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What is Multi Access Edge Computing? It’s The Future, Happening Now

by Randy Cook Randy Cook No Comments

Any conversation about the most exciting 5G services eventually moves to the edge. Multi-access edge computing (MEC) is the way that high-bandwidth, low-latency applications will be delivered in the future. With innovative and cutting-edge applications like virtual reality gaming and self-driving cars among other use cases, Multi-access edge computing enables operators host content close to the edge of the network. While there’s some debate as to which is the chicken and which is the egg—will 5G services drive the need for MEC or does MEC open up the floodgates for 5G services?—most service providers can agree that the edge is where the real network action will happen.

MEC & CUPS: What’s the Difference?

But isn’t low-latency, high-bandwidth service what CUPS (control and user plane separation) is all about? Well, yes, in that MEC and CUPS are different perspectives of the same problem. MEC is an ETSI term that pre-dates CUPS standardization, which is itself a 3GPP term that takes a slightly broader view of how to effectively implement and scale edge services. You can think of MEC as answering the What? question and CUPS as answering more the How? question. [For more on CUPS, read our blog, “Looking for 5G Enterprise Services Ideas? CUPS Is The Way.”]

Do You Need 5G Architecture for MEC?

One of the biggest misunderstandings of multi-access edge computing is its tight association with 5G. You see, while 5G services will eventually require multi-access edge computing capabilities, you don’t need 5G architecture for MEC. In fact, you can deploy mobile edge computing in a 4G network and use that as the launching point for 5G if you decide to migrate later, by transitioning the edge nodes into user plane function (UPF) nodes. Pretty cool, huh?

The ability to deploy mobile edge capabilities in a 4G network is a big deal for many mobile service providers because it allows them to offer revenue-generating edge services like virtual reality (VR) gaming and low-latency enterprise applications without investing in a complete 5G makeover. At least, that’s the way Affirmed architected its MEC solution. As for the other vendors, well, they’ll cross the edge when they come to it, I guess.

Key Requirement for Edge? Virtualization.

So, if you don’t need a 5G network to deploy edge computing services, what do you need? Instead of a 5G architecture, start with a virtualized architecture, one that allows you to deliver telco-grade mobile core performance at the edge in a lightweight design. Add common-off-the-shelf (COTS) servers that allow you to cost-efficiently scale capacity as edge services grow. Finally, deploy those edge elements in a way that lets you easily transition to a MEC 5G architecture when you’re ready to take the next step.

Doing all that might seem like a tall order for most MSPs and, frankly, it is. There’s a reason that most network equipment vendors still haven’t figured this out. But Affirmed makes it easy with end-to-end services that help you design, implement and manage Multi-Access Edge Computing solutions that integrate seamlessly with your existing mobile core network.

It’s no secret that the edge is where the next mobile revolution is taking place—not to mention the most lucrative revenue opportunities. You don’t need to wait for 5G to start competing for 5G-styled services that require large amounts of bandwidth, low latency, and localized security. You can get it today, right now, from Affirmed Networks. Think of us as your competitive edge in the battle for new services revenue.