Edge Internet Economy

Editor’s Note: Chetan Sharma Consulting has been doing extensive work in the field on 5G and Edge Computing for the past 5 years. We will be discussing 5G & Edge Computing in-depth at our upcoming Mobile Future Forward Summit – technology, business models, economics, use cases, and revenue streams.


In his timeless classic, “The Structure of Scientific Evolutions,” preeminent historian of science, Thomas Kuhn defined “paradigm shift” as a fundamental change in the basic concepts and experimental practices of a scientific discipline. Computing and Communications have evolved over the many decades shaping the global economy. The Internet gave us a way to connect information and people. Modern mobile communication paved the way that collapsed time and distance. We are yet again at the precipice of a fundamental paradigm shift in Edge Internet that is going to redefine computing and communications to the core by empowering existing applications and enabling a new crop of breakthroughs, business models, and revenue streams. The next generation of applications and services will be “edge native” that are developed with the highest performance in mind, while ensuring lower cost of deployment.

The last ten years of industry growth was powered by LTE broadband, smartphones, and the centralized cloud infrastructure. The centralized cloud helped reduce the cost to launch new services and innovative startups who could scale rapidly without the need of tremendous amounts of capital. LTE broadband moved consumer’s interaction with the Internet to the smartphone. Apps and commerce flourished, and we got a very thriving global ecosystem.

We believe that we are at the cusp of a seismic paradigm shift wherein computing and communications will move from the core network and a centralized cloud architecture to the Edge. It won’t happen overnight, but it is inevitable. The reasons are manifold but the basic premise is that in order to serve the data, computing, and communications demand of objects, sensors, and people, resources, compute, and intelligence has to move to the edge to not only do it in the most cost-effective way but also to enable new use cases that just can’t be supported by the traditional cloud architecture.

The long-wave economists have articulated the emergence of 30-40-year long technology cycles that have changed the face of the global economy over the last 250 years.[1] We are already on the Connected Intelligence cycle[2] that is powered by sensors and software. This cycle won’t be possible without the shift to an Edge Internet enabled architecture that optimizes for both performance and cost at the same time.

It is daunting to analyze what the next 10-20 years of the technology evolution will bring to the global marketplace but if we understand the evidence of demand, trajectory of technology trends, insights into the new business models, innovation happening across the value-chain, we can piece together a vision that connects the dots.

To help us understand the Edge Internet roadmap, we must look at how Edge will integrate with legacy and existing infrastructure, applications and services that are already running and how Edge enables new classes of services that have been waiting for this fundamental paradigm shift to occur. This paper on Edge Internet looks at the architecture and investments required to make it happen. We will prove the disruptive power of the Edge with the help of field-data from real use cases and will formulate the thesis on why the mobile ecosystem would adopt the framework in their capex plans.

The use cases will look at the operational performance, costs, and deployment methods to help developers understand the power of an end-to-end Edge architecture. Given the distributed nature of the Edge Internet, enterprises, mobile operators, tower companies, and venue owners will play an important role in the build out. It will require new operating, business, and revenue models. This paper will delve into the business case of rethinking the computing and communications value chains that are Edge-led. Just like the App-Economy[3] turned the tech world upside down, we believe that over the next decade, the Edge-Economy will reshape the global technology ecosystem in fundamental ways.

[1] The three prominent economists have explored long-waves of technology revolution in their influential texts. In 1942, Joseph Schumpeter wrote Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. Kondratieff explored the economic cycles in his classic 1925 classic, “The Long Wave Cycle.” Carlota Perez provided a more modern analysis of the thesis in her book, “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capitals (2002)”

[2] We have explored the Connected Intelligence cycle in more details here – http://www.chetansharma.com/connected-intelligence/ We believe, the global economy is a new 30-40 cycle powered by sensors and software that will change the trajectory of every industry vertical

[3] Sizing Up the Global Mobile Apps Economy, Chetan Sharma Consulting, 2010

This research paper is being published in partnership with AlefEdge