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For more than a century, the evolutions of wireless communications and computing have driven enormous profit opportunities and societal gains. Even in a time of global health and economic crises, there has never been a better time to be a connected human being, or to be in the business of connecting humans to data. But now, the entire ecosystem is facing three massive inflection points:

  1. Demand for access to spectrum and computing resources is increasing, and the rate of increase is about to grow exponentially—10X in five years.1 We anticipate the current pandemic will further accelerate demand even faster than these projections.
  2. The supply of wireless spectrum and backhaul resources is inefficiently used, poorly controlled, and increasingly conflicted.
  3. Money-making opportunities are being confounded or entirely disrupted by the emergence of new digital solutions and consumer behaviors.

5G wireless is the common carriers’ presumptive solution for all of these issues and more. But there is a fundamental mismatch between the industry’s marketing campaigns and the harsh realities of the electromagnetic operating environment. The carriers like to show us happy consumers downloading entertaining videos at lightning speeds; the reality that they don’t show us is that even in the densest urban environments, the cost of their centralized 5G deployment and spectrum access is likely to limit them to reaching only segments of possible use cases and users.

Now another inflection point has popped up in response to the inefficiencies outlined above: Decentralization of spectrum allocation and network resources is about to become a thing. Not just anything, but the biggest thing ever. It is a profound shift that will unlock the most widespread democratization of communications capitalism that the world has ever seen. The brightest engineering minds in the industry are moving toward common standards and shared resources. Regulators are taking a new look at how spectrum is allocated.

The result is that in the next five years, more than three-quarters of data processing will happen out at the edge of the network, instead of going up into the cloud, being processed, and returned to the end-user or device.

What technology will be required to make this all work?

We know what it won’t be: a massive expansion of fiber backhaul and cloud data center capacity, because those resources can’t scale fast enough or profitably enough to keep up with demand generated by all those edge devices and cloud data centers.

Here’s what it needs to be: the wireless freeway, built just as long, wide, and as smart as it needs to be. The freeway will have exactly enough lanes (e.g. scaling capacity) to move all the data we ever need, for future use cases may be in demand, without paying for capacity that sits idle or blocks other users from accessing it. The freeway needs a foundation of super-low cost gateways that move data and compute resources east-west, instead of clogging up the network’s north-south pipelines. It is the only way that carriers, service providers, and infrastructure partners can survive the shift to a post-5G world and become profitable.

Globally, entities ranging from privateer open-source developers, to agile startups, to behemoth corporations, to entire governments are working on different parts of this decentralized freeway system—known as edge computing—in hopes of unlocking its commercial opportunities. A fundamental problem they face in common is that in an edge computing future, the vast majority of processing will happen at the edge, outside of traditional networks and outside of the present-day cloud.2 To build the freeway, we all need efficient ways to allocate and monetize wireless spectrum, computing, and storage resources out at the extreme edge, right where devices are trying to connect.

There is a way to decentralize these services cost-effectively: By deploying consumer-premised, low-cost ($150/node), smart-spectrum network gateway nodes with radio, compute/store, and blockchain OS. This deployment is analogous to how providers have deployed set-top boxes, wi-fi modems, and the like, except that all smart gateway nodes can securely connect to all other nearby nodes and leverage each other’s onboard resources and spectrum availability.

These smart gateways will move traffic from the centralized backhaul, out to the device edge, handling the demand of 5G use cases without requiring massive small-cell and backhaul investments.

The proliferation of smart spectrum home gateways is right around the corner. OmniMesh Technologies is refining a proof-of-concept, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense contractor ANDRO Computational Solutions. The agile spectrum technology has already been proven in the defense theater, and OmniMesh holds the license for commercial use. xSAS, ANDRO’s smart spectrum allocation engine, handles service requests in milliseconds, not hours. And OmniMesh has patented the platform’s monetization system such that it covers all wireless transactions using any blockchain.

Once the platform scales, it will have enormous implications for network providers, consumers, and the producers of digital content and services. And it will create enormous new markets for all three. When edge computing is decentralized and made more efficient, so that it becomes frictionlessly accessible across a platform comprised of home gateways, the opportunities will be beyond what any of us can imagine today.