Verizon today announced that it has brought its Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) capability to ten cities across the United States. Indeed, Verizon and Amazon Web Services have facilities in the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Miami, New York, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) (also known as Multi-Access Edge Computing) brings together Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network with Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) cloud capabilities. Specifically, this service enables developers and enterprise customers to develop large-scale, latency-sensitive applications at the edge.
The service, which is branded as “Verizon 5G Edge“, is Mobile Edge Computing that delivers computing resources closer to where they are needed. Instead of the traditional approach to housing these critical resources in a large data center that could be hundreds, or even thousands, of miles away from where the data will ultimately be delivered (i.e., the cloud). Rather, Verizon’s solution, through this new Mobile Edge Computing architecture places resources right at the edge of the network. Specifically, housed in a Verizon central office, which is known as a signaling access point (SAP).
Amazon Web Services (AWS) created “AWS Wavelength” which enables developers to build applications that deliver single-digit millisecond latencies to mobile devices and end-users. Developers can logon to Amazon Web Services and use Verizon 5G Edge from the closest Verizon signaling access point (SAP).
Verizon and AWS Launch Mobile Edge Computing
Mobile Edge Computing was initially launched by Verizon and Amazon Web Services as one facility in Chicago (but not available to the public). However, the companies now have 10 signaling access points (SAPs), across the United States, available for commercial usage. Over the next few years, Verizon and Amazon Web Services plan to launch 55 signaling access points. Subsequently, Verizon and Amazon Web Services will begin shifting facilities closer to the edge.
Verizon’s management team considers Mobile Edge Computing a nascent business line. Therefore, the carrier is targeting 2022 as its timeframe for generating meaningful revenue from this initiative.
Mobile Edge Computing Rationale
The network edge can take the form of a content distribution network (CDN) that places data centers in key locations such as urban centers. Running applications and performing processing tasks at the edge enables much quicker and more efficient performance, and it relieves significant cellular congestion.
Without Mobile Edge Computing, application data has to travel from the user’s device, to the mobile network, to networking devices at the edge, and then to the Internet, to get to the application servers in remote locations. Consequently, this process can result in much higher latency. Indeed, this higher latency prevents developers from realizing the full potential of 5G in addressing lower latency use cases.
Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband Benefits Mobile Edge Computing
Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband offers three key benefits for Mobile Edge Computing including i) ultra-low latency, ii) highly virtualized and iii) extensive reach.
(1) Ultra-Low Latency
Low latency is a must for next-generation applications. Indeed, Verizon’s 5G and Mobile Edge Computing offering work together to take latency to new lows.
Regarding latency, there are two key components i) over-the-air link and ii) link back to a data center.
- Over-the-Air Link: which is lower in 5G than it is in 4G
- Link Back to a Data Center: where data (e.g., gaming data) is being processed
The use of Mobile Edge Computing and therefore, a distributed data center architecture, allows the latency path to be significantly reduced.
Overall, 5G facilitates a reduction in the over-the-air latency. At the same time, Mobile Edge Computing enables a further reduction given the link back to the data center, for compute purposes, is a shorter distance. Indeed, the combination of the two drivers for lower latency means that it is possible to achieve below 10 to 20 milliseconds of latency return path. Once latency below 35 to 40 milliseconds is achieved, the environment becomes suitable for augmented reality & virtual reality applications.
(2) Highly Virtualized
From core to edge, Verizon is virtualizing its entire network. Specifically, as of the end of 2020, Verizon is 70% complete this virtualization process. In turn, network virtualization makes Mobile Edge Computing, on-demand, a possibility.
(3) Extensive Reach
Mobile Edge Computing is all about location. Indeed, Verizon now has 10 signaling access points (SAPs), across the United States, available for commercial usage.
Verizon Mobile Edge Computing Case Studies
Below we highlight three case studies where companies are already benefitting from Verizon’s Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) service.
Video Game Streaming – Bethesda Softworks
Verizon’s Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) platform, Verizon 5G Edge, and AWS Wavelength are already being used in Chicago by video game publisher Bethesda Softworks. Bethesda is best known for franchises like The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, and DOOM. The company, along with its engineering team, has developed new cloud gaming technology, called Orion. Indeed, Orion greatly enhances the experience of streaming video games. Furthermore, this new technology is incorporated into a video game’s engine in order to optimize performance in the cloud.
