China’s operators target 2018 MEC launches

Chinese operators to deploy mobile access edge tech in 2018, says supplier ZTE.

China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom all have plans to deploy MEC (Multi access Edge Computing) in 2018, according to supplier ZTE.

ZTE said that it has taken part in several recent trials – “since 2016” – in the country. ZTE implemented local traffic offloading on a campus network for China Telecom, and piloted a precise indoor positioning project with China Mobile. In Ningbo, ZTE said it has completed smart parking and smart park projects based on MEC and narrow band IoT (NB-IoT).

It said carriers were planning to put MEC into commercial use in 2018.

MEC, which for a long time stood for Mobile Edge Computing and has now been reclassified within ETSI as Multi access Edge Computing, sites computing, storage, and processing functions at or towards the edge of the mobile network. This architecture can be used either to provide localised traffic management to reduce transmission and backhaul requirements, to cache popular content or to provide low latency services and applications.

Amongst the major equipment vendors Nokia and Huawei have been the most vocal proponents of MEC, but the architecture is also being addressed by specialised gateway and services node providers such as Quortus, Vasona Networks and Saguna Networks. Companies such as these use MEC’s virtualised environment to provide distributed core network and services such as optimisation and integration between the RAN and content providers. Many also see MEC as an enabler of certain 5G use cases, given its potential for meeting low latency and massive machine type communications uses.

Because of this link with 5G, but more so because it requires the installation of new hardware within the RAN or the access network with uncertain ROI, MEC deployment has been gradual to date.

ZTE’s confidence that Chinese operators will move to commercial deployments in 2018, and its mention of specific use cases, is therefore notable.