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As the telecommunications industry continues to evolve, there is a growing shift towards the Edge. When referring to the Edge, telecom service providers and carriers typically refer to the edge as a distributed computing method, in which computations take place at a physical location, or close to it, where both data collection and analysis are taking place. It could mean being the closest to the end-user or where computations are taking place, but the main premise is that it is a distributed computing model. For this session, Bernard Borghei, Executive Vice President Operations and Co-Founder of Vertical Bridge, joined Don Bishop, Executive Editor and Associate Publisher of AGL Media Group, to discuss how Vertical Bridge is bridging the digital divide to keep communities connected. 

What makes the Edge possible is convergence, the application of emerging technologies to converge multiple communication services into a single network. Think of cellphones; telephony and data communications used to be disparate services, but the emergence of smartphones required the convergence of the two telecommunications services. We are seeing this now as 5G begins to emerge, requiring not only the telecom infrastructure, but fiber to support it. 

Vertical Bridge is an industry-leading telecom infrastructure provider with over 370,000 owned or managed sites across the country. The company has come to understand what components need to be brought together to drive the Edge forward from power, to physical locations, to the fiber that is being delivered through convergence. What Bernard has found is that different companies have different needs when it comes to developing the edge. Some carriers like Verizon and AT&T have their own fiber backbones while others like Dish and T-Mobile don’t, requiring specialty fiber providers to build competitive wireless networks. Telecom infrastructure services are never one-size-fits-all, but Vertical Bridge’s ability to tailor services to the client’s needs helps solve unique challenges in telecom infrastructure.

One of the strategies that Vertical Bridge had found to offer the greatest return is acquiring broadcast sites, which offer a lot of land, power connection, and fiber to support edge computing facilities. Plus, they are typically close to population centers as well as found in rural areas. With these and other sites, Vertical Bridge provides information on not only the physical availability but who the fiber providers are so that carriers can make quick, yet informed, decisions. As a “real estate company in the technology industry,” Vertical Bridge’s mission is to help carriers find the right locations to meet their needs, supporting both the edge and convergence. 

The telecommunications industry has been fortunate to have not been affected much by the recent public health crisis and the 2008 Recession. However, recent events have demonstrated the digital divide within the rural areas of the country. Rural communities are disproportionately affected by the lack of telecommunications infrastructure. With 5G still on the horizon, there is still much work to be done. Carriers can be incentivized to expand infrastructure to meet the needs of underserved populations, bringing the Edge closer in those locations as well.