How 5G and Edge Computing Will Transform Your Network
By: Ernest Sampera on April 21, 2021
Internet of Things (IoT) devices have seen a sharp increase in popularity over the last few years. However, with so many new wireless-enabled devices hitting the network, there have been some justifiable concerns over how to manage them effectively. Luckily, the emergence of two powerful technologies is facilitating networks in their ability to serve their customers.
5G edge computing technology is empowering companies to transform their networks and unleash the true potential of IoT devices. Together, 5G and edge computing enable businesses to expand their reach into previously underserved areas, while still delivering large volumes of data at lightning-fast speeds.
Whether you’re striving to deliver low-latency, high-performance services to your customers or searching for added efficiencies within your IT infrastructure, 5G and edge computing can take you to the forefront of superior network infrastructure. Before analyzing how 5G and edge computing work together, it’s important to understand how they function independently of each other.
What is 5G?
As the latest development in cellular technology, 5G offers more than just improvement in speed (although it does that too). What distinguishes 5G technology from its predecessors is its ability to transmit data using medium and high-frequency signals over the airwaves. Existing cellular technology operates exclusively on the low-band spectrum, sending out broad signals over a wide area that can travel long distances and overcome obstructions. Unfortunately, low-frequency transmissions take up a great deal of bandwidth, which means that the airwaves can quickly become overcrowded.
Higher-frequency signals take up a smaller portion of bandwidth, in addition to delivering more data. Unfortunately, they lack the range and coverage of low-frequency signals, which means they struggle to penetrate buildings and cannot travel long distances. 5G aims to strike the perfect balance between range and bandwidth.
5G technology transmits signals across multiple spectrums. Cellular signals can be transmitted across the lower band to cover long distances, and then relayed through the higher band to deliver more data and faster performance closer to the end-user. By opening up the medium and high-band spectrum, more wireless devices and services can be added without impacting performance or clogging up the airwaves.
What is Edge Computing?
Traditional networks have taken a very centralized approach to managing data. Information is collected on the outer edges of the network, where it comes into contact with end-users and IoT devices. That data is then transferred back to the servers in the network core for processing so that instructions or other responses can be sent back to the devices and users on the edge. The problem with this arrangement is that it introduces significant latency delays while data travels back and forth.
Edge computing upends traditional architecture by shifting key processing functions away from the core of the network and out to the edge where users are located. Through a combination of edge data centers and IoT devices that can process data for themselves, edge computing can greatly improve network performance and significantly reduce latency.
While the primary advantages come from relocating processing functions closer to where they’re actually needed, the network also benefits from a bandwidth perspective since the overall data traffic flowing to and from the network core is reduced. Since devices can still process data locally or through a nearby edge data center, edge computing networks are much more resilient. They have the flexibility to gather and process data in multiple locations should any part of the network go down.
Even on their own, 5G and edge computing empower networks to do more for their customers. Now, let’s take a look at how they work together to drive digital transformation and deliver best-in-class network services.
How do 5G and Edge Computing Work Together?
IoT devices are most effective when they have high levels of connectivity on the network edge. When powered with sufficient connectivity, these devices can transmit large amounts of data in a flash. While IoT devices can store and process data locally, their ability to rapidly communicate information to other devices in the area is what makes them truly revolutionary.
5G and edge computing is a match made in heaven. While 5G technology operates similarly to existing cellular technology to transmit data over long distances, it’s still somewhat lacking from a connectivity perspective.
Take autonomous cars, for example. They’ll need to be able to not only take in data from their own sensors, but also share that data with vehicles on the road around them. 5G will enable these vehicles to take in large volumes of data, but edge computing is what will power them to move that data as needed.
Edge computing architecture keeps data close, while 5G technology gets it where it needs to be as quickly as possible. In short, they’re the peanut butter and jelly of data management.
As 5G infrastructure becomes more commonplace, edge data centers and IoT devices will be able to form processing areas that allow data to be generated, collected, and analyzed locally with minimal latency. This means the network edge will no longer be an edge in the traditional sense, but rather a ring of interconnected 5G networks that makes it easier to manage data and prioritize what information needs to be transmitted back to centralized servers.
Driving Digital Transformation with 5G and Edge Computing Architecture
The one-two punch of 5G technology and edge computing framework will help companies to fundamentally transform the way they design and deliver their network services. Rather than designing their infrastructure from the inside out, the focus will shift to the edge where customers are located. Smaller, more versatile edge data centers will become a critical factor for organizations looking to create more responsive and dynamic networks that can empower their IoT strategies.
As the processing capabilities of IoT devices continue to increase and customers demand more data-intensive services (such as augmented/virtual reality and high-fidelity digital media), companies will need to find ways to leverage the speed and bandwidth potential of 5G connectivity to provide them. By integrating that technology with existing edge computing principles, they can overcome the longstanding last-mile latency problems associated with existing network infrastructure.