5G and Mobile Edge Computing are Best Friends: Insights from RAN World 2015 Event

RAN World 2015 opening sessionI’m an optimist. I believe that today’s challenges are the breeding ground of tomorrow’s disruptive technologies. That’s why I was interested to hear the keynote sessions presented in the RAN World event, which took place in Dusseldorf Germany last week (January 20-21, 2015).

About mobile operators’ key challenges, there seems to be a consensus: tough competition, increased data consumption, and eroding revenues. The CTO of Vodafone Germany summed it up in his explanation that for Vodafone Germany maintaining revenue levels was crucial yet challenging in the face of an 80% increase in data consumption between 2013 and 2014. There is also wide agreement about a number of directions that will help mobile operators’ challenges. From these, I would like to share three that I found most interesting.

5th Generation: beyond a trendy term

The 5th generation, AKA 5G, has reached a level of maturity. In formal keynote sessions and informal coffee break discussions there is a growing belief that t 5G definitions will already be reflected in 3GPP release 14.

I was very pleased to see the focus on user experience in general and specifically the 5G standardization of “smart edge” Radio Access Networks (RAN) – providing services to mobile users directly from the RAN. This idea aligns very well with ETSI’s Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) group, where Saguna is an active participant.

The role of C-RAN

Just before the RAN World event, Monica Paolini conducted a short survey followed by a webinar about C-RAN. During the event, several sessions and a dedicated working group discussed C-RAN from various aspects. It is clear that C-RAN is gaining maturity since there are already live deployments in various networks and there was a general agreement that C-RAN should be part of the 5G definition. At the same time, there are several tough challenges that affect the technology’s adoption rate: Front-haul delay and bandwidth; managing and prioritizing virtualized services; CAPEX and ROI.

As I listened to the discussions, it struck me that Mobile Edge Computing may present the much needed value proposition required for the C-RAN ROI. More about this in a future blog post so stay tuned.

Network sharing

The last topic I wanted to raise was Network Sharing because I was very impressed by the idea and underlying value. In Network Sharing, two rival operators cooperate on the network level by combining resources and sharing their infrastructure with each other. The result is a significant reduction in cost and increase in coverage. The concept of “co-opetition”, competition-cooperation, where rivals join forces for their mutual benefit, goes beyond pure mobile network economics. It defines a quality that is uniquely human, an in my opinion, can make a world of difference.