An example of why Bethesda requires 5G Mobile Edge Computing is that video game streaming requires less than 20 millisecond latency, for a truly immersive experience. By substantially reducing latency and bandwidth, Orion provides a much better experience for gamers. Additionally, the company also significantly lowers costs for publishers, developers, and streaming service providers. In a 4G environment, too much latency exists, and throughput is too low for Bethesda’s video game streaming service. However, with Mobile Edge Computing and a 5G handset, video game streaming becomes possible.
Video game streaming allows users to play video games anywhere, anytime, without downloads or the need to buy expensive consoles or PCs. However, gamers do not have unlimited bandwidth, and at the same time, they demand an ultra-low latency experience. By combining Orion with AWS Wavelength and Verizon’s 5G network, Bethesda is able to deliver video game streaming. Indeed, this represents a frictionless, ultra-low latency experience that will enable millions of gamers to play “AAA”-quality games at max settings, wherever they want, whenever they want, with no downloads or consoles required.
Sports Stadiums – NFL and NBA
Within 5 years, most stadiums in the United States will deploy Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) to significantly enhance the management of information, in real-time, inside the stadium. Indeed, this is critical for fan experiences inside the stadium. Also Mobile Edge Computing can deliver new experiences to fans who are not physically at the stadium.
Game-watching experiences will become much more immersive. Specifically, multi-view cameras and instant replays on a fan’s handset will become prevalent. Verizon foresees potential partnership opportunities with National Football League (NFL) and National Basketball Association (NBA) stadiums, as a result.
For example, the NFL’s Next Gen Stats platform captures player location data in real-time, generates over 200 stats per play, and charts individual movements within inches. The use of AWS Wavelength and Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network has the potential to lower data transmission latency. In turn, this allows for the delivery of new and exciting in-stadium enhancements to fans.
Industry 4.0 and Real-Time Decision Making – IBM and Verizon
In July 2020, Verizon and IBM began working together on 5G and edge computing innovation. This partnership will help enable the future of Industry 4.0. Specifically, Verizon and IBM are developing mobile asset tracking and management solutions to help enterprises: i) improve operations, ii) optimize production quality, and iii) enhance worker safety. The partnership leverages both company’s capabilities:
- Verizon: high-speed and low-latency of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network and Mobile Edge Computing capabilities. Additionally, Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT Platform and Critical Asset Sensor (CAS) solution, which has sensors deployed at the edge.
- IBM: expertise in artificial intelligence, hybrid multi-cloud, edge computing, and connected operations.
Moreover, IBM and Verizon are also working on solutions for 5G and Mobile Edge Computing use cases for the industrial environment. Examples of these use cases include:
- Remote control robotics
- Real-time cognitive factory automation (i.e., mimicking human behavior)
- Real-time video analysis
Edge computing brings resources closer to where data is generated at an industrial site. In turn, this decreases delays in response time, and increases processing speeds and reliability. 5G’s low latency, high download speeds and greater capacity increases the number of devices that are supported within the industrial site. Furthermore, these improvements also support the ability for organizations to interact with those devices in real-time.
Private Mobile Edge Computing (MEC)
Verizon also offers “private” Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) solutions. Indeed these “private” solutions differ from its “public” Mobile Edge Computing offering with Amazon Web Services. Specifically, “private” Mobile Edge Computing provides a private 5G network with compute and storage for only one enterprise’s use. Importantly, security is often a top priority for “private” Mobile Edge Computing deployments.
In “public” Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), Amazon Web Services’ equipment is placed in Verizon’s distribution locations, known as signaling access points (SAPs). However, in “private” Mobile Edge Computing the compute and storage infrastructure resides on-site, in the enterprise’s premise.
Benefits of Private Mobile Edge Computing
Benefits of having a private 5G network are greater security, lower-latency for real-time decision making and customization for a specific solution. Verizon has already been in discussions with Fortune 500 companies across the United States on private 5G Mobile Edge Computing solutions.
