AT&T is testing edge computing in support of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) services on mobile devices at its recently opened test zone in Palo Alto, California.
The test will look at reducing blurry and choppy graphics often associated with current AR and VR services running on mobile devices across multi-access edge computing (MEC) platforms. In overcoming inherent limitations of mobile devices, including processing power and battery life, the test will lean on distributed computation capabilities embedded in the cloud.
AT&T is providing the test center and its low-latency edge cloud service. The carrier is working with GridRaster, which provides the underlying compute and network stack used in the test. GridRaster’s technology unloads the real-time graphics processing from the mobile device to the network cloud.
The AT&T test zone in Palo Alto was initially announced last November. It was established as a place for developers and other companies to test connected applications such as self-driving cars, AR, VR, and drones.
The test zone currently relies on 4G LTE for mobile connectivity, but AT&T plans to update the site to 5G by the end of this year.
GridRaster last October picked up $2 million in new funding. The company has offices in Bengaluru, India, and Mountain View, California.
Edge computing is becoming increasingly important as a way to reduce the distance that data has to travel to get processed, thereby reducing latency and boosting network performance. The more distance that data has to travel creates delay and also increases power consumption.
However, deployment challenges remain a significant financial barrier that operators are looking to overcome with new technology.
“One of the most important points to consider when creating the MEC is that it is not economically feasible to place huge servers at every base station, which means that the computational capacity at the base station will also be limited,” explained Accenture in a MEC report. “Ultimately, it is impossible to completely replace big data centers with the MEC; but the boundaries between the MEC and big data centers do need to be softened, meaning that not only does computing hardware need to be deployed at the edge of the network, but also that the whole network needs to become more ‘intelligent.'”
AT&T has said in the past that it was adding intelligence to its towers, central offices, and small cells that are at the edge of the cloud by outfitting them with high-end graphics processing chips and other general purpose computers.
“Rather than travel over wireless connections to data centers hundreds or thousands of miles away, we’ll propel this data across super-responsive 5G networks to computers just a few miles away,” explained Melissa Arnoldi, president of technology and operations at AT&T, in a blog post connected with the test zone news.
A number of vendors and operators are testing different iterations of MEC. Many of these tap into various working groups, including the OpenFog Consortium, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) MEC Industry Specification Group (MEC ISG), the Linux Foundation‘s EdgeX Foundry, and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF)’s Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) project.
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