Vodafone, AWS Wavelength unveil Europe’s first multi-access edge computing services

Cloud provider’s Wavelength system to be carried on European operator’s 4G and 5G networks to deliver ultra-low-latency capabilities to UK business customers and software developers serving the UK market

Vodafone has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to launch multi-access edge compute (MEC) services delivered with AWS Wavelength for UK business customers. It claims the “unique” combination of MEC and it 5G network will enable the creation of novel services and use cases that would not be possible otherwise.

AWS Wavelength brings AWS compute and storage services to the edge of Vodafone’s network, enabling applications that require increased speeds, massive bandwidth and ultra-low latency, such as industrial automation, video analytics and machine learning inference (artificial intelligence) at the edge and interactive live video streaming.

Also, Vodafone has identified three additional intrinsic advantages beyond the speed and latency capabilities of MEC: security, where distributed deployments could minimise the impact of single cyber security incidents; cost, as processing data closer to where it is generated enables better use of bandwidth; and scale, as additional resources can be deployed on-demand as and where needed to increase capacity.

Vodafone claims to be the only telecoms operator to offer business customers the combination of 5G and MEC services in the UK.

“We are taking our business beyond the traditional boundaries of telecoms connectivity services so that we can bring customers amazing new services,” said Anne Sheehan, business director at Vodafone UK. “Edge compute and 5G is a combination no other service provider can deliver in Europe, which means we can offer something unique to our customers. We have already seen new services being developed by our triallists – the potential for completely new ideas enabled by this combination is massive.”

George Elissaios, general manager of AWS Wavelength and director of product management at AWS, added: “By combining AWS Wavelength and Vodafone 5G, businesses and applications developers can now leverage the full breadth of AWS cloud services right at the edge of 5G networks. This enables Wavelength customers to explore new business opportunities, build applications and services that were not possible before, and transform user experiences in the UK.”

Vodafone said what was critically important about MEC is the ability to build and commercialise services that would not have been possible before. It said new services and applications are likely to be defined by a blend of highly responsive MEC infrastructure and the high-bandwidth, high-capacity features of 5G connectivity.

Examples cited covered healthcare, smart manufacturing/Industry 4.0 and transportation/logistics. In the former, Vodafone suggested that the introduction of MEC capabilities in the healthcare industry is a step towards more proactive and autonomous care by analysing data at the point of collection in an environment where seconds count.

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It added that low-latency capabilities help to enable immediate responses and real-time insights in smart manufacturing/Industry 4.0, and the ability for equipment to make decisions based on real-time information without human intervention or delay could be a significant advantage for an organisation.

In transportation/logistics, Vodafone said the optimisation of traffic routes for more effective city traffic management or logistics companies could have significant impact on quality of life in city centres and the environment. A more intuitive and digitised transport system also sets the scene for the management of autonomous vehicles in the future.

In its partnership with AWS, Vodafone said it will initially offer low-latency MEC services to customers in London and the surrounding area, as well as towns and cities including Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Cardiff. In the MEC coverage zones, in optimum conditions, latency could be as low as 10 milliseconds round trip time between the base station and MEC infrastructure.

In 2022, Vodafone will deploy AWS Wavelength to serve customers in Scotland and northern England, with further locations being added.

The launch follows Vodafone trials with companies in a range of areas, including sports technology, autonomous transport, biometric security, remote virtual reality and factory automation, examining use cases where it says edge allows latency to be almost eradicated as data is both captured and processed closer to the device, offering much faster response times and a much improved experience.

Since the partnership with AWS was first announced in November 2020, Vodafone and AWS have been working with several customers through its Edge Innovation Programme to demonstrate MEC capabilities. More than 180 companies have signed up to the programme.

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