We expect the number of cellular IoT connections to reach 3.5 billion in 2023. Such devices will generate a whopping 90 zettabytes of data, with an average person expected to conduct over 5,000 data interactions every day.
However, over time, by deploying a growing number of media-rich and time-sensitive applications within the network, there's a high probability of data processing bottlenecks across critical network nodes. The network infrastructure also needs to analyze the images to identify suspicious elements and send out alerts to the concerned administrator. To effectively execute, the process should be near real-time — which may become impossible if data transmission occurs through a clogged, overcrowded physical network. With geographically distributed network resources and data centers, delivering data quality and interoperability is virtually impossible.
Storage devices and computing processes cannot be far from the connected devices for seamless deployment of data-heavy applications such as AR, AI and streaming video. As with smart cities, these ambitious concepts can only work to their full potential if IoT is enabled with real-time data sequencing. This demand for data is constantly on the upswing, with the growth forecast at 26% CAGR, according to IDC's Global DataSphere. As such, low latency, higher scalability and enhanced resiliency will be crucial to their service offerings.
Enter edge computing.
Moving Toward The Edge: A Telecom Industry Imperative
Edge computing in telecom can address these issues by helping companies collate and analyze critical data locally through an edge server to reduce the dependency on the cloud and move them to a future-ready architecture. Computer, network and storage are all at the edge — either within the IoT device itself or in a logical gateway — and the barriers of distance and latency are removed. Edge computing can reduce latency and, as Gartner, Inc. estimates, should eventually deliver a 75% reduction in the need to transfer data to the data centers.
Telecom companies that leverage edge computing can play a decisive role in simplifying IoT implementations. It is quickly becoming evident that edge computing will become a must-have for telecom players looking to become future-ready. Edge computing enables them to:
- Deploy IoT devices seamlessly. Seamless deployment of IoT devices is the key to optimized networks and processes. Edge computing allows for the faster and more effective processing of the substantial bulk of data generated by these devices, allowing them to operate at full functionality.
- Drive the adoption of 5G. 5G connectivity is a critical aspect of edge computing. It delivers the high-speed, low-latency networking required for seamless communication between devices with IoT sensors. As per experts at Ericsson, it is estimated that close to 25% of 5G use cases will depend on edge computing by 2023.
- Cater to the demands of mobile streaming. With the proliferation of high-speed internet and smart devices, the need for cutting-edge mobile technology has grown exponentially. Expanding network capacities offers users high-quality and consistent mobile streaming experiences, and edge computing makes this possible.
- Address revenue and cost concerns. The current paradigm relies on tools and processes that are not as cost-effective as they could be. With innovations across the spectrum, it is necessary to adopt new technology to maximize revenue and optimize costs.
- Gain a competitive advantage. The telecom sector is a highly competitive, mature marketplace where new players emerge every day. Here, adopting the right technology innovation at the right time can be a crucial differentiator for telecom companies to gain a commercial edge.
A Gradual Shift To Edge Computing
A sea change seldom happens overnight. To ensure a seamless and successful shift to edge computing, telecom companies must carefully think through their digital strategy for the next few years and build a comprehensive roadmap, including the following areas:
- Infrastructure. Digital transformation on an industrial scale requires infrastructural development. Telecom companies should look for onboarding experts who can offer new-age infrastructure management services. These will include implementing new tools and technologies as well as upgrading and integrating the existing infrastructure.
- Datacenters. The future of edge computing in the telecom sector will require state-of-the-art datacenters to mitigate the challenges of geographically distributed business operations. The identification and inclusion of IT specialists and knowledge partners will be crucial to success.
- Network. As mentioned earlier, creating a robust network is paramount for companies to optimize edge computing. Network edges — both fixed and converged — are crucial for telecom companies to move up the value chain.
- Virtualization. By virtualizing computer hardware platforms, storage devices and computer network resources, telecom companies can quickly ramp up 5G networks.
Organizations with a clear view of their future industry needs are encouraged to act quickly on edge computing. Telecom players are proactively collaborating with cloud computing services by leveraging advanced cloud platforms, rapidly digitized networks, new chip architectures and the growing demand for low latency to optimize investments and minimize the cost to customers.
The telecom industry is ready to begin the transition to the edge. Telecom companies need to leverage the latest technology innovations and offerings in a highly competitive market to sustain and accelerate growth. The imperative for the telecom players is to aggressively move into active conversations with their IT solutions providers and knowledge partners and take a leap toward edge computing as they set the course toward a thriving future.
This article was originally published on Forbes.com.