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How cable aims to leverage the edge

In this first segment of a new four-part series, we look at some key results from a new Heavy Reading study about the cable industry's edge computing strategy and efforts.

Alan Breznick

November 15, 2021

5 Min Read
How cable aims to leverage the edge

Few things are hotter in today's tech world than edge computing. Companies of all shapes and sizes are seeking to bring powerful Internet functionality as close as possible to users at the very tip of their service delivery networks. That's not surprising, because edge computing offers huge potential to transform the entire underlying structure of the Internet – from massive, centralized data centers to a much more distributed storage and computing ecosystem.

Edge computing aims to accomplish all this by placing the huge processing power of computers and the Internet right where the decisions need to be made in real time or near-real time. The technology is designed to bring intelligence all the way to the devices at the network edge instantly, rather than spending precious milliseconds on round trips to the cloud or a data center.

While it will undoubtedly be costly to carry out this historic transition, there's no turning back now. Market research firms project that worldwide spending on edge computing could climb as high as $30 billion, $40 billion, $50 billion or more by 2024, thanks to double-digit annual growth rates over the next few years.

As a result, cable operators, tech vendors and CableLabs are all now taking a close look at edge compute's potential as they seek to develop and deliver next-gen, low-latency connectivity services such as augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), cloud gaming, holographic video, light-field displays, smart homes, 5G mobile, autonomous vehicles, healthcare sensors, surveillance, smart cities and facial recognition.

For some cable operators, edge computing lab and field trials are already well underway. For others, edge computing plans are still in the works. But whether they have already devised their strategies or have just started the process, cablecos definitely have edge compute on their minds – as well as their roadmaps.

To find out more, Heavy Reading teamed up with four leading tech vendors this past spring to launch a comprehensive study of cable operators' attitudes and efforts surrounding edge computing. In this series of sponsored blog posts, we will present the results of that study, discuss the implications and draw conclusions about how cable will move ahead with edge computing.

Best describes cloud strategy

The study asked providers to describe their cloud strategy for multi-access edge computing (MEC). Notably, more than three-fifths (62%) of respondents said their company is embracing a hybrid cloud strategy combining public and private cloud deployments in about equal measure, as can be seen in the chart below. Slightly less than one-quarter (23%) said their company is pursuing a largely or exclusively public cloud strategy, while the remaining 14% said their company is taking a mostly or solely private cloud approach.

Thus, it appears that most network operators would rather not put all their eggs in one basket just yet by favoring one approach over the other. Instead, they appear determined to take the approach that best suits their needs at any given time.

These findings also indicate that operators may need a higher-level architecture to handle both their public and private cloud deployments. That, in turn, points to the need for further network upgrades.

Figure 1: Best describes cloud strategy

Top three use cases

The Heavy Reading survey also looked at edge computing use cases. Operators were asked to choose the top three use cases for edge computing that their company plans to deploy or has already deployed.

As can be seen below, streaming video content led the pack here, with more than three-fifths of survey participants (62%) picking it. 5G mobile also performed strongly, garnering votes from nearly 57% of the respondents. Those two use cases are clearly the most important for operators right now.

No other choice came close to matching the top two use cases. In a pitched battle for the third spot, AR/VR earned the bronze medal with 38% of votes, edging out video and gaming with 37% and smart cities with 35%.

Figure 2: Top three use cases

Most significant challenges

In addition, Heavy Reading asked network operators about the major challenges that edge computing presents. What emerged here as the leading choice was network adaptability, the ability to know when and where to adjust network resources.

As depicted below, network resource adaptability stands out as the most significant challenge facing operators, with a solid two-fifths (40%) of respondents selecting it. That makes sense given the high priority that operators assign to upgrading their network infrastructure and the strong investment potential that they realize from doing so. Operations to support monetizing new services and business models came in second, with 29% picking it.

These findings also indicate that service providers know they need help from vendors to carry out the transition to edge computing. Most do not seem to be planning to make the transition on their own.

Figure 3: Most significant challenges

We will present more key results from the study in the next three posts. For a free copy of the Heavy Reading white paper detailing all the study results, please click here: to register.

This blog is sponsored by Red Hat.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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