The road to 5G

The road to 5G – Densification and Aggregation at the Mobile Edge

According to the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, Virtual Reality (VR) was the only technology on its slope of enlightenment last year, followed close behind by Augmented Reality (AR).  Gartner considers the Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies to be unique among most Hype Cycles because it condenses insights from more than 2,000 technologies into a concise set of must-know emerging technologies and trends that will have the single greatest impact on an organization’s strategic planning. Both VR and AR technologies are expected to introduce increasing transparency between people, businesses and things as the technology becomes more adaptive, contextual and fluid.

With VR, AR and assisted reality on the horizon, the next wave of applications are likely to be mobile and latency-sensitive if they are to be immersive everywhere. There is also an expectation that VR, AR and gaming will require user equipment (UE) to offload certain computational algorithms to the cloud even though the latest smart phone devices are increasing in CPU performance. On one hand UEs may still lack in performance when heavy computational loads are needed in short bursts of time while on the other hand, battery consumption remains a concern for a prolonged user experience when all CPU cores are loaded and draining precious power.

To be fully immersive, mobile apps will need to deliver on Quality of Experience (QoE). However, latency in traditional centralized cloud topologies is far too long and it is obvious that slow round-trip response times will negatively impact user experience expectations. Distance means delay and applications requiring near real-time response will need compute and storage resources closer to the users in order to achieve the Quality of Service levels expected by subscribers. Cloud services will need to be placed at the edge of the network in proximity of user equipment (UE) in order to meet latency requirements.

A decentralized architecture with compute and storage capability at the edge of the network provides an intermediary processing stage to reduce the amount of data shipped back up to the cloud by executing algorithms for applications such as face recognition, local building and landmark labelling for augmented reality and cognitive assistance or even crowd-sourced video analytics. Based on the Pokemon-GO AR experience, uptake of such applications can reach viral proportions, causing sudden upswings in demand. With further increases in UE traffic placing even greater demand on the network, Communications Service Providers (CSPs) will need to respond fast to capacity increases while maintaining latency.

AR tests have actually been carried out on MEC testbeds and they demonstrate that latency can be reduced by up to 88% and UE energy consumption by up to 93% by computational offload to MEC servers. [1]

The benefits of MEC on consumers is above all better battery life and a better QoE through low-latency response, adaptive QoE based on real-time network analytics , and content caching at the network edge. CSPs and third parties can also reap benefits from new edge services such as Big Data, IoT and connected vehicles. For example user and IoT data gathering at a MEC aggregation point can be used to offer localized services. IoT Gateway services running on the MEC server can be used to aggregate data from different RF technologies and offered as a service. Connected car services can provide low-latency messaging for car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communications as demonstrated by MEC ecosystem tests in 2016[2]

In addition, MEC enables better network performance and QoE optimization by providing real-time information to the backhaul for traffic shaping and re-routing. It can also help offload congested backhaul though local content caching at the MEC server. Finally the MEC can gather more UE-related information at the edge and process it in real-time without going back to the central cloud.

Discover more in a recent whitepaper from Advantech entitled “The road to 5G – Densification and Aggregation at the Mobile Edge”. The white paper discusses an emerging software defined infrastructure, one that provides greater topology flexibility, essential to deliver on the promises of high availability, high coverage, low latency and high bandwidth connections that will open up new parallel industry opportunities. 5G unlocks many new doors and one of the keys to its enablement lies in the elasticity and flexibility of the underlying infrastructure described in this whitepaper.

References

[1] J. Dolezal, Z. Becvar, and T. Zeman, “Performance Evaluation of Computation Offloading from Mobile Device to the Edge of Mobile Network”, IEEE Conference on Standards for Communications and Networking (CSCN), 1-7, 2016.

[2] https://networks.nokia.com/solutions/multi-access-edge-computing.

Paul Stevens – Telecom Sector Marketing Director

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