What is Multi-Access Edge Computing?

2 min read

Imagine you’re a spectator at an outdoor stadium watching a football game or enjoying a concert. An unexpected, severe storm hits, and you have to be rushed out in a safe and secure manner.

Minutes later, you hear an announcement that the event is canceled, and you’re sandwiched in with thousands of others – everyone wanting to get to the same mass transportation services as quickly as possible.

This sounds like a potentially bad scenario, but with the right 5G mobile technology, the stadium can easily transmit local content to the public. In real-time, they can communicate the safest and most efficient steps to get people where they need to go and make sure they all followed their individual paths – all thanks to multi-access edge computing (MEC) — also known as mobile edge computing. 

What is multi-access edge computing (MEC)?

MEC can be defined as cloud services running at the edge of a network and performing specific tasks — in real- or near-real-time — that would otherwise be processed in centralized core or cloud infrastructures. MEC moves computing power closer to the end-user in order to enable applications and services requiring unique connectivity characteristics such as ultra-low latency. It allows content, services and applications to be accelerated by increasing their responsiveness.

Characteristics of MEC

  • Close proximity: Being close to the source of information, edge captures key information for analytics and processing, thereby reducing the need to backhaul data to core locations.
  • Real-time:  Applications that benefit from MEC are ones that require near-real or real-time decision processing and outcomes.
  • Low latency: Typically characterized by latency of under 20 milliseconds. This provides faster response and improved user experience.
  • Continuous operations: Edge applications are localized, meaning they can run independently from the rest of the network — even autonomously if disconnected from the core.
  • Interoperability: MEC does not require adoption or migration of applications to the new environment, which makes development and deployment more efficient.

For the Communications Service Provider (CSP), new applications that are aware of the local context in which they operate (RAN and vRAN conditions, locality, subscriber information, etc.) can open up entire new service categories. For example, mobile operators that are now introducing 5G can leverage the same cloud native infrastructure to run both MEC and vRANs on the same COTs hardware.  

Placing relevant applications on or near the base station not only offers advantages to consumer and enterprise end users, it also reduces the volume of traffic offloaded to the core network and minimizes operational costs (OPEX) and helps to address security and data governance issues

Finally, MEC means being able to rapidly deploy new services for consumer and enterprise business segments, which can help them differentiate their service portfolio and increase new revenue streams.

Ready to learn more?

Please take the time to explore other use cases — such as Open RAN, vRAN and 5G network slicing — and further examine the ways automation and AIOps support 5G network transformation. In the meantime, please check out the following resources:

Be the first to hear about news, product updates, and innovation from IBM Cloud