Rock and Roll with Edge Media

Until recently, buzz about “The Edge” usually signaled a new U2 album or tour, and innovative licks from their lead guitarist.   But over the past 18 months or so, the hype could just as well refer to accelerating momentum in edge computing, in particular computing at the mobile network edge. 

Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) brings together the radio network, service nodes, and computing and storage resources, - in close proximity to users – whether in the mobile network, in the enterprise, at a stadium, in a hospital, or other facilities.   The market, estimated at nearly $200 million today, is forecasted to grow by over 35% per year through 2022, reaching nearly $850 million according to a recent Markets and Markets report.  

The premise is simple:  service providers or enterprises can deliver new low latency services to users or interface to the Internet of Things (IoT) while utilizing the scarce and expensive radio and core network resources more efficiently.  Think deriving information about network traffic from Radio Network Information Services (RNIS) collected by the RAN at the edge, including available bandwidth, location of connected devices, and more, to make intelligent decisions about how and where to use the available spectrum.     

And with that comes the promise:  local traffic can stay local and avoid bogging down the end-to-end network with backhaul transmission unless it is relevant to the session context.  Even more compelling, this information can allow application intelligence to be applied to specific flows – individual subscriber calls or IoT connections like video cameras, creating unique possibilities in service delivery, quality of service, and network efficiency. 

The combination of the surge in connected devices and the explosion in video traffic, which continues unabated, drives the economics behind the anticipated MEC market growth, in essence ensuring the mobile network can keep up with usage trends.  Already this year, IoT devices are likely to exceed mobile phone connections.   Video, representing 60% of mobile network traffic today, is projected to surpass 80% in 2021. 

This while opening potential new revenue streams a based on latency-sensitive services.   In fact, rich media applications are amply represented in any compilation of MEC-enabled use cases because of their network burden and “need for speed.”   Video calling.  Video conferencing.  User generated content streaming.  Broadcast.  Monitoring.  Augmented Reality.  Virtual Reality.   These demand a new class of edge processing we’ll call Edge Media.

A couple of scenarios illustrate the point:

  • A video conference with a combination of mobile users, enterprise users on 4K video devices, and bringing together connections homed to a local access point along with users connected over longer distances, can consume lots of network bandwidth.   A MEC-enabled solution, combining the right application logic, RAN derived RNIS, and a media server (or interconnected media servers distributed at the edges and core), can intelligently determine which sessions to interconnect locally to minimize the streams that traverse the network.   This results in lower network costs, an improved user experience, and higher customer retention.
  • Concert fans at a stadium equipped with private LTE, local small-cell, or other localized radio network resources, can view a live-stream from a front row vantage point, even while seated in the nosebleed section.   By processing these streams at the stadium “edge,” the service provider can avoid transmission of video across the network and ensure synchronization with the live audio experience.  Frame rates can be throttled based on RNIS congestion information to ensure a smooth experience whether 10, 100, or 10,000 users are viewing the video.   

Radisys has unique DNA to help service providers and OEMs realize this vision, with a suite of MEC enabling technologies – 5G RAN infrastructure, media server platforms, MEC infrastructure - an ecosystem of application partners, systems integration capabilities, and support teams with the domain expertise, to ensure success.  

While the real killer applications will likely surpass our current imagination, one step has already occurred:  The Edge and the mobile edge have converged.





About the Author

Al Balasco

Al Balasco is the Vice President of Communications Solutions at Radisys. Prior to his current role, he was the Sr. Director of Product Management for the MediaEngine business. Before joining Radisys in October 2010, Al was the Director of Product Management in Avaya Inc.’s Unified Communications business unit where he was responsible for the delivery of a variety of collaboration solutions and partnerships. Prior to Avaya, Mr. Balasco was the Vice President of Product Management at Spectel and was instrumental in defining the company’s VOIP conferencing and collaboration strategy. He also served as Director of Marketing for Sonexis Inc. and Director of Product Management at Brooktrout Software. Mr. Balasco has over 25 years of product management, business development and marketing experience in the telecommunications industry and has an MBA from Northeastern University in Boston.

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