay)

Crown Castle continues to conduct trials into edge computing as low latency is going to be driving a lot of the applications of the future, including augmented reality, autonomous cars and IoT.

“We're continuing to do some work in trials at the edge,” Crown Castle CEO Jay Brown said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call. “We believe that part of the driver of the devices that are going to be used, whether it's augmented reality, virtual reality, autonomous cars, a lot of the Internet of Things applications, the latency required in order to make those devices work effectively is going to require not only high-speed fiber, dense fiber networks and close proximity to the locations where they are distributed from things like small cells, but it's also going to require computing power at the very edge of the network.”

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Last year, Crown Castle, which holds the title as the largest provider of shared wireless infrastructure in the U.S., revealed that it had made a minority investment in Vapor IO, a startup with intentions to place micro data centers at the base of cell towers, which it describes as literally the true edge of the wireless network.

Crown Castle has said its asset mix of about 40,000 tower locations and large metro fiber footprint make it ideally positioned for a successful deployment with Vapor IO technology.

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In December, Vapor IO announced Vapor Kinetic Edge, a technical architecture for combining multiple Vapor Edge micro data centers into a virtual data center that can span an entire city and deliver 12 or more nines of availability. The Vapor Edge Module is a self-contained, standalone micro modular data center specifically designed to support edge co-location environments.

At the time, Vapor IO CEO and founder Cole Crawford said the edge is not a box. Rather, it’s a highly interconnected suite of hardware, software and connectivity working together in concert, he said, and Vapor IO is able to tie all the components together for algorithmically and autonomically orchestrating the edge.

In Crown’s third-quarter conference call, Brown characterized the relationship with Vapor IO as more of a trial small investment that gives it an opportunity to get some insight into the way people are thinking about the importance of moving computing power to the edge of the network.

“We’ve used them in a number of trials that we’ve done with more hard traditional customers as well as other customers that we believe will likely be meaningful customers to us overtime,” he said, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.