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ETSI takes processing to the edge of the network with MEC

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© Flickr/CC-licence/Timothy Cranshaw

  • New White Paper from the ETSI ISG MEC
  • First set of MEC specifications to be ready within two years
  • NFV-based architecture optimised for 5G networks

European standards organisation ETSI has published a new white paper on Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), a key emerging technology which will play a crucial role in future generation networks, including 5G. ETSI describes MEC as an IT service environment and cloud-computing capabilities located at the edge of the mobile network, within the Radio Access Network and in close proximity to mobile subscribers.

This of course results in lower latencies for network traffic, which will be massively important if we are to realise the scenario of autonomous driving with the connected car, and equally important for augmented reality services. As well as low latency, MEC also offers the promise of proximity, high bandwidth and real-time insight into radio network information and location awareness. According to the white paper, other applications such as -Health, industry automation, intelligent video acceleration, gaming and IoT services can all benefit from MEC architectures.

ETSI has established an Industry Specification Group on Mobile Edge Computing (ISG MEC), to develop a standardised, open environment that will allow efficient integration of third-party applications across multi-vendor platforms. The group, which started work in December 2014, is developing terminology, service scenarios, technical requirements (including use cases and their benefits) and a framework and reference architecture. Once this initial work is complete, they will move on to platform services, APIs and interfaces.

“I truly believe that Mobile Edge Computing technology can stimulate innovation and enable a myriad of new use cases across multiple sectors that can take the mobile broadband experience to a completely new level, bringing benefits for all stakeholders and consumers,” said Nurit Sprecher of Nokia, chairman of MEC ISG and co-author of the white paper.

The group has released its Proof of Concept (PoC) framework specification to demonstrate MEC as feasible and valuable, to validate the specifications that are being developed, to reduce time to market, to demonstrate use cases, and ultimately to help develop a diverse and open MEC ecosystem.

MEC development

ETSI believes that mobile operators can play a pivotal role within the new value chain and attract OTT service providers, developers and Internet players to innovate over this new technology, while enabling context-aware applications to run in close proximity to the mobile subscriber. Mobile subscribers will benefit from a personalised mobile-broadband experience which is tailored to their needs and preferences.

MEC servers can be deployed at multiple locations, such as at the LTE macro base station site, the 3G Radio Network Controller site, a multi-RAT cell aggregation site, or at an aggregation point. The multi-RAT sites can also be either indoors (such as within a hospital) or outdoors (such as at a sports stadium), enabling the direct delivery of locally-relevant, fast services from base station clusters. MEC applications can then be intelligently and flexibly deployed on different MEC platforms based on technical and business parameters.

MEC is based on a virtualised platform, and as such it complements NFV (which is also being driven and promoted by ETSI) and is fully aligned with the emerging distributed cloud architectures. Needless to say it is also a key component of future 5G networks. The ETSI ISG MEC wants to develop the first set of specifications within two years. As such, it is developing the foundation to enable an open RAN that can host third party applications and content at the edge of the network. The ISG is open to members and non-members of ETSI to participate and take part in the PoC activities.

Leading contributors to the ISG MEC group are presenting at next week’s Mobile Edge Computing Congress in London, and TelecomTV will be there filming interviews and features. Please contact the team if you would like to be involved.

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