We’ve talked previously about the role Dell Technologies will play in 5G transformation and the huge opportunity that the combination of 5G, the edge and IoT will deliver to business but what about the telecom industry, which is at the very heart of that transformation?
New services and incremental revenue streams
While the edge is just one individual component, its inclusion in the telecom network changes some important fundamentals. Effectively, the telecom network now becomes a mobile platform with radio, core and IT workloads all running on a common infrastructure, capable of providing new services and delivering incremental revenue streams. And so, while 5G will turbocharge the intelligent edge revolution, I believe that the edge will also drive 5G adoption and help to create new and revolutionary communications platforms.
Dell Technologies and Intel recently commissioned independent research on this very topic, entitled ‘The Edge Opportunity’, which presents a huge range of exciting, new market opportunities for telecom players. I’ve highlighted just a few of these below along with some of my own observations.
Video caching and transcoding
For example, for operators, who provide video-on-demand services, the edge is an obvious location to place content caches. Reducing the latency in streaming video is great in its own right but by keeping popular content close to the subscribers and end-users, you can also reduce bandwidth and preserve network capacity. Of course, this is not a new concept, but commoditization of infrastructure supporting 5G will certainly simplify implementation directly into the mobile network.
Another good example is copyright enforcement, which comes into play during concerts, plays and sports events when members of the audience are prohibited from transmitting the video via their cell phones. In this scenario, an edge application could either disable the upstream transmission completely or reduce the resolution to make the transmission compliant. With new data privacy laws, some data has to reside in a particular geography. Edge applications can enforce these laws, and add value by processing the data locally, within the appropriate jurisdiction.
Virtualized Radio Access Networks
Given the location of edge platforms, elements of virtualized 5G Radio Access Networks fit perfectly. For example, the BBU (Base Band Unit) as part of a CRAN solution can run on edge platforms, taking advantage of commodity platforms and flexible component configurations. Once commercialized, these virtualized networks will enable faster and more flexible introduction of new AI and IoT services.
Third-party edge applications
On that note, I believe that the edge offers the perfect ecosystem to encourage third-party application developers to create new applications that can take advantage of the unique nature of the edge platform. Some of these new applications areas already enabling more immersive, real-time experiences like visual recognition and augmented or virtual reality. Other applications like gaming are also benefitting from the lower latencies near the edge, improving the real-time, online game experience.
And of course, there are still environments with either intermittent, highly constrained, or no connectivity support. These include planes, mines, farms, oil rigs, trains, pipelines, wind farms, solar power plants, and power grids. Having a standardized edge platform in these places will undoubtedly enable new applications to be build out more cost-effectively.
Looking at the bigger picture, IDC estimates a total of 41.6B IoT connected devices by 2025[i], including connected cars, medical devices, factories, hospitals, homes and cities. As that sprawl begins to happen, operators will need to figure out fast how to manage and optimize the network. In addition to analytics, I expect to see increased levels of automation with the ability to connect and disconnect devices remotely. Inevitably, we will also see machine learning and AI being deployed to help with security and the overall quality of customer service.
Interestingly, I am currently seeing two key trends in the marketplace. In large venues, like sports stadiums, some operators are converging elements of the network to create a single, consolidated platform for live replay instead of each operator installing its own infrastructure. Alternatively, some commercial companies like large enterprises, mining customers, airports and factories are actually installing their own private mobile network solutions for maximum security and bandwidth.
Where is the Edge?
This leads me to the next big question – what locations can be classified as the edge? Of course, there isn’t one edge, but multiple edges across a continuum but if we stick with the topic of sport, one of the most interesting examples has to be a venue like a sports stadium, where an edge application could, for example, allow the audience to watch a game from numerous perspectives.
Imagine augmented reality, where you could use VR googles to view incremental information to complement the live replay on the pitch. The stuff of dreams for avid sports fans! Ultimately, it’s all about offering personalized, high-definition content without burdening upstream bandwidth.
In practical terms, what do telecom operators need to consider when planning edge deployments? My customers tell me that they need tough, ruggedized products, resistant to shock, dust and vibration, capable of operating in temperature of up to 45 degrees C and certified for telecom usage, where failure is not an option.
Space is often limited and so light-weight, small, compact products are important, with cabling and cooling designed in a ‘nonstandard’ (for IT) way. This is exactly why we offer shallow-depth servers and provide equipment enclosures and shelters. As access for maintenance is often challenging, the hardware platform should provide extended long-life and include tamper-detection capabilities.
The right partner
Dell Technologies OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions provides hardware and software solutions that can play at every level from the edge to the core, to the cloud. Think scalable, secure, manageable and open infrastructure architecture, IoT, Edge, and big data expertise, the ability to customize, plus a sophisticated global support and supply chain.
As Intel’s largest customer, we have early insight into technology roadmaps and offer a full ecosystem of wrap-around solutions and services including virtualization and security solutions through sister companies like VMware and SecureWorks as well as high-end from partners like Nvidia. To learn more about how we enable telecoms with embedded and edge solutions and to talk to a sales expert visit us online.
Do join the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts on #Telecoms at the #Edge.
Read ‘The Edge Opportunity – Platform Matters’ research report from AvidThink here.
Join our LinkedIn Dell Technologies OEM | Embedded & Edge Solutions Showcase page here.
[i] “Worldwide Global DataSphere IoT Device and Data Forecast, 2019-2023”