Much of the buzz around edge computing that was evident at last year’s Mobile World Congress will carry over into MWC20. The technology remains as crucial as ever not only communication service provider plans for 5G but for the complex and diverse ecosystem on which 5G’s success depends. Very few companies participating in this year’s event, whether from a service provider, IT hardware, cloud computing or software background, will be without a strategy of some kind relating to the edge. However, the sense is that after all the theory an injection of realism will be required at MWC20.
The edge market is headed for strong growth over the next few years. For example, the global revenue for edge devices and edge networks deployed for AI will reach $827.6 billion by 2025, up from $127.5 billion in 2019, with revenue expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 37 percent.
Many service providers believe they can play the major role in building and developing edge networks, but public cloud providers and OTT players among others also have ambitions for the space. There is evidence that parties from all sides see cooperation as the way forward, yet partnerships such as those between network operators and public cloud providers, are still only at an exploratory stage.
Even a year ago no significant move towards commercializing the edge was expected before 2020 so much work in the interim has tended to focus on continuing to explore use cases and on understanding which of these offers the greatest potential in early deployments. Enterprise networks are expected to provide one focus, while latency-sensitive applications such as gaming and AR/VR are also attracting attention. Industrial automation and IoT, which will be much in evidence at MWC20, is another important area where edge networks should have a key role to play.
At the same time, the challenges of building both the physical edge and the wider ecosystem, and of fostering an environment for the creation of new applications and services, have come more firmly into focus. These more immediate challenges can be expected to feature prominently at MWC20, with a drive for greater collaboration among operators, technology companies, enterprises and application developers.
If the coming year is to see some of the first commercial deployments of edge computing, these are issues that need to be urgently addressed as its future success could be decided by the choices made now.