AT&T is building an edge computing test zone in Palo Alto, California, where developers and other companies will be able to test connected applications such as self-driving cars, augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR), and drones. The test zone will go live in early 2018. At launch, the zone will use a 4G LTE connection to be upgraded to 5G once the final standards and equipment are ready, perhaps as early as the end of 2018. The goal of this edge test zone will be to invite developers and other third parties to rapidly test and innovate projects related to AR/VR, drones, and autonomous cars.
Edge computing solves the challenge of how to offer high-performance, power-hungry applications on mobile devices. Today, an AR app on a smartphone, for example, can either offer high-end images or long battery life. Cranking up the visual detail burns through the battery. Reducing power consumption generally means graphics that aren’t as sharp. Moving the processing to the cloud is the next logical step. But in today’s networks, the physical distance between you and the data center where the images are calculated and rendered creates latency as those requests and responses travels hundreds or thousands of miles. Low latency is being built into 5G from the get go.