Edge computing and 5G networks

Technical Manager - European Projects

Edge Computing and 5G are closely correlated technologies, the integration of which will allow the unprecedented development and enhancement of data intensive applications, networks and services, ranging from 4K and 360° video streaming and the ability to download, send and reprocess files in real time, to virtual and augmented reality and gaming, from Blockchain to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, and to programmatic advertising (advertising tailored to the user). Thus, being able to process huge amounts of data in fractions of a second inside very small devices, such as sensors and other connected objects, will make the services of tele-medicine and modern Smart Cities a reality: structural monitoring, intelligent video surveillance, virtual reality for events, video and speech analytics and much more.

Edge capabilities will be a key technology within the 5G infrastructure for any service provider.

The benefits of Edge Computing

The combination of Edge Computing and 5G will first of all lead to an increase in the processing speed of data, which are now produced in enormous quantities. According to the Big Data report by Agcom, Antitrust and the Italian Privacy Authority, within 2025 the volume of data worldwide will reach 163 zettabytes (source: Agcom, with one zettabyte being about one thousand hexabytes, i.e. a billion terabytes). The speed increase will be feasible by taking advantage of the local cache of devices such as smart phones or IoT objects.

Processing – or partially processing – the data directly in the device, from a local computer or server, will improve the energy efficiency of connectivity networks and devices by reducing the amount of data sent to Cloud or to centralized Data Centers.

Edge Computing and 5G will also increase the resilience and security of networks and will ensure an optimal allocation of workloads: it will be possible to respond optimally to the requirements of various applications through network slicing, i.e. the dynamic creation of logical portions of the network which, while sharing the same physical infrastructure, can guarantee certain features that are necessary to ensure the quality of the requested service. The integration of these two technologies will also make it feasible to share computational and network resources among a multiplicity of devices. Therefore, in the future it will be possible to adapt traffic patterns to one’s current needs in an automated and dynamic way, improving performance in terms of latency, reliability, prioritization and bandwidth.

Real time management of IoT objects and machinery, safer and more efficient networks are among the (many) advantages created by 5G for Edge Computing.

But what is Edge Computing and what are the advantages that companies can benefit from thanks to 5G?

Edge Computing is a decentralized computational model in which data are analyzed locally, i.e. where they are generated and collected. The already partially and locally processed data are sent to the Cloud infrastructure or to the centralized Data Center. If you wish to know more, please refer to the “Edge computing: un paradigma emergente” article.

Edge Computing is the core of advanced services and the most innovative digital applications, which are based on data management that varies from the “classic solution” where the data were collected by devices and sensors and then transferred to a centralized Data Center, where the analysis was carried out. Nowadays, many applications require instant data processing instead, with real-time response times of a few seconds or fractions of a second. One example is provided by intensive care unit IoT sensors, which require immediate data analysis and command execution, such as closed loop systems that maintain physiological homeostasis. Bringing computing capacity closer to the world of production allows for a significant advance in quality, aimed at achieving productivity, economy and efficiency targets.

That is why companies, as well as Public Administrations, are turning to this new architecture model that takes advantage of the potential of next generation wireless broadband networks to improve their analytical capabilities.

An Edge Computing architecture gathers various enabling technologies: from Cloud to wireless networks, from Peer-to-Peer communication infrastructures to virtualization solutions. The connection between devices generating data and the Edge Computing platform that processes these locally is feasible in different ways: through Wi-Fi connections and through 4G LTE or 5G networks.

In this scenario, however, the main features offered by 5G technology are crucial, that is to say network coverage capacity (up to 1 million devices that can be connected per square kilometer), transmission speed (up to 2 Gigabits per second) and low latency (around 10 thousandths of a second between delivery of the data request and its reception) to amplify the potential of edge computing.

The more widespread diffusion of new generation networks, therefore, paves the way for the development of exponential technologies.

The 5G era has begun. However, it is still in its infancy.

Several implementations of 5G networks are available today, although they are still limited in scale (i.e. up to the reach of the city, in different countries, not yet on a country-wide level). Most of these networks offer advanced mobile broadband (eMBB) services through 5G New Radio (5G NR), which was recently standardized by 3GPP.

5G technology is rapidly maturing for ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC) and Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC), as well as for the highest levels of network function softwarization that will fully cover the needs of various vertical industries.

5G Core technology is the foundation of the numerous 5G use cases developed so far in contexts ranging from manufacturing to health-care, which exploit the very low latency and high throughput properties of the new networks. Italtel is committed to developing such technology and has built its own turnkey End-to-End solution.