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Nokia boss: Mobile operators will need turbo-charged masts to compete

Monday, December 15th 2014 by Ellen Branagh

New technology that moves data storage and processing away from the main part of mobile networks will become a key way for operators to compete, according to experts who have been trialling it.

Mobile edge computing (MEC) will improve the quality of video people can stream on their mobile devices by reducing the amount of data passing between the base station and the main network.

The technology involves putting Intel-powered servers into mobile masts, allowing intelligent processing and storage for content and applications.

Speaking to Cable.co.uk, Dirk Lindemeier, Nokia Networks’ head of Liquid Applications – on which the MEC technology is based – said he foresees a time when every operator uses it as the norm and operators will have to to keep up with their rivals.

He said: “Operators do compete on user experience or network speeds and a network with these base stations will simply be faster than a competitor’s network."

Mr Lindemeier said consumers might not be aware of the technology, but would definitely see its impact.

When it comes to better video experience, people will get quicker “click to play time”, as well as seeing their video stall fewer times, and get it in a higher resolution, he said.

“The base station has several components in it today and this is just another one.

“It's just about an additional capability that we introduce to the network for doing things better, or doing additional things that today a mobile network couldn't really do, because really all it does in its standard form is moving data around.

“And I think in a couple of years from now people won't even speak about this anymore, it's just going to be so natural to have some additional extra intelligence available for turbo-charging the base station you could say.”

Data bottlenecks

By effectively removing data bottlenecks further back in the pipeline, MEC will improve user experience as well as leading to a whole new range of applications.

Several ways it could be used are being trialled in a joint project by Nokia Networks and Intel, which has seen the creation of an Innovation Centre in Bath to provide resources to develop applications for the technology. The centre has already signed up EE as a partner.

They include improved video streaming, to augmented reality applications, real-time video at live sporting events, and connected car systems.

Brian Aherne, marketing director at Intel’s communications infrastructure division, said: “One of the things that we’re trying to do is take the benefits of the Cloud, the innovations that you’ve seen in the Cloud networks, and how it's designed and deployed really fast.

“We want to create an environment at the base station where new services and things can be deployed there."

He said the platform would allow developers to start creating apps to use the technology in different ways.

He added: “This is about bringing the technology to the edge of the network first. Opening it up by saying these are the interfaces and standards that you can develop to.

“And once you do that you open it up to the wider ecosystem, you bring the economies of scale that we’ve seen in the Cloud. You bring that to the edge of the network and all sorts of things could happen.”

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