Everyone seems to understand how using mobile operator compute resources at the cellular edge is good for advancing edge computing (especially given the challenge of finding hosters at the edge). But some have cynically asked us if that just makes mobile operators commodity hosting providers along with commodity bandwidth providers? To be very direct, no, we don’t think so, and furthermore we believe this is an inflection point for operators to redefine and re-engage. We think the Deutsche Telekom analysis that created MobiledgeX in the first place was exactly right—this is a way for the mobile operators to get back into the game and get more wallet share.
The challenge for a mobile operator is that it requires motivation and action
Being able to agilely develop function at the edge doesn’t reverse the last ten years and recreate a monopoly like controlling the software on your subscribers phone. Nobody will “give the answer” since the answer is not known. Monetizing the edge will take thinking, doing and learning, at market speed not industry speed, but the payoff, seems easily worth the effort.
To briefly summarize how we all got here: Ten years ago Apple opened the App Store, having convinced AT&T to give up its control over subscriber phone software as a trade to get some exclusivity for the iPhone. A robust and open market for smartphone application software quickly formed and accelerated the discovery and monetization of the value of the broadband phone (photos, music and then videos) and fueled the rapid buildout of today’s remarkable 4G/LTE mobile infrastructure. All of that is water over the dam. It made the modern phone exciting but has left the mobile operator largely as a commodity bandwidth provider. Current trends indicate this situation is not improving for the mobile operator. It is clearly not all bad news. Mobile operators provide a service that is only generating more demand, securing more customers. The growth opportunities in the existing market will bifurcate however, between the more mature markets where penetration of both subscribers and smartphones is already high versus those markets that to date have not been fully penetrated.
Faced with these changes, Deutsche Telekom looked at the emerging area of “edge” computing and found lots of ways in which edge computing, using extended mobile operator resources, could contribute new value, and created MobiledgeX to operationalize that opportunity. Our work to date has confirmed that premise, and found additional ways to easily create value.
Some of the opportunities are generic: the edge is exciting, mobile operators are uniquely capable of implementing things at the edge because, in contrast to wired network operators, they run a server-rich infrastructure to implement the cellular technical and business operation. As ideas gel for the edge, mobile operators have a sort of “first right of refusal.”
The most important benefit to the mobile operator is that it lets them evolve their systems at a more rapid rate than has been possible before—and evolve with cloud-speed.
But some of the biggest opportunities are more specific to the issues that have to do with how the global cellular infrastructure is designed and operates. The most important benefit to the mobile operator is that it lets them evolve their systems at a more rapid rate than has been possible before—and evolve with cloud-speed. When the App Store was created it enabled mobile phone innovation at a much more rapid rate than had been possible given that the cellular infrastructure is architected, standardized and carefully tested and validated. The App Store let innovation be done with phone and server software that could both the created and evolved much more rapidly, using the mobile operator as broadband pipe.
With MobiledgeX, our mobile operator partners can develop, evolve and monetize functionality at cloud-speed, so they are no longer locked out of these opportunities because of development agility. In most cases the opportunities of highest value to the mobile operator will leverage some additional factor. For example, MobiledgeX/partner assets are closer to the user than the cloud and provide lower and more stable latency in the connection. MobiledgeX applications can also be designed that leverage the relationship that mobile operators have with mobile device manufacturers, enabling augmented devices that use MobiledgeX resources (close to the phone) in addition to onboard phone resources, or enabling new functions such as A/R that are augmented with MobiledgeX resources, especially for older and less powerful devices. Finally, using MobiledgeX resources, operators can develop and offer new collaboration capabilities (e.g., more transparent A/R based multi-user games or experiences) or applications that are based on local visual context (e.g., A/R enabled searching or navigation).
To summarize, there is no reason that MobiledgeX mobile operators are limited to being commodity hosting providers. This new developer-friendly and cloud-agile partnership enables mobile operators to participate in rapidly emerging and evolving opportunities since they can now augment and evolve their own infrastructure and local offerings at cloud-speed.