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The Edge

CenturyLink touts early edge computing customer wins

CenturyLink's top executives continue to believe edge computing will grow into a major opportunity for the broadband provider – and to underscore their position, they've started boasting of some early customer wins in the space.

CenturyLink's CMO Shaun Andrews said the company "has already begun closing deals today, specifically highlighting that customers are choosing CenturyLink to enable CBRS or private LTE or Wi-Fi 6 networks as customers transition to utilizing IoT devices within their facilities," wrote the Wall Street analysts at Cowen of their recent discussions with Andrews.

"On educating customers on the edge, Mr. Andrews highlighted the company has been taking a use-case first approach, rather than leading with a discrete solution, discussing with CIOs the need for the edge, latency, and security they are trying to solve for," the Cowen analysts wrote. "As for verticals utilizing the company's edge infrastructure, Mr. Andrews noted that demand is mainly coming from companies in the manufacturing, logistics, and finance industries."

In response to questions from Light Reading on the topic, CenturyLink wrote that "customers come to CenturyLink for help with their transition to utilizing IoT devices within their facilities for two reasons: our experience, and our flexible deployment models."

The company added that "there are an increasing variety of technology solutions available to customers, and we see our role as helping them evaluate the choices to create the solution that best meets their needs."

CenturyLink late last year announced it would make a "several hundred million dollar" investment in edge computing services, building more than 100 initial edge compute locations across the US and providing hybrid cloud and managed services. The company said those facilities will allow it to offer 5 ms of latency across 95% of the US.

On its website, CenturyLink advertises possible edge computing use cases covering everything from financial institutions to manufacturing companies. "A global banking institution avoids substantial loss of money when dealing with hedge funds by deploying ultra-low latency edge infrastructure to run resource-intensive algorithms closer to stock exchanges," the company argues. "A pharmaceutical manufacturer deploys next-level monitoring to increase plant efficiency by predicting when machines will break down."

Although the edge computing market is still nascent, many believe it will grow into a major trend as Internet users, enterprises and others increasingly look for the real-time connections, improved security capabilities and lower transport costs that edge services can provide. However, widespread edge computing services will require the construction of thousands or millions of edge computing data centers around the world.

CenturyLink's interest in edge computing stems from its efforts to expand the reach of its fiber network and to make that network more attractive to business customers.

"We want to invest [in] fiber where we can afford to do so, and wherever we invest fiber we grow, and we drive penetration out. So, we'll continue to do that," CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey explained during the company's most recent quarterly conference call with analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of his remarks. "We continue to invest capital to expand and augment the fiber network in more locations, take better use of edge computing, all of the different trends that we see in the market."

Indeed, as Doug Dawson with CCG Consulting argued, CenturyLink's Storey had initially throttled down the company's fiber buildout efforts when he first took the reins of CenturyLink following its merger with Level 3 in 2017. However, Storey's attitude toward fiber changed last year following CenturyLink's stock declines.

"The company started talking again about aggressively expanding its fiber network to add large buildings to the network. The company recently said it had connected to over 18,000 buildings last year," Dawson wrote on CCG's site, adding that the effort has shown signs of paying off, given CenturyLink's addition of 60,000 customers subscribing to speeds of 100 Mbit/s or faster. "Jeff Storey is still adamantly painting a picture of a company that is focused on enterprise services and business applications. Any expansion into residential neighborhoods is likely a by-product of taking advantage of fiber built to pursue the primary goal."

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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