Verizon said it has successfully tested edge computing on a live 5G network, potentially paving the way for 5G to support low-latency applications such as immersive virtual reality. The Verizon 5G edge computing test used multi-access edge compute (MEC) equipment and MEC platform software installed in a network facility close to the network edge to support facial recognition.
In the testing, technicians used MEC equipment to analyze information at the edge of the network, enabling individuals to be recognized twice as quickly as when the same test was conducted using analytics installed in a more distant data center.
5G Edge Computing
Low latency is a key attribute of 5G networks but taking full advantage of that low latency is likely to require edge computing. Without it, analytics and data processing would have to be handled by end-user devices, adding to their cost and complexity.
Many of today’s mobile apps rely on cloud-based processing, but typically that processing is handled in a centralized data center that may be several states away from the end user, and the distances that data must travel increases latency. For today’s applications, that latency typically is not an issue, but as Verizon notes, latency will be critical for applications such as virtual reality, self-driving cars and remote-controlled robotics.
“This shift in where the application processing occurs, the inherent capabilities of 5G to move data more efficiently, and our use of millimeter wave spectrum [are] game-changer[s] when it comes to the edge computing capabilities we can provide,” said Adam Koeppe, Verizon senior vice president for network planning, in a press release.
According to Verizon, other benefits of 5G edge computing include increased reliability, energy efficiency, and peak data rates, as well as the ability to process more data through more connected devices.
Verizon isn’t the only carrier talking about using 5G edge computing to minimize applications’ latency. Earlier this month, AT&T issued a white paper about 5G for the business market that emphasized the importance of using multi-access edge computing to provide processing at the network edge to support low-latency applications.
The MEC acronym may have originated in a 2014 European Telecommunications Standards Institute white paper about the edge computing concept.
AT&T has been talking about the importance of edge computing in support of 5G since 2017 or earlier and has positioned its legacy central office infrastructure as a valuable commodity that could be converted to support edge computing.