AWS & Edge computing: Wavelength use cases and applications​

AWS, together with telecoms partners like Vodafone and Verizon, has deployed Wavelength locations across the UK and the US. They have been working closely with application developers to test the infrastructure performance and demonstrate the new capabilities that it unlocks. This article explores trends in the use cases and applications across the two countries.

AWS Wavelength deployments: use cases and applications

AWS launched its MEC offering in 2019 with the announcement of AWS Wavelength, which sought to capture a portion of the USD 534bn opportunity in edge computing (per STL Partners’ market forecast), driven by new use cases. This is a service that extends its availability zones to the telco’s network edge, so a developer could now deploy within a telco edge data centre and link this to an AWS public cloud region. Although somewhat controversial in the telecoms industry, given it is an indicator of telco’s relinquishing further control to others, it has allowed its telco partners to accelerate their go to market in edge. In a recent STL Partners survey, 75% of respondents believe that operators will have edge computing offerings launched by 2024. However, the majority believe it will be between 2022-2024, whereas these AWS partners have already got the ball rolling.

The majority of the industry believe most telecoms operators will launch edge services in the next 2 years

AWS Wavelength use cases

The STL Partners network edge capacity forecast highlights the slow progress of telcos rolling out edge sites – we believe there will be under 500 sites by 2023. This will hinder the ability to meet the demand set out in the market sizing forecast. However, AWS and its partners have continuously launched new sites globally, spanning across three continents now, which a large proportion coming from Verizon.

AWS has been continuously growing the number of available MEC sites with its telco partners

AWS Wavelength use cases

This article deep dives on the nature of the uses cases and industries working with AWS Wavelength and two of its partners: Verizon and Vodafone in the US and UK, Germany respectively. By analysing the public announcements of ISVs and other ecosystem partners actively working with AWS, Verizon and Vodafone, we can see trends with regards to the types of use cases and applications being explored. In Verizon, the media industry currently dominates activity, whereas in Vodafone, it is more geared towards the automotive sector.

The number of public deployments of AWS Wavelength across Verizon and Vodafone, by industry vertical

AWS Wavelength use cases

 

AWS and Verizon: media dominates

Verizon and AWS were the first to deploy Wavelength Zones in 2019. Currently (at publication date), there are PoP in 13 Eastern and 6 Western states following a recent expansion into Nashville, Tampa and Florida. This means that 75% of the U.S. population is now within 150 miles of a Wavelength Zone.

45% of AWS and Verizon’s publicised MEC deployments on Wavelength have been related to the media and entertainment vertical. Partnerships with the likes of Broadpeak, who are using MEC to enhance its Advanced CDN offering, are enabling companies to capitalise on the current boom in video streaming. The increase in the quality of video streaming, trends in multiscreen usage and surge in OTT streaming providers (e.g. DAZN, Prime Video) is leading to increased amounts of data being transmitted on mobile networks. Broadpeak’s CDN is dependent on a distributed (edge computing-enabled) model to allow local servers to deliver video traffic directly to devices rather than a centralised data centre. This will help to reduce end-user buffering and lag for streaming devices. The number of partner collaborations, e.g. with Telstra, VMware and MobiledgeX, indicate that these solutions might be closer to commercial scale than other verticals.

STL forecasts that the CDN industry will represent 30% of the total edge computing addressable income ($160 bn) by 2030. As 5G matures, users will expect video streaming to be available instantaneously and CDN technology provides the ability to cache content close to end users. These lucrative prospects will continue to drive new CDN solutions at the edge, including potentially Verizon’s own content solutions.

Groopview is another media company making use of Verizon’s MEC technology. Its Dualview and Manyview solutions allow users to watch video content while video streaming, video chat, texting, and response capture as a more interactive video streaming platform. The technology solution, alongside edge, enables ultra-low latency synchronised viewing. Groopview has recently expanded its solution into real estate, in partnership with Samsung, enabling a multi-modal remote sales tool for estate agents.

AWS and Vodafone: focus on automotive

Automotive is the largest industry being served by partners of Vodafone and AWS. For instance, Aurrigo, a specialist in autonomous vehicle sooutions, has been utilising their MEC solution to trial “auto-shuttles” on roads. They state that the drivers for adoption of edge here are high bandwidth, resilience and ultra-low latency, and that edge is enabling them to move towards truly autonomous vehicles.

