Verizon extends 5G MEC to two more cities, tests C-V2X and XR applications

Verizon met its target of turning on 5G mobile edge compute with AWS in 10 cities before the close of 2020, with Denver and Seattle joining the roster on December 28.

Additional cities where the carrier offers its 5G Edge platform embedded with AWS Wavelength are planned for this year, though Verizon has said it doesn’t expect to start seeing meaningful revenues from 5G MEC until 2022.

The first 5G Edge locations of Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area launched in August, followed by Atlanta, Dallas Las Vegas, Miami, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Verizon’s partnership with AWS (distinct from private 5G MEC applications, like work with Microsoft) creates wide area MEC zones, meant so developers can tap 5G mobile edge sites and AWS Wavelength when they’re building applications that need high throughput and low-latency.

Two of its latest case studies for 5G MEC with AWS Wavelength include Cellular Vehicle-to-Everything (C-V2X) and Extended Reality (XR) applications by Harman and Inception XR, respectively. Harman, a Samsung-owned connected car and automotive tech company, is testing in the Bay Area 5G Edge Wavelength Zone, while Inception XR use cases are being trialed in New York.

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There’s also an internal program with Verizon-backed software and consulting company Skyward to build drone applications. Like Harman, Skyward has already been testing in the Bay Area, but as a Portland-based company, also plans to run additional trials in the new Seattle 5G MEC zone, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

C-V2X, a new technology protocol defined as part of the 5G standard, is meant to enable vehicles to communicate over cellular with connected things ranging from other vehicles, in-car devices, to infrastructure (like traffic lights), or pedestrians holding devices. One major focus of C-V2X is enhanced road safety, including collision warnings and alerts.

The FCC in November greenlit 30-megahertz in the 5.9 GHz band to be allocated for auto safety specifically using C-V2X, replacing older Direct Short Range Communications (DSRC) technology.

According to a Verizon spokesperson, its C-V2X testing with Wavelength so far has been with Verizon’s 4G LTE, 5G Nationwide, and 5G Ultra Wideband. The latter uses high-band millimeter wave spectrum, largely at 28 GHz.    

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In a video about the Verizon 5G MEC use cases, Ramaswamy Iyer, senior engineering director of Harman’s Telematics Business Unit, talked about extending C-V2X to non-safety use-cases like in-car entertainment and streaming, as well. That’s in addition to situations where, for example, a car on the road breaks abruptly because of some other obstruction and a driver needs to react, and where 5G could come into play with shorter data roundtrips.

“5G is one technology that allows you to bring down the latency, and then you need to be conducting a fair amount of computation in the mind and that’s the power of edge computing and something that can happen when 5G and edge come alive,” said Iyer.

Verizon has also targeted road safety applications and autonomous technologies with companies including Here Technologies and Renovo.  

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Inception XR, meanwhile, uses its platform alongside partners to deliver immersive XR experiences and said trialing 5G and MEC makes that richer.

“By delivering content that is rendered on a GPU a hundred times more powerful than the mobile device GPU, we can achieve an experience with millions of polygons streamed seamlessly with low latency giving the end user a truly unique experience,” said Benny Arbel, CEO of Inception XR, in Verizon’s announcement.

In addition to Verizon, other operators globally are looking to edge compute partnerships with AWS, including Vodafone and SK Telecom. On December 24, SK Telecom announced the launch of SKT 5GX Edge – the first 5G edge cloud service in South Korea with AWS Wavelength.