AT&T’s new Chief Technology Officer Jeremy Legg has recently been touting the importance of network resources being distributed geographically.

He called out this topic a couple of weeks ago in a meeting with trade journalists in Dallas where he said that AT&T was distributing its 5G standalone core software across the U.S.

And yesterday, he penned a blog elaborating on his vision. He said, “5G was designed and is now being deployed in a much different manner than previous wireless generations. In short, we’re moving network services much closer to our users.”

He identified three key elements to AT&T’s 5G network topology:

  • Local standalone (SA) network cores
  • Local public cloud or private data center computing resources
  • Software-defined network capabilities and virtualized network functions

“We call these localized 5G network capabilities ‘edge zones’, and today we have 10 of them up and running across the U.S., with a goal of getting to an even dozen by the end of 2022,” said Legg. “Many more will follow in 2023 and beyond.”

AT&T’s SA network cores and software-defined network capabilities will be located in AT&T data centers close to cross-connect facilities that have fast connections to the big public cloud providers.

Legg likes to use the example of self-driving cars as a use case that will need geographic proximity to network resources.

He writes, “Imagine a connected car, or even someday soon a fully autonomous car, on a 5G network where the 5G standalone network core is in the same city or region. That reduced latency means cameras, radars and other sensors on that car can scan the environment and send the data across a localized network to be analyzed and responded to in near real time.”

He said AT&T’s strategy to distribute core network resources more geographically stems from lessons it has learned from its FirstNet emergency responder network.

Legg spoke at Tech Crunch’s Disrupt 2022 conference in San Francisco yesterday. He said, “The cool stuff inside of 5G is really going to begin to happen this coming year. That’s because of something in tech land that is called the standalone 5G core. That’s a routing engine for 5G. This is creating the ability to have services that didn’t exist in 3G and 4G.”

He again gave the example of the connected car and said that the network that runs the navigation of the car has to be much better than the network that might be streaming videos for the kids sitting in the backseat of the car.

“The aspects of 5G that are so different is it enables you to actually operate one set of spectrum, one set of services and custom networking services to the actual operation of the car as well as a different set of networking services that actually operate the video that you might be consuming on your phone and all that has to happen at the same time,” he said. “You can’t do that in 4G.”

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