Ultimately, public Mobile Edge Computing services will be provided by all hyperscale cloud companies including Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud, in partnership with a more “neutral” location, such as an edge data center provider. However, private Mobile Edge Computing solutions will be customized and tailored to an enterprise’s needs. Indeed, this is more Verizon’s expertise, given the company already has extensive enterprise relationships.
Verizon “Private” Mobile Edge Computing Case Studies
Below we highlight three case studies where companies are already benefitting from Verizon’s “Private” Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) service. Specifically, Verizon is keen on providing solutions to the industries of healthcare, manufacturing, and supply chain logistics.
Walmart, Equinix and Verizon Partner to Deliver Digital Health Services and Surveillance
In March 2020, Walmart, Equinix (data center provider) and Verizon partnered to outfit the retailer’s stores with 5G wireless service and private Mobile Edge Computing (MEC). Walmart has installed Verizon’s 5G antennas and equipment and Equinix’s edge computing on-premise, into two of its stores.
5G services and edge computing will power Walmart’s new health clinics that offer medical services for customers and employees. The clinics will use the 5G network to provide remote consultations with doctors and other healthcare providers. Indeed, this will be done through streaming video over a mobile phone.
Users of Walmart’s new service will have their medical data stored on an app that detects when they arrive at a Walmart location. Furthermore, this app will identify that the user has pre-registered for a preventive care visit. After the appointment, the customer would pick up their prescription in-store. At the same time, the 5G connectivity could simultaneously detect if the items placed in the shopping cart needs re-stocking.
Additionally, Walmart will also use 5G services to power its surveillance cameras, with computer vision, alerting staff to shoplifters. Finally, Walmart will also use 5G services to scan its shelves for inventory that is out-of-stock.
5G’s ultra-low-latency enables real-time communications and improvements to network security. Both of these features are important to providing these broader healthcare services.
Corning and Verizon Team-Up for the Factory of the Future
Manufacturing is an industry which has significant potential to benefit from 5G, particularly in robotics. Whereby the entire factory can connect over 5G instead of Wi-Fi or cables.
In October 2019, Verizon installed its 5G Ultra Wideband, on high-band (millimeter wave) spectrum, in Corning’s fiber optic cable manufacturing facility in Hickory, North Carolina. Corning is partnering with Verizon to test how 5G and private Mobile Edge Computing can enhance functions at the factory. Specifically, factory functions such as automation and quality assurance are the focus. Furthermore, these tests are occurring at one of the largest fiber optic cable manufacturing facilities in the world.
5G’s low latency, fast speeds and high bandwidth can improve the manufacturing process. Specifically, 5G can enhance capabilities like machine learning and augmented reality & virtual reality. Indeed, the factory of the future can use 5G and private Mobile Edge Computing to dramatically speed data collection, allow machines to communicate with each other in near real-time, and wirelessly track and inspect inventory using 5G-connected cameras. Ultimately, the factory of the future will not have a need for wires.
Additionally, the companies will test how 5G can improve the function of autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs). For example, AGVs such as autonomous forklifts, can use 5G to move more efficiently around the factory floor.
Microsoft Azure and Verizon Join Forces in Manufacturing, Healthcare and Supply Chain Logistics
In October 2020, Verizon and Microsoft joined forces to create new ways for enterprises to accelerate the delivery of fast and secure 5G applications. Verizon’s “Private” Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) will be integrate with Microsoft’s Azure cloud and edge services. Specifically, this combination will deliver solutions in i) manufacturing, ii) healthcare, and iii) supply chain logistics.
- Manufacturing: automated high-precision asset localization, tracking and positioning
- Healthcare: real-time precision medicine and fast sharing of large files to improve patient care
- Supply Chain Logistics: Ice Mobility is using 5G and “Private” Mobile Edge Computing, with Microsoft Azure, to help with computer vision assisted product packing. Indeed, by gathering data in near real-time on product packing errors, the company has the potential to improve on-site quality assurance. In turn, this can save 15% to 30% in processing time
By utilizing on-site private 5G, businesses can benefit from an increase in power efficiency and a reduction in costs of end user devices. At the same time, these businesses can address their privacy and security needs.