Operators line up to trial GSMA's telco edge platform

  • Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, TIM, KDDI launch mixed reality experiences
  • GSMA launches Telco Edge Cloud Forum to push development of 5G-based edge services
  • It's about making sure mobile operators are able to deliver on their edge hype

A raft of telcos have begun trialling the GSMA's Telco Edge Operator Platform, as the industry group ratchets up its effort to make 5G the access technology of choice for edge services.

The Telco Edge Operator Platform is a specification designed to help the ecosystem – including operators and developers – create and deploy compelling edge-based services: It was first announced in early 2020 and attracted the support of multiple network operators. To support the further development of the platform, the GSMA has also launched the Telco Edge Cloud (TEC) Forum, a place where the ecosystem can: Meet and engage with other standards bodies to advocate for the development of interoperable edge services; lower barriers to adoption; and evaluate pre-commercial trials.

"The forum members represent companies that are actively developing an open, standard and global edge computing service, giving shape to the future development of this category," said Juan Carlos Garcia, SVP of technology innovation and ecosystems at Telefónica.

To showcase the GSMA's latest initiatives, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom and TIM have worked together with MobiledgeX and DoubleMe – a software developer specialising in 3D image rendering – to launch a holographic mixed reality (XR) portal that leverages 5G and edge hosting to deliver an immersive, real-time experience.

"The GSMA's TEC trial initiative is a perfect framework to bring together operators, technology partners, solution providers and potential customers to experience the benefits of a telco-based edge cloud," Garcia said.

Indeed, Japan's KDDI has also launched a TEC trial. Working again with Deutsche Telekom and MobiledgeX, the companies have drafted in US-based spatial recognition specialist Sturfee and Japanese XR software maker Mawari to develop a proof of concept (PoC) of what they claim is the world's first platform-as-a-service (PaaS) for edge-based XR application development.

To visually demonstrate what this all means, the companies have developed a smartphone app that overlays the camera view with a human-looking digital assistant called 'coh'. The companies will distribute a software development kit (SDK) for their XR PaaS will also be distributed as a smartphone application.

"The PoC makes full use of MEC, which enhances ultra-low latency features of 5G, and is expected to realise a whole new platform distributing innovative XR services and experiences, created by KDDI's creative team – au Vision Studio – across the world," said Kei Morita, KDDI board member and head of its personal business sector division.

"For a faster return on their development effort, the XR developer community require a fast and easy way to deploy their applications to users in markets worldwide," added Dominik Schnieders, head of edge computing and cloud XR at Deutsche Telekom. "We are very excited to collaborate with KDDI and MobiledgeX to demonstrate a consistent cross-operator platform that will push XR forward and result in more immersive, exciting, and entertaining edge-enabled services for our customers."

Most industry watchers would agree that the acronym MEC stands for multi-access edge computing, not mobile edge computing. While that may be the case, these latest GSMA initiatives are intended to position mobile as the pre-eminent technology for engaging with edge-based services.

"Mobile network operators are in pole position to provide advanced cloud and edge computing capabilities through their local network assets, benefiting greatly from increased capacity and low latency," said GSMA CTO Alex Sinclair. "More demanding consumer and enterprise use cases make it essential for service providers to run applications closer to end-users at the edge of any network. Based on the GSMA Operator Platform Specification, Telco Edge Cloud will provide enterprise developers and aggregators with a consistent way to reach connected customers."

- Nick Wood, reporting for TelecomTV

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