This year’s Connectivity Expo, Connect (x), broadened the traditional infrastructure with a wider reach. One of those areas was a number of discussions around Edge networks. Below are some of what was presented in these cutting-edge sessions.
LTE on The Edge
One of the more interesting issues with upcoming 5G is the role 4G, specifically LTE, will play in it. Of late, there has been an uptick in the noise of this and there were some very interesting discussions about it here at Connect (x).
Many say that 4G will be the initial enabler of 5G, with its expanded capability to handle the demands of next-generation networks. It appears, at least from the data presented here, that this definitely has legs. While it is some fog as to all the possibilities of how this will shake out, there is one area where interest is keen – the CBRS band.
One of the promising enablers of licensed LTE, which is attractive to a lot of players, from carriers to web engines such as Amazon and Google, is the CBRS band. There is a lot of excitement here. For one, the barriers to entry are, relatively, low. Another enabling factor is the push for spectrum sharing.
This is extremely important since the CBRS band is being eyed by many factions for many use cases. And, there is broad support, from a technological perspective, from vendors to support the interested stakeholders.
In fact, one of the speakers in the session I attended around this, believes that CBRS deployments, at least in the early stages, will occur by the end of this year. To quote Mike Hart, CTO, Vivint Internet “CBRS is inevitable, now. It is not if, but when, and the when is down to months. This isn’t the end of CBRS, it is only the beginning.”
There also seems to be agreement about that from the FCC. In fact, Commissioner Michael O’Reilly, in his keynote earlier today was confident that progress in the CBRS band, as far as regulations go, will go quickly. As well, there is confidence that other spectrum regulatory agencies, around the world, are on board with making the 3.5 GHz band a common global platform.
It is, actually, quite amazing how fast progress in the band has occurred. This band has the potential to become a model scenario for deployments of next-generation technologies and platforms, while working with incumbents, as well as, employing edge-of-the-envelope spectrum-sharing metrics.
In closing, Hart noted that, “the CBRS band offers a great opportunity for disrupting the traditional models. Over time, we are very bullish about the neutral-host model as well, for a host of platforms, such as in-building.”
There is lot of investment beginning to go into CBRS. It will, definitely, be one of the more exciting spaces to watch.
Collocation on The Edge
Edge computing is definitely a hot topic here at Connect X. One message that came from the sessions is that The Edge is presently a confusing space. Some say it is here, others say not yet. Connect (x) sessions had extensive discussions on connectivity on The Edge and brought some interesting opinions and perspectives on what is going on at The Edge.
The most interesting session was the discussion on the next wave in digital collocation, and it talked about the issues around the convergence at The Edge of the network. Panelists included, Zachary Smith CEO, Packet, Cole Crawford, CEO, Vapor.IO, Josh Wolff Senior Vice President Lumos Networks and Josh Snowhorn, founder and chief strategy officer, EdgeMicro.
It was an interesting discussion because the panelists came from four very distinct and different perspectives, which made sense considering the diversity of the group. They covered just about all the angles. It was a group of very knowledgeable individuals with a pulse on the industry.
One of the more revealing statements came from Crawford when the moderator presented the question about when The Edge will arrive. According to Snowhorn, we are already too late. He wasn’t the only one. There was agreement among the panelists, in general, that The Edge cannot come too soon.
The reasoning for that is because the amount of data being consumed is already nearing capacity in the more congested locations. Without deploying Edge technology, bottlenecks are just waiting to happen. The biggest problem is latency. Typically, networks run around 10 to 20 milliseconds, which is just about the same time the various pathways around the human sensory information highway takes. That metric must be matched by networks otherwise our sensory capabilities are waiting for more input.
That is an interesting angle, yet very on target. Future networks must become transparent and lag times are a primary metric in this. This is of tantamount concern and a primary driver for deploying Edge data center networks as soon as possible.
Another interesting angle is the definition of exactly what constitutes The Edge. This is not a redundant question. The Edge is defined by applications such as autonomous vehicles, drone applications, and medical apps, which are much more sensitive to speed than apps such as video games, enterprise data movement and, in many cases the Internet of Anything/Everything (IoX).
The Edge is really the place where collocated infrastructures exist. The driving metric for these is performance and cost. Therefore, The Edge can really be towers, DAS deployments, small cells and other nodes on the networks, defined by application and data load requirements.
As well, The Edge must be a neutral host to be effective. It doesn’t matter if it manages carrier data, if it is a tower, or a hyperscale company installation. As Crawford puts it, “it is simply a meeting room at The Edge and QoS is the driving metric.
Overall, the message about The Edge, in general, is that we are still in the petri dish stage and we need to grow some results quickly so the industry can begin to get some clarity and begin to deploy it.
Executive Editor/Applied Wireless Technology
His 20-plus years of editorial experience includes being the Editorial Director of Wireless Design and Development and Fiber Optic Technology, the Editor of RF Design, the Technical Editor of Communications Magazine, Cellular Business, Global Communications and a Contributing Technical Editor to Mobile Radio Technology, Satellite Communications, as well as computer-related periodicals such as Windows NT. His technical writing practice client list includes RF Industries, GLOBALFOUNDRIES, Agilent Technologies, Advanced Linear Devices, Ceitec, SA, and others. Before becoming exclusive to publishing, he was a computer consultant and regularly taught courses and seminars in applications software, hardware technology, operating systems, and electronics. Ernest’s client list has included Lucent Technologies, Jones Intercable, Qwest, City and County of Denver, TCI, Sandia National Labs, Goldman Sachs, and other businesses. His credentials include a BS, Electronic Engineering Technology; A.A.S, Electronic Digital Technology. He has held a Colorado Post-Secondary/Adult teaching credential, member of IBM’s Software Developers Assistance Program and Independent Vendor League, a Microsoft Solutions Provider Partner, and a life member of the IEEE. He has been certified as an IBM Certified OS2 consultant and trainer; WordPerfect Corporation Developer/Consultant and Lotus Development Corporation Developer/Consultant. He was also a first-class FCC technician in the early days of radio. Ernest Worthman may be contacted at: [email protected]