Edge computing is “next step in the evolution of our network,” AT&T says

AT&T is working on an edge computing test zone in Silicon Valley that is set to go live next year, hoping to work with developer partners to try out applications that could include self-driving cars, drones, and augmented and virtual reality.

Edge computing is one of the technologies expected to underpin “5G” networks and assist in lowering latency in both 5G and in advanced LTE networks. The test zone is being created by AT&T Foundry locations in Silicon Valley and Atlanta. AT&T said that the initial test zone “will cover several miles and could expand over time.” The edge computing test site will have an LTE connection to start, but the service provider said that it will be upgraded to 5G once the standard and network equipment are available — possibly as soon as the end of next year.

In a blog entry on the new edge computing test zone by AT&T’s Igal Elbaz, head of AT&T Foundry, and Mazin Gilbert, head of AT&T Labs, the two wrote that the Silicon Valley site will allow AT&T to “will work closely with developers, startups and other companies to test low-latency, next-gen cloud applications. Simply put, it’s the next step in the evolution of our network.”

The operator said that as part of its move toward edge computing, it will be “[installing]graphics processors and other computers in cell towers, small cells and other parts of our network that are never more than a few miles from our customers” in order to reduce latency.

“Our goal in this experiment is to find the right architecture, the right services and the right business value in this ecosystem,” said Elbaz. “It’s all about moving quickly and collaborating closely with third-party innovators and developers.”

In a newly published white paper on edge computing, (pdf) AT&T cited a number of the technology’s benefits for telecom companies, including reducing backhaul traffic; improving network reliability by distributing content between the edge and data centers; and quality of experience maintenance for subscribers. The carrier also mentioned that edge computing reduces total cost of ownership both by optimizing central-office infrastructure with low-cost edge solutions, and through “decomposing and dis-aggregating access functions” and opening up new potential revenue streams by “creating an opportunity for 3rd party cloud providers to host their edge clouds on the telco real estate.” A&T also said that as it has worked on its Domain 2.0 initiative, it has used a hybrid cloud model that can be adapted to edge computing; it said that it will more than double its integrated cloud computing capacity this year.


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