Mobile Edge Computing - The Edge is the Future
Mobile data usage is on the rise – subscribers all over the world churn through gigabytes of streaming video, music, and social networking every month. Mobile network owners are scrambling to stay ahead of data demand by densifying their radio access networks with small cells. Wired network owners increasingly offer higher speeds to homes and businesses because mobile devices – smartphones, phablets, tablets and laptops – are all behind this surge in demand.
Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) is a new option for network owners. Its key value proposition is that it allows an operator to provide new services by opening up their RAN edge. It does this by placing smart nodes at the edge of a mobile network, for example, right where small cells would likely be placed. These smart nodes run virtualized software on general purpose server hardware housed within a secure form factor. The nodes can emulate parts of the core network, serve as reliable caching units, and/or run virtualized applications from any number of an operator’s developer partners.
For the mobile operator, the benefits of MEC boil down to several factors:
- Potential to monetize in a different way that highlights the reach and power of the operator’s network as it relates to content providers and their need for a digital distribution channel.
- Ability to provide a better “customer experience” through lower latency, higher throughput, and more diverse, localized and personalized services.
- Support for emerging, enhanced services such as Voice over LTE by having virtualization at edge assist with the strict quality of service requirements imposed by VoLTE, particularly on the X2 links between eNodeBs.
The MEC is led by a new Industry Specification Group (ISG) within ETSI which has been set up by Huawei, IBM, Intel, Nokia Networks, NTT DOCOMO and Vodafone. Since late 2014 when the MEC SIG was announced, more than 28 companies have joined the effort to create an open standard for mobile edge computing. The MEC SIG is already generating considerable interest in the market and participation in the effort continues to grow.
This whitepaper provides a brief overview of the challenges facing today’s mobile networks and some of the current thinking about how those networks may evolve to 5G. We then consider how mobile edge computing will play a critical role both in making 5G a reality and improve the mobile customer experience for millions of subscribers around the globe.