At the cutting edge of technology

The new ETSI Mobile-edge Computing Industry Specification Group has recently started work, opening the door to a fresh ecosystem and value creation, thus boosting user experience through innovation at the mobile network edge
 
Late last year a new multi-stakeholder industry initiative on Mobile-edge Computing (MEC) was formed under the auspices of an ETSI Industry Specification Group (ISG).
 
The aim of this initiative is to create a standardised, open IT environment at a location considered to be the most lucrative point in the mobile network – the Radio Access Network (RAN) edge. Characterised by proximity, ultra low latency and high bandwidth, this environment will offer cloud computing capabilities as well as exposure to real time radio network and context information.
 
One of the objectives of the ISG MEC is to leverage this open and standardised IT service environment in order to allow applications from network equipment vendors, mobile operators, OTT players, content providers and application developers to be efficiently and seamlessly integrated across multi-vendor, mobile edge computing platforms.
 
As a result, applications will be able to use the service environment intelligently and transform the mobile broadband experience. Interactive and delay sensitive applications, located in close proximity to users will, for example, benefit from the increased responsiveness of the edge as well as from maximised speed and interactivity. Popular and locally relevant content will be delivered directly from the edge.
 
Knowledge is key
 
Knowledge of real time network information and service analytics (at the source) could be used to optimise the network and service operations (responding and adapting to changing network conditions). This would improve service experience and the utilisation of network resources, enabling them to handle unprecedented amounts of traffic. Real time network and fine granular context information (including location) could be used to enrich the mobile broadband experience by creating highly personalised services which are tailored to individual needs and preferences.
 
IT economies of scale can be leveraged in a way that will allow proximity, context, agility and speed to be used for wider innovation that can be translated into unique value and revenue generation. All players in the new value chain will benefit from closer cooperation, while assuming complementary and profitable roles within their respective business models.
 
Operators can reposition themselves in the value chain and redefine personalised services. They can capitalise their networks and open them up to authorised third parties (in a secured way), while allowing ‘Over the Tops’ (OTTs), application developers and internet players to flexibly, agilely and rapidly deploy innovative applications and services towards mobile subscribers, enterprises and vertical segments. They will be able to create new revenue streams, thrill their customers by developing a new breed of applications that provide incremental value, and open up new market opportunities 
(e.g. enterprise and vertical segments).
 
In addition, applications supporting tighter integration of network and service parameters will improve both service experience and utilisation of the network resources. The work of the MEC initiative will ensure standards-based behaviour and a dual vendor approach.
 
A new experience
 
Application service providers, OTT players and independent software vendors will be able to translate proximity and context into value and enhance and accelerate their applications and services to provide a unique and unparalleled experience. Innovative applications will be rapidly deployed in a new standards-based environment, taking advantage of new levels of flexibility and agility. The applications will be able to expand their cloud into the mobile network and create a whole new set of services. They will be able to feel and react to end user experience in real time, based on the actual radio conditions. 
 
The new MEC specifications will allow applications and services to be deployed on top of multi-vendor Mobile-edge Computing platforms, enabling them to be used by the vast majority of the customers of a single mobile operator. The mobile subscriber will enjoy a unique, gratifying and personalised mobile broadband experience.
 
MEC is a natural development in the evolution of mobile base stations and the convergence of IT and telecommunications networking. The MEC initiative will help to develop favourable market conditions for all players in the value chain as well as facilitate economic growth with a myriad of new use cases across multiple sectors.
 
Box out
 
Improved QoE with Mobile-edge Computing in close proximity to end users, the MEC server can be deployed at any of the following sites – at the LTE macro base station (eNodeB), at the 3G Radio Network Controller (RNC) and at a multi-technology cell aggregation site. The multi-technology cell aggregation site can be located indoors within an enterprise (e.g. a hospital, a large corporate HQ), or indoors/outdoors in a large public building or arena (e.g. a shopping mall, a stadium) to control a number of local, multi-technology access points, providing radio coverage to the premises.
 
The MEC initiative will produce interoperable and deployable Group Specifications that will enable the hosting of third party applications in a multi-vendor MEC environment. The initial scope of the ISG MEC focuses on use cases – it specifies the related requirements and details the reference architecture, including the components and functional elements that are the key enablers for MEC solutions. When the first documents reach the required maturity level, work on platform services, APIs and interfaces will commence. The MEC platform API will be application agnostic and will allow the smooth porting of value creating applications on every mobile-edge server with guaranteed SLA.
 
MEC Platform API
 
 
The ISG MEC has also started work on the Proof of Concept (PoC) framework.
 
In addition, the ISG MEC will strive to disseminate the specifications and accelerate the development of edge applications across the industry, increasing the market scale and improving the market economics.
 
The first meeting of the ETSI ISG MEC took place on 2nd-4th December 2014 and was hosted by Nokia Networks in Munich. The group has attracted 30 member and participating organisations, including network operators, vendors, technology suppliers and content delivery network (CDN) providers. It is important that the various players in the emerging new ecosystem will actively participate in the ISG, share best practices and contribute to the development of the specifications. The work of the initiative will stimulate innovation, facilitate global market growth, allow all players to benefit from greater collaboration and, most importantly, provide best ever experience to the mobile subscribers.
 
For more information, see the MEC Executive Brief, and the MEC Introductory White Paper. This white paper introduces the concept of Mobile-edge Computing and the related key market drivers – it also discusses the business, consumer and technical value/benefits that this technology offers and describes some key use cases. The paper highlights the enablers, the requirements and challenges for Mobile-edge Computing as well as the objectives of the MEC initiative. In addition, it discusses the relationships between the MEC interfaces and other industry efforts.

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