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Extending Mobile Edge Computing to Fixed-Access Networks

Mobile edge computing, 5G and SDN/NFV have been on a collision course ever since ETSI’s introduction of MEC. With the mounting effort in fulfilling the ambitious goals set 2 years ago, ETSI has expanded its edge computing architecture to include the other various type of access networks.

Mobile - specifically Radio access networks - are not the only networks benefiting greatly from edge computing. Fixed-access like Wi-Fi Ethernet and fiber could all stand to benefit from edge computing capabilities. 5g technology is nearly ready for real-world deployment, as Standards organizations and telecom giants move to finalize their solutions they are all slowly converging onto a distributed model.

Edge computing key benefits
Cache: CDN’s are growing ever popular, and for good reason. They help smooth and balance services and provide carrier-grade  QoS/QoE
Latency: Network latency inhibits many time-critical applications, with MEC deployed at the RAN applications like tactile internet can become viable.
Scalability: Decentralizing many components of traditional networks avoids several bottleneck created by the RTT (Round-trip-time) to the datacenter.

Edge computing latency-critical Applications: Machine to machine communications, Virtual Reality and augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, tactile internet, Real-time video analytics.

5G Small Cell and MEC similarities
Both technologies have much in common, and seek to solve many of the same problems that plague modern networking. In essence 5G small cell architectures employ a DAS (Distributed Antenna Systems) to overcome the distance and obstacle penetration shortcomings of millimeter-wave technology. MEC employs a distributed computing architecture at the edge of the network to overcome latency and capacity issues.  

Deploying edge computing across all access networks
Taking advantage of several strategic locations for an MEC deployment, modern network infrastructure can be upgraded, re architected so that edge computing can be used in ideal locations and incorporate itself into the entire networks, not just mobile.

ETSI saw this change in scope as a necessary move for making MEC a viable technology for mobile and fixed network operators. Now known as multi-access edge computing, ETSI plans on expanding it's capabilities this year.

Full Fixed-Mobile network convergence in sight
With the massive costs involved in deploying this next-generation network, the ability to remove hardware complexity and build a fixed and mobile access network on top of the same underlying infrastructure may be key. FMC (Fixed mobile convergence) was a prominent topic over a decade ago, with network operators seeking to unify it's wired & wireless services bringing additional value through convenience for it's customers. Only problem is, this was mostly done implemented at the software level (i.e IP/IP multimedia subsystems) so any benefits from having tight hardware/architectural integration were never obtained.

Problems with integrating into existing infrastructure
Dark Fiber, that is fiber that has been installed but not in use, will be one of the main ways MNO’s integrate small cells into existing infrastructure. Still, many ideal locations for small cell placement have no dark fiber or even in-use fiber. Microwave point-to-point technologies are on such way that network operators can cost-effectively deploy small cells in hard-to-reach areas.

Conclusion: MEC will evolve alongside 5G
Considering the similar goals for both, 5G will be the main driving force behind MEC, and vice-versa. Although many applications in fixed access networks -mainly Wi-Fi and Ethernet- can take advantage of MEC, the truly disruptive applications will come from the mobile side. Fixed Network will benefit from MEC mainly in the form of enhanced CDN's (Content Download Networks), FMC and overall lowered OPEX.

Extending Mobile Edge Computing to Fixed-Access Networks Reviewed by James Piedra on 1:40 PM Rating: 5

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