Verizon was able to cut its network latency in half in a test that combined its 5G Radio Access Network, multi-access edge computing and its virtualized network platform.
Low latency, the carrier said, “will be increasingly vital as next generation wireless experiences emerge.”
In Houston, where Verizon has launched its 5G Home service, the carrier has put together a test bed in a centralized RAN facility that can access the 5G network. That local location, Verizon noted, “[decreases] the distance that information needs to travel between a wireless device and the compute infrastructure with which that device’s apps are interacting.”
In the test, Verizon’s engineers used an automated intelligence-enabled facial recognition application to identify people.
“Using MEC equipment located in the network facility, the application was able to analyze information right at the edge of the network where the application was being used (instead of traversing multiple hops to the nearest centralized data center),” Verizon said in describing the test. “As a result, the engineers were able to successfully identify the individual twice as fast as when they duplicated the experiment using the centralized data center. Putting the compute power closer to the user at the network edge greatly decreased the time to deliver the experience – a key benefit of the Verizon Intelligent Edge Network.” Verizon has been working on that Intelligent Edge Network as it looks toward support of 5G services.
“Edge computing is a set of capabilities that is a piece of our Intelligent Edge Network, just like 5G is a piece of the Intelligent Edge Network,” said Adam Koeppe, Verizon’s senior VP for network planning. “The reason this test was so exciting for us, candidly, is it brought together three things in one, all of which are part of the Intelligent Edge Network.”
He said that Verizon’s cloud platform is the underlying network layer, which supported the push of the facial recognition software to the network edge. Koeppe said that the physical edge location was a C-RAN baseband hub in Houston — basically a mini-data center for cell site processing, which also houses the company’s cloud platform and was connected to its local 5G RAN.
Koeppe said that low latency is “a really big driver of the use cases that 5G technology can enable.” Edge computing, he added, has “basically the same model.”
Latency in existing networks, he explained, comes from both the air link as well as the back end of the network.
“The 5G RAN will have a significant improvement in air link latency,” Koeppe said, adding that Verizon’s network architecture changes — “with edge computing in mind” — will also have an impact in reducing latency.
Verizon ran tests using its 5G network as the air link for the facial recognition application, with the software processing done at the C-RAN hub location: that resulted in round-trip latency of 15 milliseconds, Koeppe said. The same test was also conducted with the processing happening at a “more central location,” he said, and that resulted in more than twice the latency of the edge-based processing test.
Koeppe called that “significant improvement in end-to-end latency” and noted that “it’s all basically occurring at the back end of the network. In both of the tests, the air link was the same.”
Koeppe noted that in building its Intelligent Edge Network, the underlying foundation is Verizon’s cloud platform that is made up of commercial off-the-shelf hardware, with OpenStack as a virtual infrastructure manager. The carrier runs virtualized network functions on that platform (which also hosts virtualized managed network services for enterprise customers) and has both core and edge locations for running applications, he added.
While current applications often don’t need lower latency than what LTE can provide, Koeppe said, the possibilities of what developers might do when even lower latencies are reliably available are likely to result in applications that aren’t even known at this point.
“This shift in where the application processing occurs, the inherent capabilities of 5G to move data more efficiently, and our use of millimeter wave spectrum is a game-changer when it comes to the edge computing capabilities we can provide,” Koeppe said.
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