Businesses are leading the 5G revolution, and AT&T is going to give its business customers a full 5G toolbox. We’re the first carrier to publicly lay out what we’re making available to help businesses get the most out of this technology.
America’s 15 million businesses increasingly look to technology to drive outcomes, but their needs range drastically – from connecting a single location, to using networking to connect smart facilities with the latest technologies like artificial intelligence and mixed reality.
This is why our approach to 5G in business isn’t focused on just one solution, but instead brings multiple pillars that reflect our customers’ diversity and needs. Real solutions that we’re bringing to the market today. We’re building our networks to allow fiber-based connectivity and LTE to work efficiently in parallel with 5G solutions, maximizing the impact of a business’s transformation.
Our standards-based approach comes to life via 3 main service pillars:
“The 5G services we’re rolling out and combining with our advanced network capabilities will help businesses fundamentally change for the better,” said Mo Katibeh, CMO, AT&T Business. “It will open up opportunities to increase revenue, reduce operational costs, and ultimately create amazing new experiences for employees and customers. Whether it’s a local startup, a growing regional company, or national enterprise, these 3 pillars are going to be groundbreaking.”
LTE ushered in the age of mobilization for the American worker. Almost every business has employees that use mobile devices. Whether it’s for employee communication, or for point-of-sale devices, mobile technology is more important than ever.
It is critical that any mobile 5G experience for business allows seamless transitions between Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G.
This is why we will deploy a standards-based nationwide mobile 5G network in early 2020. That network will allow for seamless handoffs between Wi-Fi, LTE and 5G, virtually anywhere a business customer may go.
So far, we’ve confirmed plans for two new 5G devices in 2019. In addition to the NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot we launched in 2018, we’re working with Samsung to offer two Samsung smartphones this year.
In the parts of the 12 cities where our standards-based mobile 5G network is live today, we’re working with businesses to create and innovate new experiences. As we expand the network, these businesses are helping us pave the way for the astounding impact 5G will eventually have nationwide.
We also opened a space within in our AT&T Foundry in Plano, Texas specifically dedicated to prototyping solutions for industry verticals. We’ll soon be bringing 5G to this space, allowing us to co-create 5G solutions with our customers as well as explore the future of enterprise innovation.
Whether it’s for primary connectivity or as a secondary connection to enable reliability, businesses look to fixed wireless solutions to help serve a wide range of needs, like setting up new locations faster.
With a fixed wireless solution, a quick service restaurant could get their point-of-sale devices working the same day they open, and keep their devices connected even if primary connectivity is ever interrupted.
AT&T Business now offers AT&T Wireless Broadband, which has data options and flexibility to help meet each business’s specific needs. In the coming weeks, we will offer multiple speed tiers up to 50Mbps. This solution builds on our leading fiber distribution. Nationwide, over 8 million business customer locations sit within 1,000 feet of our fiber, and we connect nearly 2.2 million locations with fiber today.
This current fixed wireless offering helps lay the groundwork for our customers to upgrade and take advantage of AT&T 5G when its available in their area.
Edge computing is expected to bring a sea-change in how businesses can use cellular data to massively improve their operations. Edge computing allows businesses to route application-specific traffic to where they need it and where it’s most effective – whether that’s in the cloud, the edge of our network or on their premises.
AT&T Business now offers AT&T Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC). This edge computing solution uses our own software-defined network to enable faster access to data processing, and gives flexibility in how businesses manage their cellular traffic through on-premise hardware and software. With MEC they can process low-latency, high-bandwidth applications closer to where they’re used to help create new outcomes and capabilities.
This could mean new machine learning opportunities and more connected devices. Healthcare facilities could process and transfer data-intensive images between devices in the exam room, and transfer that information to the doctor in near-real time. Or manufacturers could process connected sensor data and robotic operations on a scale they couldn’t before.
Plus, the data that runs through AT&T MEC can be routed to their cloud or stay within an enterprises’ private environment to help increase security.
AT&T MEC can be deployed today using LTE or 5G connectivity, for both mobile and fixed wireless applications. Looking at a smart factory as an example, robotic production lines and autonomous forklifts are just two potential uses.
We’ve recently announced deals with AT&T Stadium, and Rush University Medical Center to set up 5G with a focus on MEC.
“Healthcare systems use a lot of networking power, and 5G is going to be a turning point in how mobile networks are used in caring for patients. Using multi-access edge compute, the possibility of robotics and increased telehealth are two aspects of healthcare that we’re planning to explore,” said Dr. Shafiq Rab, senior vice president and chief information officer, Rush University Medical Center and the Rush System for Health. “Ultimately, it’s about creating better outcomes for our patients. 5G combined with MEC will give us the foundation to provide patients better service, and increase the quality of care we provide.”
As we look to the future, edge computing solutions are expected to become available to serve broader metro environments, and will give things like autonomous vehicles, AR/VR and drones new life.
