Cloud Versus MEC for Telcos and MSOs (2023)

By Yassar Abbas, Rogers Communications Inc.; Brad Tizard, Rogers Communications Inc.; Probir Khaskel, Rogers Communications Inc.

The need for lower latency applications, decentralized processing power and increased adoption of IoT and connected devices are giving rise to the shift of data processing closer to the source commonly known as edge computing or MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing).  Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) offers application developers and content providers cloud-computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network. This environment is characterized by ultra-low latency and high bandwidth as well as real-time access to network information that can be leveraged by applications. This brings a unique opportunity for Telcos and cable operators to deploy compute resources leveraging their distributed facilities across their geographic footprint. Edge computing is particularly interesting in this era for MSO and Telcos with virtualization and decentralization of network functions moving user plane workloads closer to edge co-located with third-party applications to reduce latency.  The opportunities that edge computing presents are attractive; however, network operators need to identify the right use cases and applications that are candidates for edge computing. In this paper, authors will share lessons learned from some of the MEC use cases like Cross-operator music jam session from different parts of the world, AR (Augmented Reality) based in-stadium fan experience during a live NHL game, last mile food delivery using autonomous robots and VR (Virtual Reality) banking experience. These use cases have been tested and demonstrated in Roger’s network leveraging MEC as part of the 5G Innovation and Partnership program. This paper also provides a brief description of edge computing terminology and how network edge or MEC is related to a hyper-scaler public cloud. Please note that there is no standard terminology, and you may see other terms used to refer to the same thing in other material. However, the focus is really to highlight the difference between network edge, public cloud, and cloud edge. MEC initiative is an industry-standard specification group within ETSI to define standard and open environment which can allow interoperability across mobile operators, application developer, Independent Software Vendors (ISV), telecom equipment vendors and technology providers. However, the use of MEC terminology has been applied much more broadly than solely to ETSI standards and interoperability. Although the focus of MEC use cases has mainly been on wireless access-based services but as the name implies, it is inclusive of all access network technologies including fixed and WLAN. In some literature, MEC has also been called Mobile Edge computing due to its early focus on 5G and wireless use cases. The use of Edge computing terminology is very generic across the industry and subject to interpretation. For example, for user device manufacturers edge is on the device while for car OEMs edge is in the car. Our focus in this writing is the network edge use cases and not on standards and interoperability. MEC infrastructure can be used to deploy operator’s network functions (VNF) workloads or to host third-party applications. Operator own network workloads or VNFs are typically deployed on private MEC or private cloud however the use of public cloud has also been seen in the case of some greenfield deployments.

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