U.S. operators’ edge strategies still evolving
Listen to any US operator’s discussion of their 5G network and you will hear the term “edge” peppered throughout. Verizon calls it the “intelligent edge network” or “5G edge,” while AT&T refers to it as “multi-access edge computing” or MEC. T-Mobile is perhaps the least vocal about its edge strategy, perhaps because the company has been much more focused on its 5G network buildout following its purchase of Sprint.
Whatever the name, all three US operators are intent on being edge computing players – but their strategies differ significantly. That isn’t surprising considering edge computing is still a fairly new concept and operators are trying to determine what role they will play in the edge ecosystem and how they will benefit.
Research and consulting firm Analysys Mason surveyed 30 top network operators from 12 countries in 2020 and found that most are intent on pursuing edge computing opportunities because they believe the technology is important in delivering new enterprise, IoT and consumer services such as video, robotics and gaming. And while some network operators view public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure as potential threats, service providers in the US see them as necessary partners that are critical to their edge implementations.
Verizon breaks it into private and public
Verizon has been the most outspoken US operator about its edge ambitions. The company has partnerships with both AWS and Microsoft Azure. With AWS, Verizon uses AWS Wavelength, which is Amazon’s cloud computing platform optimized for the network edge. Developers and businesses can use AWS Wavelength to embed their compute and storage operations inside Verizon’s edge network. Currently, Verizon has deployed its 5G edge network in ten AWS locations and will deploy an additional ten locations this year.
During Verizon’s analyst event held in March, Tami Irwin, EVP and CEO of Verizon Business, said that the company believes that by the end of 2022 edge computing will be a $1 billion market. By 2025, Verizon forecasts it will be a $10 billion addressable market. Some analysts, however, are skeptical about Verizon’s claims. For example, the financial analysts at MoffettNathanson recently said that they believe edge computing services can be handled by a small number of regional data centers rather than thousands of edge compute sites such as what Verizon and others are building.
To be clear, however, Verizon actually has two business models for edge compute – public and private. Irwin said that the company’s partnership with AWS Wavelength is its public model that makes it possible for developers to build latency-sensitive apps and use cases such as delivering high-resolution video or virtual reality. Irwin added that Verizon believes it will make money in partnership with AWS by divvying up the recurring revenue that is derived from customers paying for these workloads.
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