During his keynote speech, Gianfranco, who has many years of practical experience in network design, emphasized current complexity and the need for disruptive change in network and services architecture.
“Ultra-Broad Band Telecommunications Networks should be able to provide the performance required by new application services, such as 4K/8K video streaming, augmented/virtual reality and self-driving cars. With roughly half of mobile users reporting application speeds lower than 4 Mb/s today1, traditional 4G networks, with a centralized core ‘far away’ from end users, can no longer keep up with the requirements of new applications.
The goal of multi-access Edge Computing (MEC), or Edge Cloud Computing (ECC), is to improve application performance and, in many cases, reduce network Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). MEC distributes certain core network functions, applications and content delivery platforms ‘near’ end users in order to improve performance. This performance depends on the distance between applications or content and end users. The functions, applications and content are housed in ‘small’ data centres in regional and Edge POPs across different network layers. ‘Small’ can indicate a wide range of sizes, but basically means: ‘much smaller than the centralized hyperscale data centres operated by Google, Microsoft and Amazon. (Hence the term ‘micro data centre’.)
Distribution will increasingly move to access POPs, virtual RAN sites and base band stations: the network Edge. By 2021 Content Delivery Platforms will carry 71% of the total internet traffic - up from 52% in 2016 – and will increasingly be located at this network Edge2. The key network components for UBB mobile3 and fixed4 networks will be ‘micro’ Data Centres, that host virtual network functions5, applications and Content Delivery platforms. To reduce network TCO, which depends on peak traffic rate, MEC distributes applications and contents near the end users. Peak traffic rate is shifted from the ‘big’ internet to the local MEC site. By increasing the data centre’s distribution capacity, greater performance improvements and, in many cases, higher TCO reductions are obtained.
MEC is driving a disruptive transformation in Telcos’ IP Ecosystem, affecting Telcos’ culture, vision, services, network architecture and business models. The goal of this transformation is to address current Telco needs:
- Reducing Time to Market and network/services TCO - which are much higher than those of competing OTT (Over the Top) providers.
- Improving application performance, which enables new revenues (UBB monetization) and thereby improving Telcos’ economic sustainability.
According to ETSI “Edge computing is acknowledged as one of the key pillars for meeting the demanding Key Performance Indicators of 5G, especially as far as low latency and bandwidth efficiency are concerned.” 5G networks are a target environment for ECC deployments. 5G will certainly speed up the transformation of Telco services, network architecture and business models. However, the transformation calls for more than ECC. Other requirements are fibred cell sites, cell densification and a different mindset. Providers need to move from shared infrastructure to shared active network components that can increase the savings provided by ECC. Besides these technology issues, there are wider repercussions. Telco’s need to rethink business models, decisions need to be made regarding network functionalities to be distributed and 5G standards bodies and committees need to help drive the disruptive transformation.
1. Akamai, Delivering the best mobile experience, April 2016
2. Cisco VNI 2017
3. 4G and 5G
4. Fiber To The Cab, Fiber To The Distribution point and Fiber To The Home
5. Such as RAN, OLT and fixed and mobile core functions - EPC and BRAS