How telcos can engage developers
Developers are a key customer for the edge. Without them, we will not have applications that will leverage edge computing, therefore telcos must learn to engage developers effectively. This article explores how telcos are starting to do this and what the key methods are.
As CSPs (communications service providers) across the globe develop their 5G networks, the telco edge market is naturally maturing. Extended 5G coverage, and the low latency/high bandwidth benefits it brings, is set to encourage the creation of a whole host of new applications. Many of these applications will be designed for the edge specifically, rather than be built based on a centralised architecture for the cloud. While the foundations for edge-specific applications are gradually being laid, e.g. building expansive 5G networks and distributed compute locations, there is a need for developers to innovate and develop the applications that will use this infrastructure.
CSPs are therefore pursuing different strategies to engage the developer community and bring 5G/edge applications to market – these strategies include labs, competitions, and hackathons. This is important for CSPs to do so, given that it is a group they have no engaged with previously in the past. Most of telcos’ customers are either consumers or large enterprises and government sector institutions.
CSPs are mainly engaging the developer community in 3 ways: labs, competitions, and hackathons
STL Partners is tracking the ways in which CSPs are engaging the developer community, which we have laid out below. Generally, we have found that the initiatives used to engage developers do not solely centre on edge computing, but seek to educate them on the capabilities that both 5G and edge bring.
CSPs are beginning to launch innovation labs to identify (and incubate) potential applications for the edge. CSPs invite developers to these labs and provide them with the environment in which they can test applications: an edge node and a 5G connection. If the use case performs in the lab environment, the next stage would be piloting and commercialisation.
Orange is an example of one such CSP, having launched an innovation lab in partnership with Google Cloud outside Paris.1 The goal is “to support the edge computing ecosystem as it matures and to encourage uptake of this technology through real-world testing, while helping to grow the range of use cases.” There are several other CSPs similarly engaging in labs.2
Another method for engaging the developer community is through competitions. These, in contrast to innovation labs, are more selective with limited places on offer. Moreover, instead of being exploratory and experimental, competitions aspire to expedite the commercialisation of ideas.
Vodafone is pursuing such a strategy through its Edge Innovation Programme.3 They will be accepting up to 20 projects to be deployed on their Mobile Edge Computing Service. As part of this 3-month programme, developers will have access to dedicated support from both Vodafone and AWS, as well as training resources.
A hackathon is a similar form of engagement to a competition, except that there are stricter guidelines about what can be submitted. Typically, hackathons will centre around application type (IoT, analytics at the edge, etc.) and/or industry (manufacturing, retail, etc.).
Globe is running a 5G hackathon which is exploring the use of 5G in different sectors of the Philippine economy.4 Submitted applications must fit into one of the following three buckets: 5G for society (education, healthcare, and livelihood), 5G for industries (retail, manufacturing, logistics, e-commerce), 5G for smart cities (disaster risk management, sustainability, asset and resource management, transportation). Applications are encouraged from across the country, with the top 10 ideas proceeding with the Hackathon, and then 3 crowned as champions.
Author: Anthony Boyd is a Consultant at STL Partners, specialising in 5G and edge computing.
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