MEC: Unleashing the value

Mobile edge computing can scale up proximity to users and scale down latency
5G, Better customer service, Comba Telecom, Congested mobile networks, Dumb pipe, Latency, MEC, Mobile edge computing, Network congestion, Radio access networks, RAN, Small cells, Smartphone penetration, Video, Columns

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By Simon Yeung, President of Comba Telecom

By moving some of the application code and data to the edge of the network, proximity to users can be scaled up and latency can be scaled down.

Where do you watch your videos? 69% of the UAE prefers using its smartphone, which is considerably higher than in most developed markets in the world. 49% of the UAE lays emphasis on a buffer-free experience and 47% reports HD video quality as being key (Source- Vuclip’s global video insights report 2015). So what’s to blame for the choppy, stilted videos on your smartphone?

Simply put, congested mobile networks. With the growing popularity of cloud computing, most smartphone applications are now hosted in the cloud. But a centralised cloud data or centre or platform comes stitched on with latency issues – distance is, after all, the antithesis of low latency. It is, therefore, also the antithesis of applications requiring an agile response.

So how exactly do you resolve these latency issues? Well, this is where the concept of Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) enters the picture. By moving some of the application code and data to the fringes of the network – or rather to the edge of the network – proximity to users can be scaled up and latency can be scaled down.

An environment for value creation

With its potential to offer ultra-low latency, high bandwidth, traffic offloading capabilities, data analysis, aggregation and augmentation at the edge, MEC will open new frontiers for network operators.

MEC’s key value proposition is that it allows an operator to provide new services by opening up their Radio Access Network (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.

Essentially, MEC equals better customer service – lower latency, higher throughput and services that are more diverse, localised and personalised. Application-aware cell performance optimisation for each device in real time can improve network efficiency and customer experience. Physically closer servers and tight RAN integration can help reduce video stalling and increase browsing throughput.

On a side note, MEC will have an important role to play in the evolution of core networks for the IoT era. By taking the existing core network architecture to the edge of the network, operators will be able to provide a resilient, cost-effective wireless infrastructure for the foreseeable future.

MEC: a crucial step towards 5G

Traditionally, the RAN has been the ‘dumb pipe’ for voice calls and data. In the 5G network, the operators would be able to make these pipes ‘intelligent’ by overlaying distributed edge cloud computing onto the RAN. With virtualisation at the edge of the RAN, the MNOs can allow multiple third party tenants at the base station.

The application providers have two main incentives to host their applications, or a suitable sub-division of it, on the edge – first, they get ultra-low latency and high-bandwidth. Secondly, the Radio Network Information Service module of the MEC server gives them real time network information about the cell load, subscriber specific bandwidth, and subscriber location. This way the mobile operator can take load off the core network, reduce congestion and make more money out of the edge network.

As telecom operators are facing new challenges with ever growing mobile traffic and continued cost pressure, there is a clear need to improve the end user quality of experience, generate revenue, and optimise network operations. Mobile edge computing can bring solutions to many of these issues.

About the author: Simon Yeung is the President of Comba Telecom.

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