How Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) achieves 5G goals

5G Networks5G is moving beyond the research labs and into the center stage. According to Sharma consulting, governments and research institutes in Europe, Japan, and Korea are putting a lot of emphasis on 5G. In the US, the FCC has already started exploring of the allocation of frequencies for 5G.  While a lot of work regarding technical aspects of 5G needs to be done, there is an industry wide consensus about the goals of 5G.

The goals set for 5G networks are designed to support the mobile explosion:

  • Significantly faster data: 5G is set to increase data speeds up to 10Gbps.
  • Ultra-low latency: This will be particularly important for industrial applications, driverless cars, tactile internet applications and better user experience.
  • A more “connected world”: The Internet of Things (IoT) including wearables, smart home appliances and connected cars, is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10 years. This means 5G networks will need to accommodate billions of connected devices.

However, large scale 5G deployments, expected around 2020, are still a few years away, while LTE is being rolled out worldwide as we speak. In parallel between 2015 and 2020 the number of networked devices is expected to skyrocket. For example, analyst firm Gartner predicts that the number of connected devices will rise from about 5 billion in 2015 to 25 billion by 2020; GSMA offers higher figures starting at 7.5 billion connected devices today with with predictions exceeding 50 billion in 2020. Whether you side with the lower or higher predictions, the numbers are growing fast. This means that as an industry, we need to examine the goals of 5G through our 4G glasses and see what progress can be made towards these crucial goals today.

We have already shared our 5G expectations, and more specifically the 5G standardization of “smart edge” Radio Access Networks (RAN) – providing services to mobile users directly from the RAN. As a company focused on Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), the “smart edge” 5G architecture makes perfect sense in light of the 5G goals.

Mobile Edge Computing achieves 5G goals

In MEC, computing capabilities are pushed closer to the radio access network (and, in turn, closer to subscribers), enabling low-latency and high-bandwidth access to content, applications and services. The distributed MEC architecture also makes it ideal for supporting high volumes of connected devices, which will generate even higher volumes of data interactions. Backed by industry leaders participating in ETSI’s Mobile Edge Computing industry standardization group (ISG), MEC provides a standard-based approach to making significant progress towards the 5G in LTE networks today.

Regarding the role of LTE on path to 5G Mansoor Hanif, EE’s director of radio access, who is a vocal supporter of Mobile Edge Computing, stated that with MEC “You’re putting the computing power and the value right where the customer needs it the most”.

So while 5G definitely has a promising future, for now, to get started, MEC can be leveraged today to create an open ecosystem and growth engine inside the mobile Radio Access Network (RAN) in close proximity to mobile users. Leveraging a Mobile Edge Computing platform enables mobile operators to quickly and effectively deploy new revenue generating services for content delivery, Internet-of-things (IoT) connectivity, retail, and enterprise applications.

Don’t get us wrong; we too are excited about the promise of 5G, yet we know that mobile broadband vendors, and most of all subscribers, want their fast access today. This is where MEC comes to the rescue. It is a powerful future-proof tool for mobile operators in the face of diminishing ARPU and increasing traffic loads, and a unique opportunity for long-term growth within the mobile network – starting now.