The last mile has long been a networking juggernaut. The PSTN, WANs, and LANs each suffer from the challenge of distributing the full capabilities of the network core to each endpoint in a reliable and cost-effective manner. In the early days of the Bell System, copper lines with battery power comprised the last mile delivering voice transmission. Little did anyone imagine at the time that the PSTN would evolve from manually switched voice connections into global computing networks supporting multimedia communications; the network was not designed to scale for these use cases.

Radio frequency transmission has solved some last mile challenges; cellular, microwave, and satellite technologies have reduced the physical constraints of a tethered last mile. Fourth-generation (4G) technology can seamlessly replace physical network connections in many instances; however, latency, power, and reliability limitations can inhibit adoption for applications with high processing and real-time performance demands.

Fifth generation (5G) holds promise as the technology that will finally eliminate nearly 150 years of last mile limitations. Sure, 5G is fast, but that’s not the only benefit. Compute latency is dramatically reduced, power efficiency is improved for endpoints – think IoT and connected everything – and reliability of transmission is improved. Coupled with edge computing design, 5G is solving the business problem of making the most remote endpoint as efficient as the network core. It’s not just the next evolution of wireless connectivity, it’s a revolution against the physical limitations of the last mile.

Photo of Tim Colwell
Tim is Executive Vice President at AOTMP®

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