Chris Melus, VP of product development at T-Mobile Business said that most of the operator’s work on mobile-edge computing (MEC), which the provider prefers to call multi-access edge compute, is currently in the manufacturing space.

“A lot of it is in manufacturing,” Melus told Prakash Sangam, principal at Tantra Analyst, during a fireside chat at the Telco Cloud & Edge Forum recently. “Industry 4.0 is really pushing a lot of the technology and putting that to use in a quick way,” Melus added. Manufacturers have low-latency requirements as they move into more automated manufacturing, shipping and logistics, he noted.

“Computer vision and AI capabilities are really making the case for why you would want that compute on site and why you would want to get access in that multi-access way,” the VP said. “You have cameras that are wireless on the shop floor with that data that needs to be put into an AI model,” he added, that’s being done pushed back up into the cloud.

“We’re seeing this driven by a lot of low-latency applications, or data-privacy reliability concerns. Really moving that compute onto the site to make sure that if anything should happen with their connectivity, especially on the public cloud side, that they can keep their operations running 24/7,” The T-Mobile man continued.

The Goldilocks approach

Melus said that T-Mobile is concerned with delivering MEC in a “just-right way.”

“We think about it primarily in two different ways,” he said. “We think about it through the public offerings of the cloud from our hyperscaler partners, as well as there’s still a very rich ecosystem of private cloud being built, we believe in both of those.

T-Mobile has the largest standalone 5G network in the U.S. The operator has also partnered with the major public cloud providers: Amazon Web Services, Micrsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud.

Melus noted that T-Mobile isn’t allergic to WiFi or CBRS connectivity either.

“The line between where compute is sitting is starting to blur more and more,” Melus said. It’s moving more and more on both sides, where we see Amazon and everyone else putting things into their private wireless capabilities, he added.

The mobile network operator, however, is also blurring the lines between MEC and private wireless, Melus said. “If you look at some of the endpoint devices, they’re looking more and more like MEC,” Melus added. 

He said that some of the fixed wireless access points “that we offer” are now having opportunities to run applications directly on that hardware, he noted.

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