5G and Beyond

Verizon Eyes 80%+ Latency Reduction on Edge Platform

DENVER -- Big 5G Event -- Verizon has recorded latency of just 10 milliseconds during trials of its edge computing platform in New York City as it targets a commercial launch of services by the end of this year.

Latency denotes the time for a data signal to make the round-trip journey from a user device to the Internet and then back again, and it has become a hot topic for service providers launching or planning to introduce 5G networks.

The next-generation network technology promises a much shorter signaling delay than is possible on today's 4G systems. Operators such as Verizon hope this reduction will lead to new service opportunities in areas such as virtual-reality gaming and self-driving cars.

Verizon is now confident it will be able to cut latency by at least 80% through investment in 5G technology and the rollout of new "edge" architecture, according to data shared with attendees at Light Reading's Big 5G Event in Denver this morning.

"Improved edge architecture will be a true architectural driver of change," said Nicki Palmer, Verizon's senior vice president of technology and product development, during a keynote presentation at the event. "On the wireless network today, the lowest latency available is about 50 to 60 milliseconds to gather information and come back. With 5G, latency will ultimately be less than 10 milliseconds."

Edging Ahead
Verizon's Nicki Palmer expects a huge reduction in latency from investment in 5G and the edge.
Verizon's Nicki Palmer expects a huge reduction in latency from investment in 5G and the edge.

The "edge" is a hazy term that refers to parts of the network in closer proximity to end-user devices. By installing IT and network-processing resources in data centers at the network edge, instead of in the centralized facilities where they are normally found, operators could shorten the journey for a data signal and reduce latency.

Verizon is currently investing in its own multi-access edge computing (MEC) platform and aiming to have some commercial services on this infrastructure by late 2019.

"We have architecture up and running in New York City and we are seeing sub-10-millisecond latency right there as we continue to test," said Palmer. "We will have services available on our MEC platform by the end of the year and we will deliver on that promise."

Such low latency may be critical in a future world of driverless cars, where the signaling delay on a 4G network could lead to accidents, but Verizon has said little about the types of service that could become available this year.

It has been collaborating with business customers at various innovation centers as it tries to unearth the low-latency applications that could fuel revenue growth in future. The operator has also opened some incubation labs where its staff can work side by side with entrepreneurs and technology start-ups.

In one case, it is working on capturing and processing holographic images in real time before distributing these over the wireless network. "You will need 5G for that," said Palmer.

Earlier this year, Verizon said it would give up to $1 million to any business that comes up with an idea it can turn into a commercial service.

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But the investments that would be required for a nationwide sub-10-millisecond offering could be staggering, while demand and willingness to pay for that service currently remain unclear.

Verizon plans to invest between $17 billion and $18 billion in capital expenditure this year, about the same amount it spent in 2018, as it builds out a 5G network based on millimeter wave spectrum.

Much of that investment, however, will go toward bolstering mobile services for smartphone customers and on "5G home," a residential broadband offering that uses 5G as an alternative to the fixed line.

"We will launch [5G] in 30 markets this year and are well on the way to that," said Palmer. "5G home expands in the second half of 2019 as more home devices and equipment become available."

During a panel session later in the day, Palmer said she was expecting "meaningful" 5G revenues at Verizon in 2020, citing the 5G home service as a big potential driver of sales growth.

The offer would allow Verizon to extend its broadband business outside what Palmer called the "original colonies" on the east coast of the US, where fixed-line technology is more readily available. "We don't really compete outside that area so this is new for us and we get to be the disruptor," she said.

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— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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