Why 5G Needs MEC
Since the emergence of the first computer in 1946, information technology has been rapidly upgraded and developed to the stage of 4G network and cloud computing, greatly changing human life. The 5G network era is coming, which will provide high-quality services such as eMBB, uRLLC and mMTC, but it also faces new challenges.
—Demands for digital and intelligent computing raise terminal costs: To support image recognition, machine decision-making and AR/VR, the demands for computing increase rapidly, and terminal costs increase as well.
—High bandwidth of 5G terminals leads to congestion of backbone network: 5G terminals support high bandwidth and can transmit 4K/8K high traffic. In the process of converging data from the base station to the data center, the backbone transmission network becomes more and more congested, which eventually affects the end-to-end transmission quality.
—Insufficient real-timeliness influences QoS: The computing power at the cloud cannot meet the requirements for ultra-low latency services. For example, in the case of a driverless car, the response time of a car needs to be accurate to milliseconds. Once there is a delay, it may lead to serious consequences involving personal and property safety.
—Data security and privacy: Some industrial applications have strong data confidentiality. For example, airport data involving confidential information such as air traffic control want to be stored and processed locally.
In response to the above-mentioned challenges, multi-access edge computing (MEC) that takes into account both cost and performance has become a computing bottomland in the digital and intelligent era. The MEC solution at the edge (Fig. 1) can effectively reduce terminal costs, transmission bandwidth usage and service latency, and improve data security.
MEC Enables 5G Services
MEC, an important technology in the 5G era, provides the "communication connection + computing" capability, and extends cloud computing from the center to the edge. It enhances cloud computing capability and expands the application scope of cloud computing.
MEC converges computing resources and services at the edge nodes, providing users with ultra-low latency in service perception and controllable network transmission costs. It also supports new man-centered services and thing-centered internet of everything (IoE) applications.
Edge computing is an enabling technology for reducing latency in a 5G network. The 5G network requires a latency of 20 ms for remote vehicle to everything (V2X) inspection and control in the uRLLC scenario, and a latency of 5 ms for automatic driving. Through the local computing of 5G network and the MEC platform, auxiliary driving information (such as alarms) is sent to the on board unit (OBU) in case of emergency. Compared with the existing network latency, the vehicle-to-vehicle latency can be reduced to less than 20 ms, greatly reducing the response time of vehicle owners. This is of great practical significance to saving lives and reducing property losses. In addition, the MEC platform can be used for route optimization analysis, driving and parking guidance, safety information push, and regional vehicle service guidance.
With the rapid development of mobile internet, industrial parks have increasingly high requirements for wireless communication. Most factories and industrial parks use WiFi for wireless access, but WiFi cannot guarantee security certification, anti-interference, channel utilization, QoS, or service continuity, so it is difficult to meet industrial requirements. As shown in Fig. 2, 5G network and the MEC platform can be combined to implement real-time analysis and local offload of machine and device-related production data in the industrial 4.0 era, realizing production automation and improving production efficiency. Since there is no need to go through the traditional core network, the MEC platform can locally process and feed back the collected data in real time, which means to provide industry users with MEC-based wireless quasi-private networks that feature high reliability, high security, short latency, and high bandwidth. With the continuous development of services, MEC can provide industrial applications such as scheduling control of automated guided vehicle (AGV), industrial AR assisted inspection and assembly, real-time control of on-site devices, remote maintenance and control, and industrial HD image processing.
Cloud game rendering on the cloud can greatly reduce equipment costs for players. However, when the quality of network communication is poor, players will directly feel a high latency from instruction input to image update, which will greatly affect the game experience. With the advantages of 5G network, such as low latency, high bandwidth, and anti-jitter, cloud games can be deployed to the edge. The MEC platform provides local offload and edge acceleration and rendering capabilities for cloud games, significantly reducing latency and improving cloud game experience (Fig. 3).
HD/UHD video traffic increases dramatically by three- to seven-fold, and a bottleneck occurs on the transmission link. Moreover, capacity expansion is difficult and expensive. In densely-populated areas such as campuses, subways, high-speed railway stations, airports, and high-density residential buildings, CDNs are deployed on the network edge to achieve distributed deployment of contents, reduce the pressure on backhaul networks and improve user experience (Fig. 4).
ZTE MEC Solution Focuses on "1+4" Scenarios
MEC can effectively reduce terminal costs, transmission bandwidth usage, and service latency, and improve service data security. These advantages need to find appropriate application scenarios to give full play to. ZTE has been concerned about the deployment of edge services in the industry application field from the very beginning, and has developed the "1+4" scenario model.
—"1" refers to wireless services of operators such as high-precision indoor positioning, wireless network information service capability, wireless intelligent network optimization, O-RAN application, and video TCP acceleration service.
—"4" refers to four industrial application fields, including big video, smart manufacturing, smart grid, and internet of vehicle (IoV).
ZTE has been committed to providing assistance to operators in their digital transformation, helping them turn conventional mobile networks into intelligent networks and delivering more personalized services to different types of consumers at the network edge. Currently, ZTE has worked closely with three major operators in China to run trials on smart business, smart campus, smart factory, VR/AR and automatic driving, and has accumulated rich experience in networking deployment and implementation.
The business model of MEC is still being explored, but with the joint efforts of the industry chain, not only a large number of cost-saving edge applications will emerge, but also massive open source services will be born, creating a win-win among equipment vendors, operators and service providers.