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Comcast drives hard into edge, AI, private wireless

by Martha DeGrasse 

Startups that were created to leverage wireless networks are finding their footing with a partner from outside the wireless industry: Comcast.


Sacramento’s MosoLabs is “focused on building world-class 4G and 5G hardware,” according to co-founder Stephen Leotis’s LinkedIn profile. But so far, wireless carriers haven’t shown as much interest in the company’s radios as Comcast has. The cable giant partnered with MosoLabs to develop private networks for PGA and the University of Virginia.


Vapor IO is another new Comcast partner with roots in the wireless industry. After partnering with Crown Castle and Cellnex to place its micro data centers at tower sites, the company has now pivoted to a deal with Comcast that will see Vapor IO placing its infrastructure at Comcast headend locations in 18 cities.


The Comcast/Vapor IO deal also involves Super Micro Computer, maker of Nvidia GPU-based servers. “Last year we started seeing a ton of demand from computer vision, for running inference models against video feeds,” said Vapor IO CMO Matt Trifiro. The company responded to the demand by teaming with Supermicro. The partners call their offering Zero Gap AI because they argue that fast fiber connections to enterprise locations will enable companies to run AI workloads as efficiently as they could on-premise, but with less capital investment. Enterprise customers do need to lease or buy infrastructure from Vapor IO, however, to use the service. “We put a piece of equipment at the premise and we assemble the fiber route,” Trifiro explained. “In every one of our markets we bring connectivity and we light the optics ourselves.” (Juniper is Vapor IO’s optics vendor.)


For enterprises, Vapor IO wants to deliver virtual LANs that can run AI workloads, giving customers complete control.  “They load the stack, they decide where the data goes, they control it,” Trifiro said. “We will lease them the entire machine if they want.”


Trifiro said Comcast is inundated with requests from service providers who want to locate infrastructure at the cable headend, and Vapor IO wants to be the middle man, giving Comcast a way to capitalize on that demand without actually sharing its space with new partners. “These people can be microseconds away [from end users],” said Trifiro. “This creates new services Comcast could sell. They could sell GPUs- as-a-service. … The economics change when you don’t have to buy your GPU and the place to put it.”

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