An Introduction to Mobile Edge Computing
Enthusiasm is building around mobile edge computing — also referred to as multi-access edge computing (MEC) — across numerous industries. According to Kaleido Intelligence, there is a growing demand for MEC services. MEC will be particularly relevant to 5G due to the distribution of processing power among MEC nodes alongside operators’ ability to instantiate virtual core services as close to the data users or data source as possible. Technology and telecom leaders recognize the transformative impact of shifting compute and storage resources to the edge; telecom operators see the potential of aligning mobile edge computing with 5G to fully service the needs of billions of connected devices at the edge using private and public 5G network deployments.
Verizon, for its part, has introduced Verizon 5G Edge, which it describes as a mobile edge computing platform “…designed to enable developers to build applications for mobile end-users and wireless edge devices with ultra-low latency.” AT&T recently unveiled intentions to build an edge computing network across 15 major cities in the U.S. using Google Cloud.
Transaction Network Services (TNS) is innovating at the intersection of 5G and mobile edge computing, which means we are uniquely positioned to accelerate and enhance the technologies’ transformation potential for operators, service providers and other organizations.
Mobile Edge Computing Benefits
Verizon notes a distinction between mobile edge computing and MEC; the former refers to the edge of the mobile network while MEC refers to the edge of any network, irrespective of the access technology. But the oft-cited benefits of both are the same: low latency, high bandwidth, device processing and data offload as well as trusted computing and storage.
Edge computing also facilitates a more organized management system for an enterprise’s data. Rather than storing data at a faraway center outside the organization’s campus, MEC stores data on the network’s edge, facilitating easier access for the user and reducing \organizational bandwidth constraints.
When utilized properly, edge computing optimizes the flow of organizations’ data and minimizes operating costs. In addition, cost savings come as a result of not having to host and maintain physical servers on-site. Becoming efficient with your data storage also prompts a more efficient business model.
Mobile Edge Computing Challenges
Security is a primary challenge for mobile edge computing given the proliferation of devices and decentralization of data control. With more of these devices located on the network’s edge, the potential attack surface for bad actors intent on wreaking havoc on corporate networks expands. As there are more access points for hackers to target, extra precaution needs to be taken to ensure proper screening and filtering of messages to avoid data breaches and exposure.
On top of that, mobile edge computing is likely still a few years away from realizing its full capabilities. While 4G networks are perfectly adequate for most mobile use cases, mobile edge computing relies heavily upon 5G’s promise of low latency to better support areas with high-density IoT devices. That extremely low latency won’t be readily available without a fully functioning version of standalone 5G.
Enter Private 5G Networks
Technology advances have led to the increased pairing of mobile edge computing with private 5G networks to unleash a host of new use cases. These networks facilitate increased control of the communication devices that ping an organization’s network and are particularly beneficial for enterprises with remote locations where it is difficult to communicate internally with employees and externally with those outside the organization. By offering improved connectivity in places where people were not able to access wireless networks, these businesses will unlock new technologies that push their industry forward.
The mining industry is a commonly used example when projecting the impact of private networks. Mines are typically in remote locations that generally lack adequate communication capabilities above ground and in the mine itself. A private 5G network could bolster voice and data communications and also enable the remote management and automation of machinery and other mission-critical mining operations.
Mining represents just a sliver of industry potential, which extends to automation and IoT on the factory floor and out to the roads with autonomous vehicles. No matter the use case, TNS will be able to serve as a neutral host at the edge. Operators have been interested in using TNS as a host for these networks to extend coverage to a place where networks aren’t able to provide coverage. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement – TNS hosts the network infrastructure and allows them to function in that area while the operator receives additional roaming revenue.
The Right Mobile Edge Partner
While mobile edge computing is expected to pay dividends for the telecom industry, we are in the early innings. In addition to AT&T’s move in July, Verizon recently partnered with Mastercard to leverage mobile edge computing to increase autonomous check-outs at retail stores, and we expect to see a steady drumbeat of partnerships and deployments in the coming months.
When we reach the bottom of the ninth inning of mobile edge computing’s deployment, organizations will be dramatically more efficient in their data organization and leverage technology in new ways that will greatly improve all industries. TNS is ready to facilitate and chase that end-game.
To learn more about TNS’ Communications Market solutions, visit, https://tnsi.com/solutions/communications
Ramesh Chellamani is Director of Product Management, Network Services at TNS with specific responsibility for the network services solutions within TNS’ Communications Market business.