Figure 1: Cloud RAN network architecture. Click image to enlarge.
Distributed base stations have their own unique benefits in terms of caching content as per local users’ preferences for improving service delivery and processing data close to the source for latency sensitive applications. Proximity to users at the edge results in ultra-low latency access that opens opportunities to deploy customized services. MEC envisages convergence of IT and communication segments at the network edge to enable new services and business segments. Location services, Internet-of-Things (IoT), video analytics, augmented reality, local content distribution, and data caching are some of the use cases identified by MEC. MEC architecture proposes adding servers to macro and super macro base station sites for local compute and storage to enable new applications. Application development stack, tools, and framework are in the making to allow ecosystems to launch new applications and integrate services for multiple business verticals. Key hurdles in the path of MEC are cost in terms of space rental for adding server and storage to base stations, maintenance, and charging policies. Currently, policy charging and rules function is part of the core network controlled by carrier. A derivative PCRF function would need to be hosted locally at the base station to allow carriers and other content providers to fairly charge end users for services.
Figure 2: Conceptual diagram of Mobile Edge Computing. Click image to enlarge.