As the world transitions from 4G to 5G, lots of applications are moving toward the cloud, which heralds the commercialization of transformative technologies such as augmented reality (AR), connected vehicle and Internet of Things (IoT). Most of these technologies rely on mobile infrastructure and cloud computing that together provide real-time, context-based services to the end user.
While these services are opening new business opportunities, they are also creating challenges for mobile operators and application vendors. The exponential growth of mobile traffic combined with cost pressures require mobile operators to implement several changes in order to maintain a high-quality user experience, generate revenue and optimize resource utilization and network operations.
Mobile communication has its own limitations of data cost and latency. These factors pose challenges and drive the need for implementing new technology, which provides low latency and higher quality to the end user for a real-time experience. The advent of new technology also needs to make network operation more cost effective and competitive. Mobile-edge computing (MEC) is just such a technology, enabling businesses to provide real-time solutions and context-based services to end users while managing the operational cost of the existing mobile infrastructure.
What is Mobile Edge Computing?
MEC is a network architecture that brings cloud computing capabilities to the edge of the mobile network. The main idea of this technology is to move some processing-intensive tasks and computational abilities from cloud datacenters all the way to the radio-access network (RAN) edge of the mobile network. By moving computation functions near the RAN, MEC reduces latency, network congestion and provides a better user experience. This can be achieved by deploying new processing nodes called MEC servers in mobile networks. These nodes can be deployed anywhere, for instance, near the LTE eNodeB, 3G RNC and at the edge of core networks. See figure below.
Figure title: The elements of the mobile-edge computing architecture
Benefits of mobile-edge computing
Mobile-edge computing creates the potential for operators and application vendors to deliver new business services. By using MEC technology, cellular operators can efficiently deploy new services based on requirements and agreements and customize services for different classes of customers.
Use cases that take advantage of MEC include:
■ Big Data Analytics
As the number and variety of IoT services increase, the load on cloud datacenters will also increase due to the requirement of analyzing all the data collected from the millions or billions of IoT devices. By deploying MEC nodes near the edge of the mobile network, data analysis can be distributed between the cloud and the mobile network. Adding intelligence and decision-making capabilities at the MEC node can also help the cloud make decisions faster.
■ Augmented Reality
Sometimes content for augmented reality applications is highly localized. For example, content that is meant for a particular location, beyond which it is irrelevant. It will be advantageous to put such content at the edge instead of in the cloud. Also, hosting some CPU-intensive AR algorithms on the edge will reduce the load on the cloud. Placing highly localized AR-related content and service on a MEC server will help to achieve a real-world user experience.
■ Connected Vehicles
Connected vehicles are connected through wireless local area networks and share information with other devices through the internet. These devices could be roadside sensors, cameras or other connected vehicles. Real-time operation, low-latency requirements and high quality of service (QoS) are requirements for the commercialization of connected vehicles. As the number of connected vehicles increase, the volume of data also increases at a rapid pace. Storing and processing this data centrally on the cloud is slow and unreliable. Also, it raises safety concerns. MEC can extend the connected-car cloud into mobile base stations, enabling data to be housed and processed closer to the vehicles. Some of data and applications that are close to the vehicle are more critical to location and would be candidates to run on MEC servers instead of the cloud. This way, the most relevant and critical information, such as accident-prone area warnings and traffic density can be passed to connected vehicles immediately with low latency without going through the cloud. Perhaps more important, such technology can allow connected vehicles to communicate with other vehicles in real-time.
The Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) initiative is an Industry Specification Group (ISG) within ETSI. The purpose of the ISG is to create a standardized, open environment which will allow the efficient and seamless integration of applications from vendors, service providers and third-parties across multi-vendor mobile-edge computing platforms.
In conclusion, mobile edge computing is a growing field which enables the mobile operators to deliver highly localized and personalized services directly from the very edge of the network and to offload some task from busy cloud. Mobile edge computing creates new eco-system and value chain which enables Mobile operator, developers and Internet players to collaborate with each other , while enabling context-aware applications to run in close proximity to the mobile subscriber. Through Mobile Edge computing, Mobile subscribers can enjoy a unique and personalized services which is tailored according to their needs and preferences.