5G use cases across the augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), vehicle-to-everything (V2X), manufacturing, health, education and transportation sectors have large data bandwidth needs and strict latency requirements. These use cases mark the beginning of the 5G era. In the medium to long term, numerous other high performance and power-intensive ap­plications of the technology are set to em­erge. Moreover, 5G networks will beco­me more complex. This will result in an expo­n­ential rise in data volumes and require enormous amounts of real-time computation to deliver content to users.

5G networks, despite promising major improvements in network speed and latency, do not have any inherent computing power. This is where it needs edge computing, a distributed computing paradigm that addresses the limitations of a centra­li­sed system by bringing data processing clo­ser to its source, that is, to devices and us­ers. A natural extension of cloud compu­ting, edge computing has gained relevance today as it offers an effective solution to the emerging network problems associated with the movement of massive volumes of data.  This is in stark contrast to the existing computing designs, wherein queries are processed in data centres located thou­sa­nds of kilometres away from the data so­urce or the point of consumption. It brin­gs compute, storage and networking closer to applications, devices and users while en­ab­ling lower latency, high bandwidth, device processing, trusted computing and storage, and backhaul cost savings.

Relationship between edge computing and 5G

Edge computing and 5G are complementary technologies. The 5G network provi­des the bandwidth that allows more ro­om for data to travel. Meanwhile, edge computing processes and stores data outside the core network to reduce the distance of travel, thus eliminating lags. When combi­ned, greater amounts of work can be done faster due to reduced distance and increa­sed speed. In practical terms, edge computing enables the processing of data as close to the 5G antennas as possible, whi­ch would reduce the time and distance required for the transmission of data and increase the connection speed.

Edge computing is the key to unlocking the promise of various 5G use cases. For instance, consider a factory with ma­chi­nes and inbuilt cameras connected to a server within the premises for product mo­­­nitoring and analytics. In the case of cloud computing, the machines would be required to send data to the cloud for co­mputation, and vice versa. The cloud computes data from multiple resources, leading to a higher level of latency. Cloud co­m­puting also requires continuous and stable access to the internet, making it less sui­table for remote use cases. Edge comp­u­ting fills the gaps here, and is thus more viable for 5G use cases.

Meanwhile, edge computing needs the agility and ultra-low latency offered by 5G to deliver near-instantaneous data analysis and response. 5G has the power to enhan­ce the applications of edge computing by re­du­cing latency, improving application res­ponse time, and enabling enterprises to co­llect and process data more efficiently.

Benefits of the duo

Ultra-low latency use cases

The need for high reliability and ultra-low latency for use cases in intelligent transpo­rtation, healthcare, smart factories, smart grids, and media and entertainment, amo­ng others, is ever-increasing. The pa­ir­ing of 5G and edge computing is critical for ultra-low latency across applications and edge devices.

Near-real-time response

Enterprises can leverage the combination of the two technologies to collect and pro­cess tremendous volumes of real-time data to optimise operational systems and boost productivity and customer experience. En­terprises can achieve near-real-time performance for mission-critical applications by carrying out data processing and analysis close to source.

Enhanced bandwidth usage

Combining 5G and edge computing di­rectly impacts the success of 5G network technology. Edge computing ensures the feasibility of 5G when dealing with millions of devices connected to a 5G netwo­rk. In the absence of edge computing, the­se devices would transmit data to the cl­oud, requiring an overwhelming level of bandwidth and thus countering the effectiveness of 5G.

Advancement of next-gen technologies

5G and edge computing enable the ad­van­ce­ment of next-gen technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and AR/VR by moving computing closer to data and minimising network challen­ges. This, in turn, allows the infusion of these technologies into edge solutions, fu­r­ther opening up new innovation possibilities for use cases and business models.

Ecosystem and value opportunities

An analysis by KPMG identifies the main players in the 5G edge computing ecosystem. The ecosystem is built on four pillars – connectivity, hardware, software and services. Connectivity is the area of interest for telecom operators, providing fixed and wireless infrastructure and service on either public or private networks. Further, there is an increasing range of hardware in the 5G edge computing ecosystem, inclu­ding sensors, mobile devices and cloud in­frastructure. Network equipment manufacturers, autonomous vehicle/robot ma­nu­facturers, AR/VR device and platform vendors, IoT producers and semiconductor companies are some of the key players in this segment.

Software providers offer software li­cen­ces to customers as well as embedded an­­alytics capabilities for many hardware co­mponents. Key players in this segment are cloud providers, enterprise resource pl­a­n­ning and software vendors, remote monitoring solution providers and specialists in analytics and big data. Lastly, managed services and subscription-based offe­rings are a significant and growing market, as organisations digitise and technologies converge. The key players are system integrators, and streaming and cloud services providers.

According to KPMG and IDC, the value from 5G and edge computing can be gained through just five key sectors – in­dustrial manufacturing, connected healthcare, intelligent transportation, environ­m­e­­n­tal monitoring, and gaming – by providing connectivity, hardware, software and services. The analysis estimates that the total addressable revenue of 5G and ed­ge across just these five segments is ex­p­ected to rise from $361 billion in 2019 to $517 billion in 2023. The impressive grow­th in these industries will be driven by vastly improved connectivity arising from the in­tersection of 5G and edge computing. Tel­cos can prepare their networks for en­han­ced 5G performance by implementing edge computing infrastructure today.


While the amalgamation of 5G and edge computing offers invaluable benefits, the model comes with certain flaws. A few ch­a­llenges of combining edge computing wi­th a 5G network are:


Implementing edge computing comes at the cost of complexity. This leads to admi­nistration challenges and the possibility of misconfigurations and security issues. Al­so, increased complexity impacts the ab­i­li­ty of an enterprise to scale and respond faster to changes in demand.


Synchronising security policies across multiple edge computers often opens up multiple attack vectors for cybercriminals. As a result of the distributed architecture, any vulnerabilities at one site can impact ot­her sites. Moreover, edge devices dep­lo­y­ed in a remote location may not be che­cked regularly for security vulnerabilities or software updates.

Data privacy

Confidential data is at risk with edge computing. For example, an important use case of 5G and edge computing is in the medical field. With the help of these technologies, an ambulance can be assisted by autono­mo­us medical devices and medical professionals, while feeding video back to the emergency room. However, the large amount of the patient biometric data fed through the networks is jeopardised in the process.


Implementing edge computing can result in exorbitant costs to enterprises. As the demand for greater computing power and data processing increases, each edge device will need additional hardware upgrades to serve each location, further requiring additional investments.


Edge devices have a single point of failure. This means a failure in the node will lead to the failure of all the assets relying on that edge device. Due to the high cost, re­d­undant computers are expensive.

Future outlook

Edge computing is set to play a significant role in the 5G ecosystem. When paired with 5G, edge computing offers a future wi­th near-real-time, back-and-forth connections. Industry reports anticipate exponential growth in the global edge computing market, citing the emerging 5G network as a major factor opening up opportunities for market players. According to a report by Frost & Sullivan, nearly 90 per ce­nt of industrial enterprises will utilise ed­ge computing by the end of 2022 and the majority of the data will be processed on the edge even before 5G coverage ex­pa­nds and use cases mature.

Going forward, a thoughtful combina­ti­­on of edge computing and 5G will accelerate digital growth and provide the perfect foundation for futuristic innovations. En­ter­prises will need to give special attention to the complexities and security vulnerabili­ties for a smooth roll-out globally.