InterDigital worked with the Bristol is Open (an initiative to make Bristol, U.K. an open programmable city), and the CVTC media company to trial the use of multi-access edge computing (MEC) to deliver low-latency video to end users.
The three-week trial was part of the ETSI MEC proof-of-concept demonstration that was first revealed at the 2016 Mobile World Congress conference. It is also part of the European Horizon 2020 Project, an initiative that provided $93.6 billion in funding over seven years to research breakthroughs in technology, healthcare, and science.
The MEC trial took place in central Bristol and was open to any users with an Android device. Participants worked in teams and had to solve riddles related to their location so they could uncover hidden treasures in the city. When team members would find a clue to solve a riddle, they had to create a video and then send it to the rest of the team to be viewed.
According to Sebastian Robitzsch, staff engineer at InterDigital, the trial used the company’s Flexible-IP services (FLIPS) technology, which is a 5G architecture that looks like IP but is not IP. Instead, Robitzsch said the architecture uses software-defined networking (SDN) switches combined with standard computing hardware and coupled with a forwarding mechanism. The SDN switch talks to the other switches and implements flows. But unlike an IP network, the switch only gives a low number of instructions so the network isn’t overburdened.
The MEC part of the trial used lampposts outfitted with WiFi and equipped with the FLIPS software. Robitzsch said that the trial used network functions virtualization (NFV) to distribute the video from the game over HTTP protocol and then convert it from unicast to multicast. Instead of sending the video back to the data center, InterDigital could play the video at the edge. “That is how we reduced latency,” Robitzsch said.
According to InterDigital latency was reduced from several tens of milliseconds to just several milliseconds.
Robitzsch said that the company and its trial partners want to create a prototype in Bristol next year and then push for this video delivery method to become part of the 5G standard.
Companies are just starting to conduct MEC trials related to 5G. However, InterDigital’s trial is one of the first to use real users.
In June, Nokia worked with the University of Notre Dame’s Engineering College’s Wireless Institute to test several applications of MEC including delivering streaming video and augmented reality (AR) to the Compton Ice Arena on campus.