Vodafone UK: Rapid response of Multi-access Edge Computing

By Janet Brice
Vodafone UK - first telecoms operator to offer MEC in Europe - low latency will achieve near real-time applications and speed up response time...

Business travellers were among tens of thousands of passengers affected when drones flew over Gatwick Airport grounding flights. A breach of security over airports and other secure sites could now be averted due to a partnership between Vodafone Business and Amazon Web Services (AWS) who are coming together to offer Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) for the company Dedrone.

But what is MEC and how can it improve security at sites such as airports? For Vodafone UK this means reducing the time it takes for machines to respond to digital instructions and therefore, organisations can respond quicker to a drone threat – which is just one example of its use.

“When things go wrong, the sooner we’re alerted to the problem the quicker we – or the machines we rely on – can respond. In such cases, greater speed could even save lives,” says a report from Vodafone UK who will become the first telecoms operator offering services in Europe from Spring 2021. 

Multi-access means customers can get the service over mobile, Wifi or fixed line services. These signals are sent back and forth between the device and the server where the application is hosted and there is usually a delay of 50 to 400 milliseconds - known as latency. This could be reduced to below 10 milliseconds.

“It’s why it’s difficult to perform a musical duet in real-time over a video call - the latency causes the sound to become unsynchronised,” says a report in Vodafone UK News Centre.

“With a centralised cloud-based system, the further you are away from it, the longer it takes for the signals to pass back and forth. So, bringing computing to the edge of the network rather than keeping it at the core, helps speed things up.”

Real time responsiveness

Lots of applications perform better with real-time responsiveness and combining the faster download speeds of 5G with the responsiveness of MEC makes near real-time applications achievable.

“Bringing together 5G and MEC will allow us to work alongside our industry partners to embed connectivity in ways not possible today,” explains Scott Petty, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone UK.

“Tomorrow’s digital business will use connectivity in ways we can only dream about, and we now have the toolset to work hand-in-hand with our customers to make this a reality.”

Mapping and location data company HERE Technologies are already testing a real-time hazard warning service to help make roads safer for drivers. Unleash live has also designed a video analytics platform powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to automate real-time video monitoring and alerts for cities, businesses and utilities.

Low latency will also make wireless Virtual Reality (VR) experiences easier to watch minus the motion sickness and augmented reality services faster and more intuitive to use.

How Vodafone UK will achieve this

Vodafone UK will be embedding AWS’s Wavelength servers in its UK data centres reducing the distance data has to travel over the core network. This could reduce latency to below 10 milliseconds. During trials, Vodafone engineers achieved this feat between Newbury and Birmingham - a distance of about 100 miles.

Vodafone is planning to offer these capabilities, which will be hosted in a London commercial centre, to customers in London; locations such as Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham; as well as towns that are home to tech firms along the M4 motorway corridor.

Click on the link below if you are interested in an Edge Innovation Programme run by Vodafone UK with AWS to unlock the potential of edge computing.

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For more information on business topics in Europe, Middle East and Africa please take a look at the latest edition of Business Chief EMEA.

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