Mobile edge computing, explained by Verizon Business CEO


5G alone won’t cut down that lag time. Something called mobile edge computing will play a key role. 

Brett Pearce/CNET

One of the key traits of 5G is the ability to cut down on the latency, or lag time, on apps like Fortnite or streaming services like Netflix. The idea is, you tap your phone and it instantly responds. But there’s another technology that works in concert with 5G called mobile edge computing. 

It’s a wonky-sounding term, but essentially it means that companies like Amazon can work with carriers like Verizon to bring computing power closer to your phone. Right now, when you tap on the Netflix app or press fire on your gun in Fortnite, your phone sends a signal to the closest cell tower, which then takes a ride on a fiber-optic line back to a data center — often several states away — where the command is processed and a response is sent all the way back to your phone. 

In your hands, there probably doesn’t seem to be much of a lag — maybe seconds or a fraction of a second. But for future applications like self-driving cars or remote medical diagnostics, those fractions of a second count. Moving that computing process closer to you, so that round trip from your phone is much, much shorter, can have a huge impact on your life. 

That’s why I invited Verizon Business CEO Tami Erwin to discuss what mobile edge computing is and why it will play such a big role in our lives, even if you never really notice it. Erwin joins me on on the Daily Charge podcast in a two-part interview running today and tomorrow. Listen in for the full interview. 

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