We’ll be sharing more about our edge computing services this year.
We’re the First to Bring Everything Together for Businesses
AT&T is using these three pillars to help businesses move into the future. It all works together to give them the best tools to operate more efficiently, reach new customers, and increase loyalty. We are bringing the business experience into the future with 5G.
“5G is the gateway to an entirely new world for businesses, but it needs multiple technologies coming together to achieve its true potential,” said Jason Leigh, senior research analyst at IDC. “Leveraging the low latency, increased connection density and high bandwidth power of 5G will allow businesses to deploy integrated solutions that accelerate their own digital transformation, and drive productivity improvements, efficiency gains and enhance customer satisfaction faster than ever before.”
“AT&T Business brings solutions to life that allow businesses to innovate and shape the daily lives of consumers,” said Katibeh. “Our new mobile 5G, fixed wireless, and MEC services can help take businesses to the next generation of connectivity.”
Packet, a bare metal automation platform for developers, is collaborating with SBA Communications to create an edge data center operational model with direct wireless connectivity. The two companies have broken ground on the first Boston edge data center location at an SBA cell tower site in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Customer availability is expected by the end of 2018.
“We are excited to partner with Packet to bring the power of edge computing to our tower site in Foxborough, the first of what we expect will be many sites in our extensive portfolio to become distributed network connectivity points for emerging 5G and edge computing applications,” Clay Moran, director of strategy at SBA said.
Packet is expanding its edge computing presence with some 50 new sites under development. In a departure from the hyperscale cloud model, Packet is inviting physical and supply chain partners to participate in what is expected to be a highly disaggregated and rapidly expanding ecosystem.
“We view this initiative as one similar to what we are seeing from the other towercos, including CCI’s working relationship with Vapor IO (who is also working with other tower cos outside of CCI), and AMT’s goal of achieving 25% revenue from nonmacro sites,” wrote Jennifer Fritsche, senior analyst, Wells Fargo. “We continue to believe the “edge” theme is in its very early innings. In our view the towers are in a position to play a very significant role in this developing theme. The base of the tower is a logical place for a micro edge data center given the power and fiber to the location as well as the security in place. We look for more developments around this theme to come in 2019.”
The Boston edge location is the first of many planned site expansions in collaboration with SBA and other cell tower companies. In addition to offering its cloud services, Packet will also enable solutions for the 3.5 GHz CBRS band, while also offering a clear path for additional spectrum bands and the proliferation of 5G technologies and shared spectrum solutions.
“With our announcement today, we are delivering on our promise to reinvent the service provider model and deliver dynamic ‘one click’ cloud native infrastructure including wireless access,” said Ihab Tarazi, CTO at Packet. “Our customers will also have a clear path for IoT and Public Cloud integration providing high performance for their edge applications.”
Austin, Texas, has always been edgy. two weeks from now as it hosts the 2018 Edge Congress, it is going to get even edgier.
The edge is on everyone’s lips today. And with good reason. The edge is shaping up to be the most significant, single element of future networks. The edge will be a critical part of everything from 5G, to the Internet of Everything/Everyone (IoX), smart cities, and autonomous vehicles as well as all things connected. Without it, the vision of a next-generation wireless ecosystem will not happen.
This next generation of communications will move so much data that it will be impossible to manage it on a global scale. However, it is being discovered that much of that data will never move far from its origination point (wearables, IoX devices, autonomous vehicles are some examples). Therefore, managing the data locally in a concentrated sector in and around where it lives is the solution to avoiding massive data traffic jams. This is what we call the edge and managing edge data will requrie a completely different perspective than we have had to date.
Edge computing and edge facilities will be the enabling factor for super-fast and ubiquities interconnectivity. It will transform the communications infrastructure like nothing before.
Data will be analyzed and acted upon in massive deployments of small cell networks. These networks will require intelligence far beyond that of the macro infrastructure of today. Their functionality will also be significantly different. Understanding the significance of edge networks is a do or die ultimatum because of their integration with everyone and everything. If you are in any communications sector, you need to know about the edge networks.
The Edge Congress brings together a wheelhouse of experts in this arena. It will offer deep dives into what comprises the edge. Players at this conference include big names such as Intel, Dell, Edge Micro, Microsoft, EdgeConneX and more. The sessions are forward thinking and will explore every nook and cranny of this brave, new ecosystem.
Please join me in Austin October 24thand 25thfor a look at what the future of the network will look like.
EdgeMicro is launching a Proof-of-Concept Program that will enable companies to accelerate their timeline for proving the viability, scalability and performance of their edge computing pilot projects. Companies seeking to test low-latency applications that take advantage of edge-located data cache and compute services can apply to utilize a no-cost testing environment in an EdgeMicro data center that is dedicated to these pilot projects.
