Ideally, edge computing solutions combine reduced hardware and streamlined data usage with the faster speeds and better performance of 5G
5G and edge computing have a symbiotic relationship. While these technologies alone are valuable, when used together, they form a more powerful solution that allows enterprises to tap into new ways of connecting their business.
As more devices are connected to the cloud, 5G and edge computing become vital in improving application performance and processing large amounts of real-time data. But for a business with an edge strategy already in place, one question might come to mind: “If I’m already using edge computing for improved data processing, why would I need 5G?”
Let’s discover the answer by examining how 5G and edge computing complement one another and will enable more data-intensive applications in the future.
How do 5G and edge computing work together?
5G and edge computing are two very different technologies with two very complementary natures. 5G increases the speed of data transfer, while edge computing reduces the back and forth between the data center and the cloud, thus reducing the amount of unnecessary traffic over the network. Combining the two enhances the digital experience, improves network performance, and opens opportunities for a new generation of applications in virtually every industry.
What benefits does edge computing provide?
Edge computing allows enterprises to decentralize services by moving key, lightweight components of their application workloads to the edge environment to decrease network congestion. By computing at the edge, organizations avoid sending excessive data to the cloud, processing it at the cloud, and then sending it back. This increases operational efficiency by improving processing speeds and resiliency while reducing costs associated with data storage, transmission, and local server operations.
Think of a refrigerated trailer with sensors that monitor climate to reduce temperature-related cargo loss and damage claims. With edge computing running on the router, the environmental monitor collects and processes data on-site, only sending alerts to fleet management when there's a spike or drop outside the predetermined temperature range. Because only outlier data is sent, cellular data usage, network traffic, and cloud storage space and costs are reduced significantly. But when that outlier data transfer does happen, 5G is there to provide fast connectivity. If the trailer travels through areas with spotty service, edge processing continues uninterrupted and sends data once the connection is restored.
What benefits does 5G provide?
Today’s enterprise organizations need data transmitted without delays or interruptions and can benefit from 5G for various reasons. First, it offers up to 100 times the speed of 4G networks and as much as 1,000 times the capacity. It also supports functionalities such as — a fundamental capability of 5G infrastructure that can partition radio spectrum into different slices, each optimized for a defined business purpose. 5G is also inherently more secure than 4G.
Whether it’s low-band, mid-band, or high-band, all types of 5G are helping shape the future of enterprise networking.
But to achieve the performance needed for data-intensive applications such as video or AR/VR applications, 5G networks — which have response times one-tenth of what they were with 4G — must move processing power closer to the edge.
Bringing IoT to life with 5G and edge computing
Digital transformation is pushing organizations to harness advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), video recognition, IoT, and more, to enable new applications that improve business and speed up operational processes. This push toward a more IoT-driven world isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. It’s estimated that by 2025, there will be 55.7 billion IoT devices generating nearly 80 zettabytes of data, according to IDC.
Many IoT deployments exist at the edge, where it may not be cost-effective or possible to install broadband or fiber connections. In this case, cellular IoT connectivity would be the optimal solution because it reaches previously unconnectable locations. A cellular-enabled edge device, such as an IoT gateway or Wireless WAN router, allows enterprises to improve productivity and the customer experience by collecting and processing relevant data and transporting it from the IoT device to the cloud using 5G, 4G, or Wi-Fi.
With edge computing, businesses can create reliable, secure IoT ecosystems made up of thousands of devices without worrying about bandwidth limitations. But these extensive IoT deployments typically come with a high price tag. Organizations can utilize virtual containers and SDKs to reduce the amount of hardware associated with their devices and minimize their on-site footprint.
What does the future of 5G and edge computing look like?
The future of 5G and edge computing is promising. Advancements are likely to occur in AI technologies, which can be built into mobile HD streaming, geolocation, autonomous vehicles, or augmented reality. And with 5G-enabled technologies, such as network slicing, enterprises can optimize traffic for these new applications and enhance their business models.
Improved QoS with network slicing
5G network slicing will play a huge role in developing future applications because of its ability to improve quality of service (QoS) and optimize network performance, thus enabling IoT, advanced mobile broadband applications, and more. By dividing a network into slices, enterprises have predictable performance that results in huge cost savings. But this capability is still being developed, as virtual network slices require a 5G standalone core — a network wholly dedicated to 5G infrastructure — which many carriers are still building out.
It’s still early to predict exactly which new applications and use cases 5G and edge computing will enable in the future. Still, one thing is certain: They will be susceptible to latency and lag without 5G and edge computing.