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The migration of services to the edge of service providers' network infrastructure and, thus, closer to end user or their devices is proving to be the key that unlocks the promise of fifth generation (5G) mobile and wireless communications.

Today we're experiencing the collision of edge, which has the ability to process heavy workloads like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and analytics closer to real time, and the arrival of a new delivery network called 5G. This convergence of compute technologies and telecommunications promises to open up dramatic new capabilities followed by untold innovations.

Emerging 5G networks will bring about lower latency and higher bandwidth capabilities, and ultimately do so more efficiently and cost-effectively than prior generations of connectivity. They'll support more robust applications closer to their use cases, and move the data center closer to the user. 

Moving workloads to the edge enables faster direct machine-to-machine communication, as well as the ability for a sensor monitor in one location to converse with its counterpart in another location. Eventually the buildout of 5G networks could pave the way for more affordable broadband coverage to rural and remote regions that have long been underserved by costly, difficult-to-deploy hard wire. 

In short, 5G offers the potential for enabling exciting new use cases for state and local governments, education, and many other industries.

Industries benefiting from 5G and edge computing

Rather than having to collect and deliver data to a distant processing center, edge computing essentially brings the data center closer to where it's needed, thus allowing for a wealth of customer-pleasing benefits:

  • Real-time or faster data analytics processing with reduced latency.
  • Lower costs.
  • Reduced network traffic.
  • Increased application efficiency.
  • Access to the advantages stemming from the cloudification of networks.

Service providers are investing big dollars in 5G networks to be among the first to deliver next-gen applications and service offerings to consumers and enterprise customers. Already, edge computing and 5G are making significant impacts in a range of market sectors. 

For example, manufacturers are leveraging edge to more efficiently consume and make sense of large swaths of data to increase efficiency and productivity. And retailers are providing a rich retail experience to rival online shopping, including customized coupons, personalized recommendations and shopper's assistance, as well as sales support tools such as real-time inventory tracking. 

Another 5G beneficiary is the U.S. Department of Defense, helping American forces operate seamlessly from anywhere, at any time, the U.S. military employs leading-edge (and possibly classified) technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, quantum computing and the Internet of Things and more to accelerate mission outcomes.

We'd like to share five additional use cases for 5G and edge computing, along with the benefits they'll provide to civilians, parents, students, teachers and society as a whole. 

Five promising uses cases for 5G


As school districts and college campuses transition to remote learning, next-gen networks are playing a pivotal role in delivering rich curriculum content via 5G-enabled devices. 5G will help improve education for students in school and online by making the learning process more engaging through new and immersive experiences.

WWT and Intel are supporting remote desktop solutions that deliver curriculum subject matter, videos, lesson plans and more to rural schools and disadvantaged districts to achieve true democratization of education. Intel® technologies for networking and latest-gen personal learning devices will play a crucial role in deploying 5G infrastructures with sufficient bandwidth for every grade level from primary to higher education. 

Public safety 

First responders to fires and other emergencies can employ 5G network resources to retrieve building maps to identify access points, riser taps for fire hoses, elevator command and control, structural drawings and other data for rapid, informed decision making. Firefighters can use 5G-enabled drones for search and rescue operations, or to monitor hot spots near a structural fire to prevent them from spreading. The same technology can be used to map wildfire containment strategies during heavy fire seasons.

The First Responder Network Authority of the United States (FirstNet) provides a dedicated network to facilitate accurate information for first responders. This on-demand network can scale up or down as needed in a process called network slicing. It gives FirstNet the ability to communicate effectively in remote locations, sending drones aloft to serve as cell towers in the sky. The same technology can be used to track firefighters using sensors implanted in their clothing.

Building monitoring and predictive maintenance 

Basic heating and cooling management is just the start. Modern maintenance crews can use 5G-enabled drones to conduct remote surveys of a range of structures. For example, one WWT partner is using 5G drone technology to locate flaws that need fixing in railroad tracks, preventing potentially disastrous derails — a fast, cost-effective alternative to dispatching onsite crews.

Using 5G connectivity and AI allows for machine-to-machine communication and edge utilization for the drone, resulting in better monitoring and visibility of maintenance needs. To achieve more efficient power and cooling management in buildings, 5G allows for robust data flow; and for more complex deployments, automation tools can incorporate AI and machine learning. 

Smart and autonomous vehicles 

The dream of a fully autonomous vehicle that comprehends its environment, connects with traffic lights and communicates with other cars is still a while off. But 5G and edge can move us closer to reaching the next level.

A big part of the challenge is each autonomous vehicle will generate hundreds of terabytes of data every day — a prodigious volume of information to retrieve, process, summarize and store. It's essential this data crunching happen at the edge versus pushing it to the cloud or a data center. Pilot programs are happening now as we advance toward a future of safe, autonomous transport. At the same time, the world will be transitioning from fossil fuels to electric cars. This will require continuous connectivity and an electrical charging infrastructure along the highways.


Besides supporting more deterministic real-time data workloads, on-prem 5G is also unlikely to share connectivity with public networks, contributing to greater security. Take for example an oil refinery that applies for its own non-public network (NPN) classification to deploy 5G throughout its physical plant. This private network would enable highly resilient and secure communications for critical applications not previously considered viable for wireless, achieving data sovereignty, industrial-grade communications (quality of service) and ease of deployment.

Service providers are working to step up their cybersecurity game as it relates to 5G. Pilot programs are underway to harden edge security and minimize exposure to attack.    

A world of 5G possibilities at the edge

The edge is enabling the age of 5G and this marriage of compute and communications will soon impact all our lives in scarcely imagined ways. 

WWT is at the leading edge of this transformation, leveraging the latest Intel® technologies, creating and deploying the 5G network infrastructure elements that will extend new levels of connectivity across the globe.