Another ISV, HERE technologies, provides a location-aware platform that predicts or observes hazards, delivering actionable insights to drivers and enabling automated systems to react in real-time. Vodafone and AWS’s MEC solution enables HERE to ensure that local compute is available even when cars are travelling along the roadside. HERE’s Live Sense SDK has already been trialled by Porsche to enable a real-time warning system that can make unclear traffic situations safer for road users.

Vodafone and Porsche’s partnership extends even further since Vodafone starting to test and deploy its 5G standalone (SA) network at Porsche’s testing facilities. The use cases explored span across in-car entertainment, such as gaming and HD streaming. This demonstrates the active role that car manufacturers are taking to embrace how 5G & edge computing will change their businesses.

Both Vodafone has been significantly active in serving the automotive market for a number of year, driven by its global IoT SIM. AWS too has ramped up its efforts in the sector; since 2020, the hyperscaler has worked on 49 different automotive case studies with car manufacturers including Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen Group. As AWS continues to increase the number of edge PoPs, it seems likely that more car manufacturers will follow the likes of Porsche by strengthening their existing relationship with AWS and trialling new technologies put forward by ISVs. What is less clear is whether it will be Vodafone or AWS who will hold the customer relationship.

Outside of automotive, AR/VR (or its new brand, “Metaverse”) is a recurring theme in Vodafone’s AWS Wavelength activity. Nearly 30% of solution providers working with AWS and Vodafone are leveraging some form of AR/VR technology. The most mature use cases within these deployments are immersive experiences that enhance retail, tourism, stadiums and training services in manufacturing, engineering and healthcare. Xpllore uses VR technology to create new learning experiences to enable students to retain visualised information more effectively. Its partnerships with Nvidia, Qualcomm and Vive demonstrates the growing market potential for this technology.

Learnings for the industry

There are two main learnings from this analysis of AWS Wavelength with Verizon and Vodafone. Firstly, the traction they have had with ISVs is not organic and simply due to the fact that Wavelength exists in those markets. Both operators, with AWS, have put effort and investment in engaging the ISV ecosystem. Vodafone has done this through its Edge Innovation Programme, which invites developers to test its MEC, plus offers training. Telcos and other edge platform providers must be realistic about how the market will grow – there is plenty of education and testing that needs to happen in order to seed the edge computing market. Another STL Partners article, How telcos can engage developers, sheds further light on how telcos are working with ISVs across their 5G and edge initiatives and a published report, Telco edge platforms: Balancing speed vs. value, evaluates the factors to succeed in this.

The second learning is about how telecoms operators should seek to prioritise efforts in edge computing initiatives, primarily in how to select verticals to focus on. There is a clear virtuous cycle in focusing on a smaller number of verticals, as it can accelerate the ability to socialise the benefits of edge and provide relevant proof-points to others. If use cases and applications are spread thinly across different industries, there will be a relatively smaller number of case studies that developers can learn from within their sector.

The small sample size of Verizon and Vodafone highlight that there are three key factors for prioritising industry verticals:

  1. Telco’s strength and capabilities in the industry: Vodafone and Verizon already have existing businesses serving automotive and the media sectors respectively, therefore there is a natural fit. They will have enterprise customers (such as Porsche in Vodafone’s case), whom they can engage with directly and use as a basis to discover other ecosystem partners. In addition, it makes it easier for the telco to develop a more complete end-to-end solution, using the existing products and services it serves the industry with already.
  2. Size of the industry in the telco’s markets and levels of innovation: As one would expect, since telcos are businesses largely serving their domestic customers, the nature of the economic make-up of the countries they serve has a role to play in selecting verticals. However, another key factor related to this is the extent to which the country has an innovation hub for the industry, given that much of the market for edge computing is driven by application developers, as well as larger enterprises. Although the media sector is prevalent globally, many ISVs in this space are based in the U.S., making it a natural fit for Verizon. Similarly, there is automotive innovation happening in both of Vodafone’s main MEC markets: the U.K. and Germany.
  3. Relative benefits of edge to the industry within the market: There is arguably a stronger proposition for edge in the media industry in the U.S. due to the fact that latency suffers in different areas across the country. On the other hand, countries in Europe, where Vodafone operates, often can experience very low latencies even without edgier CDN infrastructure.

Author: Thomas Quinn is a Consultant at STL Partners, specialising in edge computing and ISV ecosystem topics.

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