“All companies seeking success at the edge recognize near-zero latency can only be achieved by placing their IT hardware and services closer to the consumer. These companies include content providers, wireless companies, IoT and other service providers. While each company delivers unique value, they all have a common challenge: the hurdles of cost and speed to market are too high,” said Mike Hagan, CEO of EdgeMicro.
The testing environment is in a secure, fully-redundant 48 kW EdgeMicro data center in Denver and is supported by key partners including Megaport, Fiber Mountain and BitBox. Customer testing will commence November 1, 2018 with a target end date of February 2019.
“This program gives companies much more than a testing environment,” said Josh Snowhorn, chief strategy officer. “Selected participants will be among the first to leverage EdgeMicro’s ETX (Edge Traffic Exchange), a distributed micro internet exchange program designed for mobile interconnectivity.”
Today’s Internet is broken; and the tower can help fix it.
For the last decade, the Internet has been dominated by very large, centralized, data centers built in remote locations by the likes of Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook.
It is hard to understate how much of today’s Internet depends on, these and other companies, servers housed in the world’s largest data centers – often in the middle of nowhere. Nearly everything we do on our connected devices – from checking the weather on an Alexa device to sending emails from an iPhone – requires dozens of round trips to these massive warehouse-scale cloud computers in remote locations.
However, there is an emerging class of applications – including IoT, mixed reality, immersive mobile gaming, and autonomous driving – where the existing model of remote, centralized data centers, with best-effort Internet routing, becomes insufficient. These applications need optimized connections to the last mile network and require compute and storage to be located more closely to the device or application. The round trip back to a centralized data center takes too long, and the amount of data, that needs to be transferred, is too large.
We call this edge computing, and its reinventing the Internet and the role of the tower in the process.
Re-architecting the Last Mile
When we talk about the “last mile,” we usually mean that stretch of cable or spectrum that connects the service provider to the device.
In order to survive, the Internet must redistribute the power of its current data center footprint. Centralized data centers will not disappear, but they will be augmented by thousands of micro data centers, with increasingly larger amounts of computing power and storage, at the edge of the last mile.
Edge computing will transform the Internet into a geographically dispersed fabric of computing. Tens of thousands of micro data centers will extend the cloud to the edge of the network, making it possible to run applications and services, in the precise locations in the network where they are needed. Whether it is to support virtualization of the wireless carrier networks, cloud-assisted autonomous vehicles, or mobile mixed reality applications, all will benefit.
Leveraging the Tower Footprint
Building out our next generation Internet demands facilities that are, by definition, near the edge of the last mile network. In large metropolitan areas, where the demand for edge computing will be most dramatic, real estate is expensive and not readily available. The prospect of assembling thousands of small urban parcels, securing building permits, power supplies, enclosures, HVAC, and fiber connectivity would be a daunting, if not near impossible, task.
With hundreds of thousands of cell towers, the wireless industry has an extensive portfolio of locations. These are ideal for micro data centers at the edge of the last mile network. These locations are numerous ,and distributed for geographic coverage, allowing for a wide range of networking topologies and data center placement options.
Tower sites are largely built out and, often, have existing structures with sufficient floor space, security, power, HVAC, fiber connectivity. These, and other preconditions, readily support the addition of micro data centers at a marginal incremental cost. Moreover, because they are literally part of the cellular infrastructure, peering into wireless networks in an edge meet-me room, makes it possible to deploy IT infrastructure that is one hop from the RAN.
The wireless industry is also on an aggressive path to virtualize, densify, and upgrade their networks to 5G. As the wireless industry makes these investments, they will look for ways to reduce their costs or leverage their returns. This creates opportunities for all stakeholders to collaborate around joint interests.
For example, wireless carriers are virtualizing their radio access networks and looking to concentrate the software functionality on “white box” servers running in edge locations. This creates an opportunity for shared cost-reduction, by co-locating infrastructure with other server operators. These include public cloud providers and presents the opportunity for more complex relationships, such as the opportunity for cloud providers, and carriers, to collaborate on building the platform on which to evolve the network.
Finally, the tower industry has a unique set of financial tools to help accelerate this transformation. Most relevantly, a substantial portion of the real estate, tower and equipment-housing capital expense are held in REITs like Crown Castle, which are tax advantaged and have access to vast amounts of low cost capital.
As wireless carriers and infrastructure providers gear up to offer new services to subscribers (and building out their newer 5G networks), we will see an insatiable demand for edge computing.
Since the turn of the century, we have been building large, centralized data centers in far off locations. To date, this has served us well; land and power was cheap, and the round trip from edge to core was “fast enough.”
However, this is no longer sufficient. We must augment today’s centralized data centers with micro data centers at the edge, and the tower will often be the location of choice.
Cole Crawford is founder & CEO of Vapor IO, the leading provider of colocation, interconnection and SD-WAN at the edge of the wireless network. For more information, visit vapor.io. This article will be featured in the Fall issue of Applied Wireless Technology.