Industry giants form mobile edge open networking group

A consortium of operators, infrastructure vendors and IT vendors have collaborated to develop an open architecture and API for delivering content and services from the mobile edge. Nokia Networks, Vodafone, IBM, Intel, NTT DoCoMo and Huawei are all supporting the Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) working group at standards body ETSI.

By utilising an open and standardised networking environment nearer the network edge, service providers are able to deliver media content and services to users in a more timely manner. By caching more content locally in base stations, the operator can reduce the workload on the backhaul linking to the core.

In a recent interview with Intel, the silicon giant spoke to about how it is has seen early benefits to both video optimisation and backhaul by storing content at the base station.

“The opportunity to bring content closer to the user is a pretty valuable experience,” said Rose Schooler, VP and General Manager of Communications Storage Infrastructure Group at Intel. “One of the first pilots we ran was about video optimisation and we saw a 50% improvement in video performance with zero buffering. 50% more traffic served with the same backhaul link capacity. The pervasive theme we’re seeing is that operators see the value in bringing content closer to the user.”

Nokia’s Liquid Applications launched last year, and allows for third-party applications to be distributed from the base station. The solution utilises localised processing and content storage, while access to real-time radio and network information is made available directly from inside the base station. Vice President at Current Analysis, Peter Jarich, believes that Liquid Applications was a kick-starter for the MEC movement.

“It introduced many people in the industry to the concept of Mobile Edge Computing,” he said. “While other vendors have followed with their own visions for situating applications in the Radio Access Network (RAN) since then, the industry can now look toward the MEC ISG to encourage the development of a broader Mobile Edge Computing ecosystem characterized by open standards – a good thing for every vendor and service provider.”

With such tech giants throwing their weight behind the open initiative, it is feasible the working group will gain further momentum from both the operator and vendor communities. Intel are all for it, according to Steve Price, General Manager of Intel’s Communications Infrastructure Division. “With Nokia Networks, we are accelerating development of Mobile Edge Computing applications and enabling a diverse and vibrant ecosystem to address the requirements of multiple operators,” he said.

Nokia’s EVP of Mobile Broadband, Marc Rouanne, sees openness and collaboration as the way forward for the whole industry. “Establishing the MEC initiative with the support of the other stakeholders will create an open multi-vendor environment at the most lucrative point within the mobile network, driving differentiated services, new applications and ultimately new revenues,” he said. “It also builds on our view of fundamentally changing the telecom industry through increasing our collaboration with different players and partners.”

Advancing operators’ service delivery capabilities is the primary remit of ETSI’s latest industry specification group. It would appear that enabling a multi-vendor environment in the radio access network (RAN) is becoming more essential in an age of high density on-demand content and exponential data growth.

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