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Bristol hosts successful test of 5G mobile edge computing

Participants in the three-week trial of mobile edge computing technology took part in a virtual treasure hunt around the city centre

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Mobile networking

The first real-world trial of mobile edge computing (MEC) technology, which is expected to be a key part of future 5G network architectures, has concluded successfully in Bristol with a citywide internet-enabled treasure hunt.

The three-week trial was hosted by Bristol Is Open – the long-running smart city project being conducted by Bristol Council and the University of Bristol – and documentary production company CTVC, alongside network solutions supplier InterDigital.

InterDigital deployed its flexible IP services (Flips) technology – an operator-based MEC application that is intended to accelerate the delivery of IP-based content and streaming media to user devices.

According to InterDigital, Flips “reinvents” provision of IP-based services by using a software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV) network fabric to deliver content over standard computing hardware at the network edge, which means a fully-deployed IP network is no longer needed.

The test marks a new milestone for the European Union’s H2020 Point and Flame R&D projects – which are developing future IP networking and media delivery technology – because it successfully demonstrated millisecond latency reductions and video distribution six times more efficient than over traditional IP technology.

This high level of network performance will be vital to use MEC services over future 5G networks effectively, not just for faster browsing and media consumption, but for more critical use cases that may eventually use 5G, such as autonomous vehicles.

“Latency reduction, higher bandwidth utilisation, and the ability to deploy such services very close to end-users rather than in some distant cloud are crucial to the success of MEC services,” said Dirk Trossen, InterDigital senior principal engineer.

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“This trial showcases the solutions that can deliver those performance improvements under realistic conditions and with real users fulfilling the highest criteria of trials in the 5G world.”

The Bristol trial was open to any member of the public with an Android device who was interested in taking part. It took the form of a massive treasure hunt, designed by CTVC, in which participants worked in teams to find hidden treasures around Bristol and solved video riddles related to their location.

“Deploying services so close to end-users is crucial to enable new services at the network edge, but even more important is doing so without the need for deploying own infrastructure in operators’ networks,” said CTVC’s Stuart Porter.

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