5G industry news Mobile communication

Living on the edge: 5G and edge computing

  • 2 minute read
  • Published by Elizabeth Coyne on 12 Jan 2021
  • Last modified 12 Jan 2021
Edge computing is an evolution of public cloud that is happening regardless of how, where, when or whether communications service providers (CSPs) find a place in the value chain. Public cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure are driving the change by extending computing services to the edge of the telecoms network to manage sustained growth in traffic and improve customer experience. They are also making speculative investments in edge computing capabilities to meet the anticipated demand for IoT services.

The telecoms industry has an important role to play in edge computing because CSPs provide the connectivity that edge computing requires. The powerful combination of 5G connectivity and edge computing can unlock new latency-sensitive consumer and B2B services, such as gaming and telemedicine.

 CSPs also own passive infrastructure such as telephone exchanges that could be suitable for housing edge computing equipment in some cases. CSPs would like to bring together edge and network strategies. However, they are still in the early stages of deploying 5G, and the market for computing services is not mature enough for them to do so. This makes it difficult for them to determine where to collocate edge network functions.

Furthermore, many of the technologies and capabilities that could justify deploying a highly disaggregated core network, such as open radio access networks and network slicing, are still being developed and may not be ready for widespread deployment for two to three years.


Latency is a major driver for the deployment of edge computing, though not the only one – the consensus is that 20-30 millisecond “in-air” latency will suffice for most applications. For small countries, this means that edge computing may be required in only a handful of locations. Other drivers include delivering a better experience, capturing more of the enterprise market and reducing the cost of transport.


However, private LTE and 5G networks will impact edge computing – in most cases organizations operating private mobile networks (for example, a port or manufacturing company) will take a hybrid on-premises and public cloud approach to managing IT workloads. This could remove CSPs from the revenue chain if industries build and operate their own networks and connect directly to the public cloud.

CSPs plans for edge computing

The chart above shows CSPs' plans for edge computing. Taken from TM Forum’s recent research report, How to build and operate at the edge, the report gives a glimpse into how CSPs are pursuing edge computing strategies, how they intend to deploy edge computing capabilities and potential business models.

Download the free report

Tweet