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ETSI’s Multi-access Edge Computing group offers to help smooth the transition from 4G to 5G


via Flickr © PHOTO/arts Magazine (CC BY 2.0)

  • MEC ISG produces two white papers and a hackathon framework
  • Wants to work with other groups to assure smooth incorporation of MEC into 4G and 5G

We think one of the current strangenesses of the converging IT, cloud and communications markets has been the relative paucity of full-hearted, comradely working togetherness amongst the various standards bodies and fora, particularly between 5G, NFV and MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing). It’s not that the contacts aren’t there and we have seen some sessions where 5G issues are raised at NFV meetings and so forth. But our perception is that there’s often a distinct lack of energy about the cross-pollination process and a lack of willingness to shout about the pollen that is shared.

Now, close observers of the scene will immediately point out that there is active discussion (yes, we know) and that, in any case, you often find the same people or companies are at all the specialist fora so they all know what each other is up to there (yes, point taken).

But all the same, with both NFV solidifying and 5G now approaching fast over the horizon, we  would have expected to hear more about how one set of standards and technologies are taking account of the pressing needs of the other. NFV and 5G is an obvious case in point. Many believe that without NFV, 5G in its advanced forms will be nigh on impossible to economically implement. And without 5G looming, the necessity to start implement NFV would be much less also.

An even greater mutual dependency must be shared between MEC and 5G. MEC is the key to the ultra-low latency services that 5G use case experts expect to be arriving in force in the middle years of the next decade, but these could also be implemented on current and advanced versions of the LTE infrastructure in place now.

There are signs that this apparent gap is being filled.

ETSI’s group on Multi-access Edge Computing - ETSI MEC ISG (Industry Specification Group) -  has announced a couple of white papers covering this issue. The downloadable white papers are entitled “Cloud RAN and MEC: a perfect pairing” and “MEC deployments in 4G and evolution towards 5G” respectively.

It claims that Multi-access Edge Computing will be found essential for the smooth transition from 4G networks to 5G, with virtualization being a major driver to equip the edge of the network.

“The Cloud RAN and MEC white paper addresses the benefits of, and challenges met by, a colocation between cloud radio access networks and multi-access edge computing.” says the ETSI announcement. “This paper provides readers with a first, high-level introduction to these issues and reaches the conclusion that C-RAN and MEC are highly complementary technologies. The MEC deployments in 4G and evolution towards 5G white paper highlights several MEC deployment scenarios in 4G and demonstrates how multi-access edge computing will enable operators to make a smooth transition towards 5G services.”

The ETSI MEC ISG has recently created a Hackathon framework to accelerate multi-access edge computing adoption and interoperability, and it encourages all stakeholders to use the group’s specifications to develop edge applications. The  Hackathon, it’s claimed, will give developers the opportunity to learn and use ETSI MEC defined services and APIs.

According to Alex Reznik, Chair of ETSI MEC ISG, “Increasingly, the industry is looking for guidance on how to put the overall solution together. By providing end-to-end solution guidance, encouraging and promoting the market through events like Hackathons and other related activities, our group is stepping up to this challenge. As the first Standards Developing Organization to address the challenges of MEC, ETSI brings the world’s leading experts on MEC to the table. The ETSI ISG MEC can make a significant impact on the effort to make 5G a reality and we invite the industry to take advantage of everything we have to offer.”

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