In his first Connectivity Expo keynote speech as president and CEO of American Tower, Tom Bartlett chose the occasion to tout the tower company’s interest in edge computing.
A year after American Tower purchased Atlanta-based Colo Atl, a provider of collocation, interconnection and data center services, Bartlett said edge computing will be a component of the innovation that is spurred by the 5G technology, serving connected and autonomous vehicles, interactive and immersive media delivery, cloud gaming and other low-latency technologies. Last November, Northeastern University Professor Edmund Yeh received a research grant from American Tower to study optimization algorithms, economic modeling and applications for edge computing in 5G wireless networks.
“As networks become virtualized and software dependent, there will likely be an increasing role for infrastructure providers to play in the nascent edge data ecosystem,” Bartlett said.
Both wireless and wireline services will benefit as machine-to-machine information-generating processing moves to the network edge, including internet-of-things applications. Data reduction will demand local inferencing and lower-latency applications will need access to storage and compute functionality.
Although edge mobile computing is not likely to ramp up for several years, American Tower is seeing customer interest in the first phases of micro datacenters at its tower sites and at its Atlanta collocation facility. Edge computing promises opportunities for the tower industry, and American Tower is positioning itself to be ready for it, Bartlett said.
Towers Will Benefit From 5G Spectrum Allocations
American Tower operates 180,000 sites in 19 countries across five continents, including 41,000 in the United States. Bartlett said towers will be key in supporting 5G technology through the deployment of high-band millimeter-wave in densely populated urban areas, mid-band spectrum focused in suburbs and along highway corridors, and low-band spectrum across most geographies to provide a coverage layer. Some of the spectrum has been allocated, and other bands, such as the CBRS and C-band, have yet to be auctioned.
“The FCC is continuing to proactively evaluate additional spectrum potentially released for broadband,” Bartlett said. “We are excited for what lies ahead in the United States and confident that carriers will have sufficient spectrum available to help fuel continued innovation.”
Whether it is low-, mid- and high-band antennas or microdata centers, macrotowers continue to be the most cost-effective category of wireless infrastructure in most of the United States, Bartlett said.
“Enhanced equipment placed on and at existing macro tower sites will deliver 5G speed, low latency and more capacity, helping ease the often uneven distribution of assets to communications topology across rural and urban areas,” he said. “With these benefits in mind, the FCC has made great strides toward ensuring that macrotowers remain the cornerstone of tomorrow’s wireless networks.”
In-building Connectivity Another Avenue for American Tower
Along with towers, Bartlett also talked about American Tower’s commitment to deploying in-building connectivity, using Wi-Fi, 4G and 5G with unlicensed, licensed and shared CBRS spectrum. Those systems are marketed both to the carriers and to the building owners.
“Today’s building tenants view wireless service as an amenity and expect property owners to provide vast speeds for connectivity over secure networks that meet the needs of their businesses and employees,” he said. “As demand for better, faster and more secure network connectivity continues to accelerate in multi-dwelling units, Class A office spaces, shopping areas, stadiums and other similar locations, we expect to help meet that demand in a broader array of venues than traditional DAS with fully managed, fiber-rich 5G-enabled in-building wireless infrastructure solutions.”