Lumens Edge Computing

AT&T today announced plans for Private 5G Edge, an offering that will combine private 5G with multi-access edge computing (MEC) from Microsoft Azure. The goal is to enable low-latency services at the network edge.

Private 5G networks use the same type of equipment used in commercial cellular networks to establish wireless networks covering enterprise businesses and campuses for the exclusive use of the enterprise. MEC offerings are designed to bring cloud resources closer to end users to minimize latency and are often used in combination with 5G networks, which are designed to have lower latency than traditional wireless networks.

AT&T already offers both private wireless networks and MEC but currently those are sold as separate offerings. With Private 5G Edge, AT&T said, “we want to make it simpler and faster for organizations of all shapes and sizes to get their private edge networks up and running.”

Private 5G Edge

Plans for the offering include providing the ability to roam beyond the geographic boundaries of the enterprise’s private wireless network. Applications are expected to be able to remain connected as they move onto the AT&T commercial wireless network.

AT&T cites a hypothetical use case for this capability in a press release about Private 5G Edge.

“A hospital might use its private network to precisely track ventilators, wheelchairs and other critical items in its building,” AT&T explains. “But if a ventilator gets loaned to another hospital, our roaming capability could ensure that machine always remains accounted for even outside the private network.”

Private 5G Edge will use CBRS spectrum and/or AT&T spectrum, AT&T said. CBRS spectrum is available on a licensed and unlicensed basis, but AT&T appears to be referencing the unlicensed portion of the band.

The press release hints that Texas A&M University might be a potential future customer for Private 5G Edge. The release quotes the chief information officer for the Texas A&M RELLIS campus, who sees the offering as a means of establishing 5G testbeds.

Other potential Private 5G Edge use cases, according to AT&T, include:

  • Using cameras and AI tools to support robotic assembly and provide “event detection” for manufacturers. Event detection would recognize when a fire starts or a worker is injured and could automatically activate fire suppression systems or alert first responders.
  • For health care providers, video sensors with embedded AI could be quickly deployed at pop-up locations to monitor patients for fevers when the patients enter a specific area, eliminating the need for an employee to test the patients manually.

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