Edge internet economy to reach $4.1T by 2030: analyst

edge
The report confirms the industry's focus on implementing the edge internet today on existing 4G networks instead of waiting until 5G networks are widely available. (Pixabay)

A new report (PDF) by Chetan Sharma Consulting projects the edge internet economy will be worth over $4.1 trillion by 2030, propelled in part by the densification required for 5G.

The edge internet moves computing and communication resources from their traditional home in the network’s center and origin clouds to the edge—closer to the user. Such a change enables a new class of applications and impacts the applications of today while optimizing delivery economics, according to the author.

However, edge stakeholders are quick to point out that 5G needs the edge more than edge needs 5G. That’s become a bit of a cliché, said Ganesh Sundaram, founder and CEO of AlefEdge, an edge player that is listed as a supporter of the research paper. Two of India’s operators use AlefEdge technologies, although Sundaram is not at liberty to disclose their identities. 

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5G by its very nature requires edge to achieve the types of use cases that are contemplated, such as those driven by lower latencies: autonomous vehicles, drones and telemedicine, to name a few. Edge, on the other hand, doesn’t need 5G to survive and thrive; it will be there regardless.

The good news is edge by its nature is very distributed and involves many players—tower companies, mobile operators, service providers, cable companies, infrastructure vendors, city, state and national governments, site owners, enterprises, and more.

RELATED: American Tower dips toe in edge computing space

“I don’t believe it’s going to be a winner take all,” Sundaram told FierceWirelessTech. “That’s just my personal view,” based on an informed understanding after having dealt with the market for the past five or more years. “It is actually pointing toward a distributed market from a winners’ and market perspective.”

Sharma echoed that sentiment. “The nature of edge computing necessitates that you have a vast distributed ecosystem,” he said, and the number of use cases are quite different in nature, with some services needing longer latency and others needing less. “There’s unlikely to be winner take all,” he added, which is different from the centralized cloud environment where only a few companies are able to scale and win.

Cloud players are looking at the edge as an extension of the cloud, but edge players are thinking of the cloud as just another node to do certain tasks, with the heavy lift taking place at the edge.

In India, operators are implementing edge in central office facilities.

“I think edge is happening in the United States over 4G for completely different reasons,” Sundaram said. It’s because of the ecosystem opportunities. For example, tower companies are excited about going up the value chain and looking at becoming edge data center and facility providers.

Companies like AT&T have been aggressive in the space, but others are taking a more wait and see approach. As far as where individual operators are, “the script is still being written in my view as far as the U.S. is concerned,” Sundaram said. “I think they’re still trying to figure it out.”

Operators almost a decade ago had the same question about whether to go to the cloud or not. But with edge, because of the distributed nature of the ecosystem, “operators can play probably a more stronger role than they were able to play in the cloud arena,” Sharma said. “You’ll probably also see a lot of partnerships take place.”

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