MEC Stepping Stones and the Internet Evolution

In this post, we will take a tour through the Internet evolution phases; from the Mobile Internet, to the Internet of Things and onwards to Tactile Internet. During each phase we will review the role of MEC in realizing increasingly demanding connectivity requirements of present and future Internet applications.

And what better phase to start with than the present?

 Mobile Internet: Improving Quality of Experience (QOE). Decreasing Cost

Mobile operators face diminishing Average Revenue Per User (ARPU), even as operating and capital expenditures are increasing due to the exponential growth of mobile data and video consumption. The increased traffic loads often causes network congestion, which negatively impact the user experience with slow delivery times and delays. These trends combine to create a challenging environment for mobile operators; one where they are compelled to seek new ways reduce the cost of data delivery while scaling their network capacity and improving performance.

Now, With MEC, Mobile operators can bring content, services and applications to the radio edge. The close proximity to mobile users enables MEC to provide a true broadband experience in mobile networks. Furthermore, by delivering content directly from the RAN, MEC can significantly improve radio utilization while reducing transport network costs immediately with relatively low integration efforts.

MEC enables mobile operators to smoothly deliver rich content and video services, accelerate website load times and response to user interactions.

 The Internet of Things: More Devices. Less Latency

The vision of the Internet of Things is already happening and coming to life very quickly with massive growing expectations. It is based on the notion that connected physical components in our environment collect and exchange data, to be used in order to improve the way we live, shop, work, drive, and more. The Internet of Things presents a huge scalability challenge for mobile networks. With billions of connected “things” sending vast volumes of real time data messages, the centralized architecture of the current mobile network is incapable of providing low latency support and high-volume connectivity.

MEC adapts the network infrastructure with flexible software that creates a distributed architecture capable of handling  connected “things” locally, and providing localized aggregation services. For example, an IoT gateway application analyzes the information retrieved from IoT devices and aggregates the results. By doing so, the MEC eliminates the uplink congestion, which large message volumes will cause in the mobile network.

For many of the connected devices, response time is a crucial factor. Consider, for example, a vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) application, where real-time sensor information is used to provide other drivers with speed recommendations to conserve fuel. In order for this process to work efficiently and as expected, delay and processing time must be minimal. The close proximity enables MEC to provide a low latency environment and meet the short response time required by time-sensitive “things”.

 Tactile Internet: Applications require ultra-low latency

The term ‘Tactile Internet’ was coined by Gerhard Fettweis, a professor of mobile telecom systems at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany. It refers to devices being able to decode and transfer touch over networks or being able to control devices (i.e. control a drone). While this is a futuristic concept, the basis for achieving it requires ultra-fast data exchange.

The proximity provided by MEC is crucial for minimizing delay.  In addition, the tactile internet application traffic will be prioritized in the MEC server and needed resource will be allocated in advance to ensure “haptic” response time.

 In summary

As mobile internet evolves, MEC plays an increasingly important role in meeting the application and service requirements.

In Mobile Internet, MEC helps mobile operators deliver more content faster while reducing the cost of data delivery. The good news are that MEC can be deployed and deliver benefits immediately.

Moving to the Internet of Things, the distributed MEC architecture will enable mobile operators to effectively scale their networks to support billions of devices. It also provides the localized computing platform required for processing and aggregating vast volumes of data messages.

And, looking over the horizon to tactile internet, the proximity to end users and devices provided by MEC is a must for supporting ultra-low-latency response time.