November 4, 2020

5G Services Need a Strong MEC Orchestration Strategy

Edge domain orchestration unifies services and connectivity for emerging customer applications.

Many of the 5G-specific use cases identified by communications service providers (CSPs) as high-revenue, high-margin services have a dependency on low-latency, high-bandwidth connectivity from the network edge to the end user device. The only way to provide these service characteristics is with a strong 5G Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) strategy using edge cloud for compute and new developments like high-volume edge caching.

A good MEC-reliant service example from the consumer side is 5G cloud gaming, which can provide a console-like gaming experience to a smartphone or tablet by moving functions like graphics processing and rendering out of the user device back into the edge cloud. Quality of Experience (QoE) is the major consideration here as gamers already have high expectations from their home consoles, so mobile operators need to carve out a low latency network slice to apply the correct characteristics to the service and ensure optimal QoE. This is only achievable with a fully orchestrated BSS/OSS/network ecosystem.

Tight Integration of MEC Essential for 5G-specific Service Revenue Opportunities
Integrating MEC into the OSS and network management and orchestration strategy is a major focus for many of the new 5G-specific latency-sensitive service use cases. From a service management and orchestration perspective, defining those characteristics in the service model is the key to enabling highly dynamic slicing that can be activated on demand from a marketplace with a choice of payment options to suit the quality needed and available budget.

Now is the ideal time for operators to look closely at these service models and integration strategies during the first wave of 5G networks in non-standalone mode, ensuring a more cohesive end-to-end attitude to service management before mobile operators start the mass deployment of 5G Core and the standalone version of 5G. The drive towards open architectures, with open APIs and interoperability standards means that the work can be done now and the introduction of the 5G Core will not necessitate that work having to be redone at a later date.

It is important for CSP’s MEC planning to include unified edge domain orchestration focusing on the optimal placement strategy and lifecycle management for emerging edge services and applications across multiple edge sites. While these considerations will of course have wider positive implications across the ecosystem once introduced, edge domain orchestration enables the optimal service-centric use of edge compute, data processing and caching in MEC.

Quality of Experience for 5G Services Requires an Orchestrated Approach
Failure to take an orchestrated approach to MEC – or indeed any DSP operations methodology – will seriously undermine the investments made in network technology as it disconnects the service-level intelligence from operations and the customer. Poor QoE on launch should not be an option for CSPs introducing 5G-specific services, as these are the large potential revenues built into the growth models for the next decade and must be right the first time.

To achieve this, CSPs need to be successful in connecting business motivations and innovation directly with the technological capabilities of the network and IT. Orchestrating this digital path through BSS, OSS and the network, with intelligent use of data, is a complex discipline that requires a solid foundation for innovation and growth.

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