The case for
public mobile
edge computing
(MEC)

Author: Kevin Casey

In an age of instant information, the widespread availability of high-speed internet combined with the scalable power of cloud computing is creating a thrilling array of new possibilities for mobile applications and services.

Mobile edge computing (MEC), also known as multi-access edge computing, is what makes that combination a reality. There are two primary options for mobile edge computing: public MEC and private MEC. Both create significant opportunities in different ways.

What is MEC?

MEC brings critical computing resources such as processing power and storage as close as possible to end users, edge devices and applications. This means data can be processed, stored and analyzed at the farthest edges of the mobile network instead of having to travel to and from a faraway data center.

Saving that roundtrip can greatly reduce latency and improve performance for businesses, governments, developers and end users alike. This in turn allows for near real-time data-driven insights and decisions, faster services and experiences, improved battery performance for connected devices, strong security practices and other benefits.

MEC can be used on 4G LTE or 5G networks, but MEC with 5G (or simply 5G MEC) is could be considered more efficient.

What is public MEC?

Public MEC is mobile edge computing where cloud computing, storage and other resources are embedded at the edge of the public cellular network. These resources are essentially pooled together, and any mobile customer can subscribe to and use them. Since it's located with the LTE or 5G mobile network, it's already there and always available.

Public MEC vs. private MEC

Private MEC is custom-built edge computing and storage infrastructure installed on-site at a customer's location(s), and typically leverages a private wireless network for connectivity. Compute and other resources are dedicated (rather than pooled/shared under public solutions) and used only by that particular customer in that location. Given the bespoke nature of private MEC, it can require more resources and investment.

Public 5G mobile edge computing

Public 5G mobile edge computing combines MEC with the public 5G network, and can provide ultra-low latency.

The advantages of public 5G MEC

While both models offer lower latency and other upsides associated with edge computing, combining MEC with the public 5G network offers several advantages for users, service providers and businesses alike. By pooling resources and distributing content and applications closer to the edge of the network, MEC can provide faster and more reliable access to data and services.

Let's take a closer look at some of the most important benefits created by using a public solution:

  • Broad coverage and availability: Edge infrastructure and computing resources are built into the 5G network, which makes them more widely and readily available to organizations and individual users without the need for the design and construction of a custom-built network.
  • Ultra-low latency: MEC unlocks the potential for ultra-low latency¬†and blazing-fast applications and services when used with a millimeter-wave-spectrum 5G network. This enables businesses to generate and act on insights almost immediately as data is generated.
  • Lower computing costs: Multi-tenant cloud computing pools and shares scalable vital technology resources at the mobile network edge. This can help to optimize and reduce compute and other infrastructure costs, especially for applications that don't require constant, dedicated resources.
  • Lower data transit costs: Data-intensive workloads such as AI and machine learning perform better when processing and other functions happen as close to the application as possible. MEC can help to make these workloads more cost-efficient because it involves moving IT resources closer to the application endpoint, which can reduce backhaul costs (the costs of transporting data from that endpoint back to a centralized cloud or datacenter and vice versa). This makes MEC especially useful in any data-intensive industry, such as financial services.

When to use public MEC

A public solution is a good fit for situations requiring public access, those that have broad geographic footprints, or where low latency is critical, such as with public safety, autonomous vehicles, entertainment venues and smart healthcare applications.

Public MEC could also be considered for applications that do not require the data sovereignty and control provided by private MEC. This includes devices and applications where constant network access is not required. A public solution is particularly useful for organizations seeking to optimize resources by utilizing the existing cellular network and not constructing a purpose-built private wireless solution.

Of course, there may be times when an organization would benefit from devices and applications using 5G MEC while distributed across public and private networks. A hybrid approach is possible and provides the option to use the security and control of private MEC for certain critical applications while using the public MEC for less critical tasks.

Finding the right MEC partner

Working with a trusted, experienced partner can help you maximize the benefits of your public MEC solution given the need to utilize the public 5G (or LTE) cellular network. Important factors to consider are:

  • Connectivity to a 5G network that can deliver the best experience for your location and requirements
  • Experience and resources to deliver near-real time experiences at the network edge
  • Partnerships with leading cloud providers

Learn more about how you can harness the power of 5G MEC with Verizon 5G Edge.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.