AT&T has reiterated its commitment to using edge computing to propel its 5G development and today announced two new initiatives designed to further facilitate the process, the launch of a new test zone and "Akraino."
AT&T first announced its use of edge computing late last year while also advising at the time that a new 'test zone' would be launched in early 2018. This is essentially what AT&T has announced today with the company confirming the test zone will operate out of the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto, California. Here, AT&T, in partnership with GridRaster, is already working on paving the way to reliable and high-performing augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) apps for mobile. The second initiative, Akraino, which has now been announced in conjunction with The Linux Foundation, is an open source project designed to develop "an integrated developer platform" for 5G and IoT applications. According to the joint announcement, open source project code is expected to be made available in the second quarter of this year.
With edge computing at the heart of both of these initiatives, the general idea here (as well as for AT&T's approach to 5G in general) is to distance network access from centralized locations. Instead, edge computing is more about local access which not only can reduce aspects such as latency, but also strain on devices connected to the network. The actual mechanics of data transfer does not change per se (as the data is still centrally located to begin with) however the difference is how it is first sent to a local station before being relayed to the end user. While this may initially sound like a longer route due to the extra stop, it will in real-terms be faster for the end user; due to the reduction in latency and especially in terms of commands sent by devices and replies sent to device – as these are processed locally, or in other words, at the "edge" of the network. For example, as part of today's announcement AT&T highlights the use of AR and self-driving cars as two prime examples where heavier strain is placed on the devices at the local level. Therefore, AT&T argues the use of edge computing will specifically prove beneficial to these industries by lessening the load placed on devices through the offsetting of some of the processing to the cloud, in addition to the closer network access points. As AT&T puts it, delivering a high-end user experience while reducing the need for high computation at the processor level, or for that matter, the need for a wired connection.