And just how do they intend to do that? By leveraging the 5,000 central offices, 65,000 cell towers, and other properties they have spread out across the company’s ILEC and national network footprint. That’s a very broad potential footprint for edge computing, if AT&T can pull it off. Leveraging cell tower footprints via small outdoor enclosures is something we saw hit the wires last month from Vapor IO and Crown Castle. Having AT&T thinking along the same lines (though I’m not sure they’ve been mentioned directly in the context of Vapor IO) adds some more critical mass to the idea.
Like other network operators, AT&T has big plans to virtualize its network as part of the preparations for the expected bandwidth demands from new technologies like 5G, IoT, and virtual reality. Adding depth at the edge will help with latency and customer experience when it comes to real time services, but of course also adds expense relative to the massive centralization we see from the Amazons and Googles out there. The key to the edge computing revolution will surely lie with the companies that can make the economics scale the best, and AT&T is betting that its existing infrastructure gives it the necessary, err, edge.
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