Verizon seeks more operator muscle for MEC in 5G Future Forum

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The 5G Future Forum has developed two major sets of technical specifications. (Getty Images)

The Verizon-led 5G Future Forum (5GFF) is looking to expand the group’s member base, with an eye on more mobile operators to help drive adoption of 5G and its multi-access edge computing (MEC) specifications.

Six mobile carriers formed 5GFF in early 2020. Alongside Verizon, founding members include Mexico’s América Móvil, South Korea’s KT Corp., Canada’s Rogers, Australia’s Telstra, and Vodafone.

Since then, 5GFF developed a governance structure and technical workstreams, having released two MEC specifications in August.

Members have adopted the specifications and continue to refine as they deploy 5G and MEC in their respective network. Now 5GFF wants more operators on board to help spur public and private MEC marketplaces.

On Tuesday the group put out an open call for new member applications. Interested operators are directed to visit Vodafone’s 5GFF website by April 26. Applications received after the deadline will be considered for membership in the coming months, according to a Verizon spokesperson.

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Members will have access to the existing spec documents and can contribute technical input on future specifications.

Membership is currently only open to wireless operators, but Verizon said it’s looking at expanding the forum further down the line.

“The 5G Future Forum has made important progress in developing specifications that are accelerating the 5G and MEC ecosystems,” Verizon Chief Strategy Officer Rima Qureshi said in a statement. “We look forward to welcoming new members to 5GFF, as wider adoption of the specifications will benefit our customers and the entire industry.”

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Edge computing is poised to be a $250.6 billion market by 2024, according to a September forecast from IDC. Mobile operators like Verizon are looking to leverage the distributed nature of 4G/5G networks, as well as on-premises private networks in enterprise, for ultra-low latency and edge data processing alongside partnerships with cloud players.

Verizon has said it expects to drive meaningful revenue from 5G MEC starting in 2022. 

The U.S. carrier has MEC partnerships with Microsoft and AWS, and just yesterday announced pairing up with AWS for edge compute in private enterprise networks. Other 5GFF members are pursuing MEC deployments, such as Vodafone, also with both public and private offerings and a lineup across cloud players. Late last year, the operator announced 5G edge compute zones in with AWS in London.

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In the announcement, Vodafone Business CEO Vinod Kumar and América Móvil COO Ángel Alija Guerrero each pointed to the importance of new members to help speed up development of the MEC ecosystem and 5G.

“Edge computing will be a catalyst for innovation across industries, delivering new solutions and allowing businesses to rethink how they work” Vodafone’s Kumar said. “To truly unlock this important part of the 5G ecosystem, ease of use across geographies and devices is vital. New members of the 5G Future Forum will help to continue the progress toward this goal.”

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The group said it’s targeting network operators in the call for new members, but Telstra Group Executive Networks and IT Nikos Katinakis also highlighted the role of ecosystem partners in helping drive efficient and cost-effective MEC deployments.

“Collaborating with a strong and global ecosystem of partners – including service providers, cloud providers, technology partners and large enterprises – is crucial to bringing MEC to life and unlocking a range of new applications that will prove vital for economic momentum in these uncertain times,” Katinakis stated.

The 5GFF isn’t Verizon’s first foray in developing and deploying technical specifications created outside of standards bodies like 3GPP. It created the 5G Technology Forum (5G TF) in 2015, doing technical work with partners like Ericsson, Qualcomm and Samsung that helped contribute to the 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standard released in December 2017.  

When Verizon launched its initial fixed wireless 5G Home broadband service in 2018, it used the proprietary 5G TF standard, but later launched mobility and new 5G Home markets based on 3GPP’s global 5G NR.