Verizon executive says 5G edge computing zones will be a game changer

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Verizon’s partnership with AWS to bring 5G mobile edge compute (MEC) to more locations around the country will be an advantage for application developers, says Adam Koeppe, the company’s SVP of technology, strategy, architecture and planning.  Speaking at a Cowen investor conference, Koeppe touted Verizon’s partnership with AWS and its Wavelength cloud computing platform. The companies last week announced that they had two MEC locations launched —in the San Francisco Bay area and Boston—and will launch 10 more locations this year.

When asked what’s stopping competitors from forming similar deals with AWS Wavelength, Koeppe said Verizon has an advantage because it has its own fiber backhaul and its backbone network. “Our distributed architecture is an enabler for those locations,” he said. “We own and operate it. They are in the network.”

That entire package —the wireless network, the fiber backhaul and the backbone — Koeppe said is a big differentiator and one that developers appreciate because it means that they can quickly deploy their low latency applications without having to “re-architect” their code for the edge network.

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When questioned about how these edge computing zones will impact Verizon’s revenue, Koeppe said that the company believes the strong technical partnership with AWS and other partners such as IBM, will create value to both companies because it will allow them to create solutions for enterprises and consumers.

Fiber and 5G

Koeppe also said one of Verizon’s key advantages is that it is coordinating the expansion of its fiber footprint with its 4G and 5G network buildout so that the majority of its 4G and 5G nodes are served by the company’s own fiber. Verizon has said that it is building thousands of additional 5G nodes to deliver its 5G mmWave service. This coordination between the fiber and the 4G and 5G network build saves Verizon from having to pay for fiber backhaul from other providers, which is what mobile operators without an extensive fiber footprint must do. “We have 60-plus markets in some phase of fiber deployment,” he said. “We targeted dense areas and the hottest markets for 4G and 5G growth. That is the sweet spot for fiber resources.”

During the past few months, Koeppe added, Verizon has been putting a lot of focus on its fiber deployment and said because of the Covid-19 pandemic, some markets were much easier to get fiber deployed. “We are ahead of where we thought we would be this year.”

C-Band

It’s no secret that Verizon is planning to participate in the FCC’s upcoming C-Band spectrum auction 107 that is slated to begin in December. That auction will offer 5,684 new flexible-use overlay licenses based on Partial Economic Areas (PEAs) for spectrum in the 3.7–3.98 GHz band.  The band is currently being used by satellite operators and they will be required to repack operations from the band’s entire 500 megahertz and move into the upper 200 megahertz band.  The lower part of the band will be auctioned for 5G.

Koeppe said that if Verizon wins licenses, he believes the company will be able to quickly deploy 5G in the C-band. Although Verizon will be able to work ahead and get permits ready, it will need to deploy new physical infrastructure to its towers, including radios and antennas, before it can actually use that spectrum.

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