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AT&T Says Edge Computing to Power 5G Experiences

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Jul 18, 2017, 11:37 AM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

AT&T hopes taking advantage of numerous, local data centers will enable the low-latency, high-speed features of 5G. The company is exploring a model called edge computing in order to balance the power needs of mobile devices with those of data center number crunching. AT&T points out that future applications such as autonomous cars and augmented/virtual reality will need incredible amounts of real-time computing. Much of this computing is too much for mobile devices to handle, and is often off-loaded to data centers. The issue is the time it takes data to travel from a car or handset to the data center (often hundreds of miles away) and back. In order to reduce latency while also powering rapid calculations, AT&T plans to deploy tens of thousands of central offices, macro towers, and small cells all over the country — many of which will be within a few miles of customers. The shorter distance from the car or phone to the data center means faster turnaround times for data, or lower latency. AT&T calls these small installations edge computing facilities. AT&T is already testing edge computing with some of its business customers and plans to bake the computing model into its 5G network. AT&T and other carriers are expected to begin deploying 5G technologies as soon as 2018 or 2019.

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