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If you’re not living on the edge you’re probably not a major international telco

Nascent Multi-access Edge Computing industry body the 5G Future Forum is recruiting at a time when most telcos are already affiliated to a MEC grouping of some sort.

Interested parties have the best part of three weeks to apply for membership of the 5G Future Forum, or 5GFF, according to an announcement from the half dozen founder members. The implication is that anyone can apply, but the group said it is specifically targeting mobile network operators.

With MEC emerging as such a crucial aspect of 5G, there should be no shortage of interest. Then again, there’s also no shortage of MEC clubs to choose from.

América Móvil, KT Corp, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon, and Vodafone set up the 5GFF in January last year with the remit of developing 5G interoperability specifications to drive 5G and MEC globally. It highlighted that its focus would be on the applications and solutions facilitated by 5G, such as smart cars, smart cities, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

At almost exactly the same time Bridge Alliance – the mobile operator group primarily made up of telcos based in the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa – held the first meeting of its Global MEC Task Force, also comprising six major players: SK Telecom, Singtel, Globe, Taiwan Mobile, HKT and PCCW Global. We haven’t heard a lot from the task force under that specific name since, but just last month the Bridge Alliance announced the successful completion of the first phase of a Proof of Concept (POC) for edge cloud interconnectivity between Singtel’s and SKT’s MEC platforms. So while the Global MEC Task Force might be a looser association than the 5GFF, but there is MEC work going on between operators.

Not to be outdone, but – as one might expect – arriving slightly later than the others, the GSMA in March last year launched the Telco Edge Cloud taskforce, a 19-operator grouping (although half a dozen or more operators have joined since) with the goal of building a MEC platform to make edge computing services more easily interoperable globally.

And of course standards bodies like ETSI are working hard in the MEC space too.

So while the edge is clearly the place to be for telcos, it is worth questioning what the 5GFF can offer them that other industry bodies cannot.

Like the others, interoperability is a key reason for its existence, and last summer it released its first technical specifications: MEC Experience Management, which defines a set of intent-based APIs for functional exposure of edge and workload discovery, and MEC Deployment, geared towards helping hyperscalers and service providers to deploy and integrate global MEC physical frameworks.

But 5GFF has a point of difference: its focus is more squarely on the applications and solutions that 5G, and specifically MEC, will underpin. Its specifications are aimed at improving speed to market for developers and multinational companies working on 5G-enabled solutions, and it aims to foster the development of public and private marketplaces to boost developer and customer access to the 5G ecosystem.

“New members will gain access to existing specification documents and the opportunity to contribute technical input as additional specifications are developed,” the 5GFF said.

The six founder members all provided executive quotes outlining why expanding the forum to new members will be beneficial. Some were worded more succinctly than others.

“Edge computing will be a catalyst for innovation across industries, delivering new solutions and allowing businesses to rethink how they work. To truly unlock this important part of the 5G ecosystem, ease of use across geographies and devices is vital,” said Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, neatly encapsulating the aims of the 5GFF. “New members of the 5G Future Forum will help to continue the progress toward this goal,” he added.

“The 5G Future Forum has made important progress in developing specifications that are accelerating the 5G and MEC ecosystems,” said Rima Qureshi, Chief Strategy Officer, Verizon. “We look forward to welcoming new members to 5GFF, as wider adoption of the specifications will benefit our customers and the entire industry.”

Would-be new members have until 26 April to submit their applications.

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