What Is the Relationship Between 5G, MEC, and Edge Computing?

Among the many confusing things about edge computing, many tend to integrate Edge and 5G. Vendors often talk of “5G Edge” as if they were the same or inseparable.

To clarify:

1) 5G is an evolution of wireless telephony systems that will bring many advances, such as much faster speeds, the ability to support more devices, and other key features, such as network slicing. 5G is a 5-generation mobile network. It is a new global wireless standard by 1G, 2G, 3G, and 4G networks. 5G can use new types of networks designed to connect all machines, objects, and devices. 5G Wireless Technology is intended to provide higher multi-BPS peak data speed, ultra-low latency, more reliable, large-scale network capacity, improvement of availability, and a more uniform user experience. Improving High Performance and Improved Efficiency Approving a new user experience and connecting new industries, the 5G is an integrated, more powerful air interface.

Designed with expanded capacity to enable the next generation of user experience, enable new delivery models, and deliver new services. With high speed, excellent reliability, and negligible latency, 5G extends the mobile ecosystem to new territory. 5G will impact all industries, enabling safer transportation, telemedicine, precision agriculture, digitized logistics, and more. Through the groundbreaking 5G Economic Survey, it has been determined that the full economic benefits of 5G will likely to be realized globally by 2035. It supports a wide range of industries and has the potential to offer up to $13.1 trillion in goods and services. This effect is much larger than the previous network generation. The new 5G network development needs are also expanding beyond traditional mobile networks, such as the automotive industry.

In studies, the 5G value chain (including OEM, operator, content, app developer, consumer) can support more than 22.8 million employees, or more than one job for every person in Beijing, China. And many emerging and new applications will still be defined in the future. Only time will tell what the full “5G effect” on the economy is going to be.

2) Edge computing is a form of distributed computing that places workloads and data in optimal locations for the people, things, and applications that need them. The aim is to place them in a location that optimizes requirements for latency, bandwidth savings, autonomy, and regulatory/compliance/sovereignty purposes.

In simplest terms, edge computing moves some portion of the storage and compute resources out of the central data center and closer to the source of the data itself. Rather than transmitting raw data to a central data center for processing and analysis, that work is instead performed where the data is generated—whether that’s a retail store, a factory floor, a sprawling utility, or across a smart city. Only the result of that computing work at the edge, such as real-time business insights, equipment maintenance predictions, or other actionable answers, is sent back to the main data center for review and other human interactions.

Edge computing puts storage and servers where the data is, often requiring little more than a partial rack of gear to operate on the remote LAN to collect and locally process the data. In many cases, the computing gear is deployed in shielded or hardened enclosures to protect the gear from extremes of temperature, moisture, and other environmental conditions. Processing often involves normalizing and analyzing the data stream to look for business intelligence, and only the results of the analysis are sent back to the principal data center.

The idea of business intelligence can vary dramatically. Some examples include retail environments where video surveillance of the showroom floor might be combined with actual sales data to determine the most desirable product configuration or consumer demand.

3)  MEC is an acronym for Multiaccess Edge Compute, but in many contexts vendors and customers likewise use MEC to refer to mobile edge computing, with cloud resources at the edge of the network (usually the wireless source). In addition, some call this topology the mobile edge cloud. Instead of emphasizing the accuracy of these various definitions, let’s understand the features that it explicitly references.

Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), formerly mobile edge computing, enables cloud computing and IT service environments on the edge of the mobile network, and more generally the network architecture concept of ETSI definition on the edge of the network. The basic idea behind MEC is that the overload of the network is approaching the mobile phone by running the application and performing more functionality with the processed task. MEC technology is implemented on a cellular base station or other edge nodes, allowing new applications and services to be flexible and promptly enabled. MEC also combines elements of information technology and telecommunications networks and cellular operators can open their wireless access network (RAN). Its been approved by application development and third parties, such as content providers. It makes it possible to authorize three parties.

The MEC technology standards have been developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Laboratory, which created technical white papers for concepts. MEC provides a distributed computing environment for hosting applications and services. It also can store and process content close to cellular subscribers for faster response times. The application can also be exposed to real-time RAN (Radio Access Network) information.

A key element is the MEC application server integrated into the RAN element. This server provides access to computing resources, storage capacity, connectivity, and RAN information, supports multi-tenant runtimes and hosting environments for applications. Virtual appliance applications are delivered as packaged OSVM images or containers that contain the operating system and applications. The platform also offers a variety of middleware applications and infrastructure services. Application software may be provided by device providers, service providers, and third parties.

So, Edge and 5G are completely different, like cats and dogs, but they work well together!

A recent note from Gartner analyst Mohini Dukes not only looks at all these points but also discusses detailed 5G and Mobile Edge Computing (MEC), including 5G private mobile networks. In particular, there is an advantage of providing distributed operation calculations to the end of a mobile network or “mobile terminal”.

In short, “The synergies between 5G and mobile edge computing transform the private mobile network infrastructure into a foundational connectivity platform for business digitalization initiatives that rely on real-time insights and data analytics.” In other words, if you accept the advantages of the edge computer and combine it with a higher speed equal to the “last mile”, you can do a completely new application.

The nuances are that it is difficult to combine private and public wireless networks. Mohini, who is all for a company’s digitization efforts concludes, “Mobile edge compute as part of 5G PMN connectivity is becoming integral to business digitization initiatives. Mobile edge computing bolsters the application centricity of 5G PMNs making workloads and data the focal points for connectivity, blurring the classical definition of a network edge.”