Vodafone and Amazon team up to put UK business on edge

UK businesses can prepare to embrace the power of edge computing, powered by 5G, thanks to the Vodafone and AWS partnership.
30 June 2021

The launch of Vodafone UK’s 5G mobile data network back in 2019. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)

Earlier this month, telecommunications and business services giant Vodafone made public its new partnership with leading cloud player Amazon Web Services (AWS) to bring much-vaunted edge computing capabilities to business customers located in the UK.

This sort of edge computing platform is making its presence felt in the UK for the first time, promising the use of cutting-edge developments such as augmented reality (AR) tech and machine learning that can be harnessed to capture and analyze vast quantities of data in bulk, enhancing business intelligence gathering and distribution.

This bulk data will be captured and processed at the point it is being gathered, such as the factory floor, the assembly line or within the office, also known in this context as the ‘edge’. The analyzed data is then moved to remote servers hosted in the cloud, which is what the Amazon cloud unit AWS will bring to the Vodafone partnership.

Vodafone and Amazon noted that for edge data processing and analysis to function smoothly, extremely fast data transfer speeds are required – and this is where the lightning-fast transfer speeds and ultra-low latency of 5G connections will come into play.

Vodafone said that under optimum conditions, the latency – essentially the time required for data to travel between two points – could be as low as 10 milliseconds, compared with an average of 75 milliseconds for its predecessor and current dominant networking standard, 4G.

Besides Amazon, Vodafone has been actively trialing the edge services across a slew of sectors, including sports technology, autonomous transport, biometric security, remote virtual reality, and factory automation.

Anne Sheehan, the business director for Vodafone UK, noted how establishing edge computing services without the performance benefits of 5G would not be efficient enough for business users, and that the advancement of 5G networks in the UK is one of the criteria enabling effective trials.

“Edge Compute and 5G is a combination no other service provider can deliver in Europe, which means we can offer something unique to our customers,” Sheehan told Reuters. “We have already seen new services being developed by our trialists – the potential for completely new ideas enabled by this combination is massive.”

Amazon will bring AWS’s extensive experience in setting up edge computing services in 10 cities across the United States, in Japanese capital Tokyo, and in Daejeon, South Korea, to the Vodafone UK projects, with business customers in low-latency zones including capital London and a handful of other townships including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Cardiff.

Businesses in the northern regions of England as well as Scotland will begin to receive the service next year in 2022.