Crown Exploring Edge Computing (MEC) Potential for Sites

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Transforming wireless networks are making multi-access edge computing an (MEC) attractive business opportunity for tower operators with vast quantities of cell sites and miles of fiber. Crown Castle, which currently operates 40,000 towers, 60,000 miles of fiber, and a multitude of small cells and distributed antenna systems in the U.S., is exploring its prospects in the industry. Alan Bock, vice president of corporate development and strategy at Crown Castle, stated, “We are intrigued by the potential of MEC.”

According to SDX Central, adding data centers to tower sites makes sense. Every wireless facility already has a power supply, and usually a fiber connection. By adding data storage and edge computing, a cell site can rapidly increase its already known usefulness. Crown would lease space for carriers to use, and may allocate extra fiber for an additional fee. “Re-architecting the network with small cells lends itself to edge computing,” said Iain Gillott, president and founder of iGR Research. Gillott says MEC will be just as important as future 5G technologies. 

Crown Castle also owns a minority share in VaporIO, which is exploring edge computing with its Project Volutus. The data center as a software service has been deployed to two cities so far, and is expected to reduce latency for cloud-based services. VaporIO Founder and CEO Cole Crawford explained using existing tower sites reduces costs by taking advantage of existing space, and provides a dynamic internet service for low latency mobile apps and technologies. He said the cooperation of tower operators is essential for edge computing’s success. “If you need low latency and you need a big geographic distribution, you are talking about fiber and real estate,” he said while comparing the two industries.

November 3, 2017 

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