Nokia worked with the University of Notre Dame’s Engineering College’s Wireless Institute to test several applications of multi-access edge computing (MEC). Those tests included delivering streaming video and augmented reality (AR) to the Compton Ice Arena on campus.
The goal of the tests was to see whether it was possible to use MEC to deliver data services faster over a highly congested network. Nokia used its AirFrame server and its MEC platform to connect multiple WiFi and cellular radios. It also used Nokia’s Flexi Zone small cell base stations along with AirScale WiFi access points to improve data throughput.
Nokia said its MEC platform provides an overlay network that is independent of the radio access network and the core network. The platform then matches different technologies to improve capacity. Nokia said the MEC platform supports LTE and can also support 5G.
Nokia said that by using edge video orchestration (EVO), the company was able to give viewers the ability to watch four video streams from different angles in real time with a less than 500-millisecond delay.
According to a study by Senza Fili Consulting, edge computing is appealing because current mobile networks have more of a centralized topography making them inefficient at handling real-time traffic such as video and interactive applications like AR. “In the future, augmented/virtual reality traffic will add pressure on operators to continue to increase capacity and, just as importantly, reduce latency,” the report said.
Senza Fili also noted that even though 5G promises lower latency, edge computing will still be useful because it can reduce the latency that is introduced by the backhaul, which is the carrying of traffic from the cell site to the switch.
DAS and MEC
Many sports stadiums across the country have already been outfitted with distributed antenna systems (DAS), which involves deploying infrastructure in a stadium with the goal of improving coverage and capacity. Often these systems have a neutral host, which means multiple operators can connect to the DAS in an effort to improve network performance.
Nokia says that MEC and DAS are not mutually exclusive. According to Joe Hammer, global alliance director at Nokia, a sports stadium could use a DAS system and have MEC run over it. It could also use a macro network or small cells in conjunction with the MEC. “MEC keeps the applications and data local so that the latency and response is extremely low, which translates into a better user experience,” Hammer said.