BARCELONA -- MWC 2018 -- South Korea's SK Telecom held talks with Deutsche Telekom here in Barcelona about joining MobiledgeX, the German operator's recently launched edge-computing business.
Park Jin-hyo, SKT's newish chief technology officer, told Light Reading that his company had met with Deutsche Telekom senior executives about an edge-computing tie-up that could ultimately see SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) become an investor in MobiledgeX.
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) appears to have set up the business earlier this year, appointing Jason Hoffman, a former cloud technology executive at Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), as MobiledgeX's CEO. (See DT-Owned MobiledgeX to Power German Telco's Edge Rollout.)
Alex Choi, who leads the German operator's network strategy, told Light Reading earlier this week that Deutsche Telekom would start investing in edge facilities in Germany this year using software developed by MobiledgeX. (See DT-Owned MobiledgeX to Power German Telco's Edge Rollout.)
However, while the business is currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom, the goal is to bring other investors on board, including other telcos as well as IT companies.
To a large extent, that makes MobiledgeX look like an initiative aimed at addressing some of the challenges in the edge computing market, and could reflect some frustration with the pace of progress elsewhere in the industry.
Edge computing is increasingly regarded as a critical part of the 5G story. By investing in smaller IT facilities, much closer to end users than traditional data centers, telcos hope to minimize latency -- the signaling delay on data networks.
The hope is that edge computing will open up new service opportunities in factory automation and other industrial markets. It might also lead to some efficiency gains for operators.
SKT is far from reaching any kind of decision about MobiledgeX but has flagged its interest in edge computing, which it believes could help to support applications such as mobile gaming in the consumer market.
"We had a meeting with Deutsche Telekom and they introduced MobiledgeX and SKT is very interested in mobile edge solutions," said Park Jin-hyo, in discussion with Light Reading. "We need to discuss with them about the uses cases but I think we could do something together."
SKT is already collaborating with chip company Nvidia Corp. (Nasdaq: NVDA) on potential use cases for edge computing, said Park Jin-hyo.
Interestingly, Deutsche Telekom's Alex Choi was the chief technology officer of SKT before he joined the German operator last summer, when Park Jin-hyo appears to have moved into the senior technology role at SKT. (See Choi Succeeds Jacobfeuerborn as DT Tech Boss.)
The two operators have a long-standing relationship and have recently worked together on the concept of 5G network slicing, which would allow telcos to provide many different types of virtualized network service over the same physical infrastructure.
Internet giants including Amazon have also been making investments in edge computing, but Choi reckons operators have some key advantages. "Their infrastructure is more centralized. You can't call one or two data centers in each region edge computing," he told Light Reading. "We have great assets -- towers, local exchanges and central offices -- and we can place the edge computing there and make it accessible to customers."
— Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading