The role of telcos in the future of edge computing


When we talk about the rise of IoT, the vast number of connected devices is usually among the first things mentioned. But it’s not really about the number of devices, it’s the massive data volumes those billions of devices will generate.

Think about it. A smart factory has tens of thousands of parts. Coordinating the data from different parts of the factory or disparate plants across the country will become a big challenge. Airplanes have something like 6,000 sensors and the 4 to 6 petabytes of data they generate must be managed and analyzed in a way that delivers value to the airlines. And then consider that autonomous vehicles can generate close to 4 TB of data per day per car.

Collecting and managing the data is just one part of the puzzle. Decisions based on all this data must be made in split seconds in a secure, foolproof fashion. Up until now, organizations could move the data and analytics to the cloud over most networks. With the sheer amount of data generated today and the need for real-time decision-making close to an assembly line or autonomous car, that’s no longer possible.

Terabytes and petabytes of data traffic can’t get sent over today’s Internet backbone. Enterprises want speed, security and scalability – and the telcos are best suited to make that happen.

Here’s what’s starting to emerge: As data and computing power get decentralized, the telcos are working with enterprises to build three layers: the edge, a few meters away from a car, factory or shop; a “fog node,” a few kilometers away at a station operated by the telco where next-level integration happens; and in the public cloud, through providers such as AWS or Microsoft Azure.

Data must be classified and passed on automatically from level to level based on pre-determined policies. While the data required at the edge helps react to a scenario in the moment, the fog node helps with improving immediate operations, and the cloud can analyze the business as a whole and help the organization plan for the future.

Companies across many different industries — OEMs, power grids operators, advertising companies, software vendors and others — are all looking at their unique selling propositions to find a niche for themselves in this new environment.Telcos can act as master orchestrators here, leveraging many of their pre-existing strengths:

  • Their omnipresent towers, base and master stations across many different geographies
  • Their partnerships with OEMs for rugged infrastructure like purpose-built processors and converged devices
  • Their technology investments and partnerships in software frameworks for zero touch device onboarding, artificial intelligence and data management
  • Their intelligent networking capabilities – through 5G and SDN/NFV and customer care
  • Field services at scale for fault and service management.

We expect a breakout year for edge computing in 2019 as enterprises come to recognize that it is inevitable for the success of IoT. While the public cloud platforms such as AWS and Azure will still have an important role, telcos will become the catalysts by providing the speedy, reliable and secure edge computing ecosystem required to make modern digital companies transform business models.

Atin Agarwal is Solutions Consultant for Technology, Media and the Telecommunication industry for DXC. He has 18 years of experience in the services industry and is responsible for driving digital transformation solutions, practice development and thought leadership for DXC’s telecom business. Prior to his current role, Atin served as the Deputy General Manager at HCL for Telecom, Media and Entertainment industries. Atin lives in Noida, India, and holds an MBA from the National University of Singapore.


  1. Raman Sidhwani says:

    I agree and thats a good read.

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