Verizon advances 5G edge computing with IBM deal, interoperability specs

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Back in January, Verizon revealed the 5G Future Forum, a group of cellular carriers focused on creating global interoperability standards for multi-access edge computing (MEC) hardware — in other words, cloud servers and hardware that are more responsive because they’re geographically closer to users, and continue to work across different devices regardless of their cellular providers. Today, Verizon announced that it’s collaborating with IBM on 5G edge solutions, and that the 5G Future Forum will reveal two key sets of MEC technical specs next month.

The Verizon-IBM deal is intended to foster innovation in 5G and edge computing, leveraging IBM’s AI, hybrid multi-cloud, and edge computing skills, as well as Verizon’s 5G, MEC, and internet of things (IoT) expertise. At first, the companies plan to co-develop enterprise applications such as real time mobile asset tracking, management, and failure prediction across both 5G and IoT platforms, using IBM’s Maximo Monitor and Watson services. Going forward, they intend to launch near real time cognitive automation for industrial clients, and possibly solutions focused on worker safety and predictive maintenance.

On the 5G Future Forum side, the group’s six carrier members — Canada’s Rogers, Europe’s Vodafone, Australia’s Telstra, Latin America’s América Móvil, South Korea’s KT, and Verizon — will publish MEC Experience Management and MEC Deployment specs in August. Experience Management initially includes APIs to expose edge and workload discovery, and could expand to add future network intelligence-driven MEC capabilities. The Deployment specs enable adoption of globally interoperable MEC physical frameworks, laying out power, cooling, monitoring, security, and operational considerations for edge servers.

After these specs are published, the 5G Future Forum will open membership to “qualified new entrants,” and plans to address additional 5G and MEC topics going forward. Publication timelines for those topics will be “communicated shortly,” the group says.

As the Forum’s current members are all major players in their respective countries, the group’s initial work should pave the way to more consistent edge experiences across significant parts of the world. Since extended reality, industrial automation, and other key 5G applications are expected to rely heavily on low-latency edge servers, global interoperability standards could go a long way towards creating products and services that “just work” for enterprises and consumers, regardless of where they’re deployed.

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