In the final part of our interview on edge computing with Dominic Romeo, TierPoint Director of Product Management, Dom addresses the advent of 5G networks and how they will affect edge computing and edge data centers.

Read the first three posts in this series:

Part 1 - What Edge Computing Really Means

Part 2 - Where Do AWS and Azure Fit into the Edge Computing Picture?

Part 3 - Edge Computing: Migration Concerns and Challenges

Does 5G help or hurt Edge Computing adoption?

Last time we spoke, we talked about how data center operators can prepare for the coming of 5G. A lot of people, myself included, think about reduced latency when we think about the impact of 5G. When 5G becomes broadly available, do you think it will lessen the need for edge computing?

Romeo: I think it will accelerate it. More than just speed, 5G is also about capacity. Sometimes those get confused with each other, so to clarify, let’s revisit the analogy of a car on the highway. If 5G is that car going 100 miles an hour, then 4G is like that car going 90 miles per hour or maybe even 80 miles per hour.

So, there is a difference in speed, but if 4G is like a four-lane highway, 5G is like a 16-lane highway. That’s because, with 5G, we’re also opening up new lanes by leveraging different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. In the past, all of our cell phones ran on 700 MHz, 900 MHz, or 1600 MHz. 5G opens up whole new frequencies like 24 GHz and 60 GHz.

There’s a reason we never used these frequencies in the past. They only work over short distances, they don’t penetrate trees, and they don’t penetrate walls. But in urban cores or in dense suburban areas, new high-density 5G footprints will let more users connect at higher speeds simultaneously.

Think about it this way ­– instead of five or six people connecting to one cell phone tower streaming Game of Thrones, now you can have 600 people connecting to one cell phone tower all watching at the same time. That is going to open up more access to data and to services.

How 5G will impact businesses beyond common consumer uses?

But how will that impact businesses and not just those binge-watching Netflix?

Romeo: Let’s stick with streaming services for a moment since they’re so easy for people to relate to. Between Netflix and Hulu and Disney and such, we think we live in a world crowded with services. But, I fully anticipate more video streaming services to enter the market because the technologies are readily available to create a really great user experience for very little capital outlay.

In the past, if you wanted to start up a Netflix or Hulu, you had to have a vision as well as the budget and technological expertise. But today, you could buy virtual resources from TierPoint, on-demand network resources from Megaport, and a cloud backend from Azure. You have practically no capital outlay on any of that. You’re just paying monthly bills as you go for the building blocks you need to build a next-generation streaming service.  

Video streaming is just one example. It’s probably a difficult one because video streaming involves licensing and such that can get really expensive and complex. There are far more easily executable innovations waiting in the wings, and I think we will be astounded at the way entrepreneurs take new technologies to create products and services with an amazing user experience now that 3G and 4G – not to mention the capital needed – are no longer limiting factors.

That said, developers have always pushed the envelope of what our hardware can do and probably always will. That laptop with the blazing-fast speed you bought five years ago, now runs like molasses. That’s not necessarily because the equipment is wearing out, so much as it is because the applications you’re running demand so much more.

So as businesses create new products and services that leverage 5G, they’re going to continue to be concerned with decreasing latency to the lowest level possible. I believe that the increased number of users accessing those systems as well as the sophistication of the applications will actually drive latency concerns. Edge data centers will continue to be a way to combat the issue.

Also read: Connectivity is Key to Powering Your Multicloud Strategy

Considering Edge Computing?

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The Strategic Guide to Edge Computing: what is edge computing, how does it work and why does it matter? Read more.

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