Nine operators will collaborate on the GSMA’s Operator Platform Project

Nine telcos in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region said today that they are working together to develop a global edge computing framework and reference platform aimed at supporting the needs of enterprises and app developers, so that edge computing resources in markets around the world can be made “widely and easily available.”

The operators involved in the initiative are China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, EE, KDDI, Orange, Singtel, SK Telecom, Telefonica and TIM. The GSMA has launched an Operator Platform Project in support of the operator initiative, which is also leveraging the edge expertise of DT-backed MobiledgeX. The platform will be developed this year and first launched in multiple European markets, according to the GSMA, then expanded to other countries so it achieves global reach.

According to a GSMA white paper on the effort, the first phase of the operator platform “will federate multiple operators’ edge computing infrastructure to give application providers access to a global edge cloud to run innovative, distributed and low-latency services through a set of common APIs.”

“To address the edge-cloud computing market, operators need to work very closely together to create an interoperable platform and to monetize their extremely valuable assets,” said Mari-Noëlle Jégo-Laveissière, deputy CEO, and chief technology and global innovation officer at Orange, going on to add that Orange believes such a platform is “a must-have to unleash new business opportunities enabled by both edge computing and 5G.”

Mark Chong, Group CTO of Singtel, said that Singtel believes that “a cross-border edge cloud platform which serves bandwidth needs and lower latency requirements, is what’s needed at this time as it allows organizations with multi-market operations to deploy and manage time-critical applications closer to where the data is collected. We look forward to collaborating with GSMA and the other telcos on this exciting initiative.”

This is the second major operator initiative in two months which is focused on bringing new  and interoperable 5G and edge computing capabilities to market. In January, six telcos started the 5G Future Forum, which is focused on interoperability and adoption of 5G and mobile edge computing. Those carriers are América Móvil, KT, Rogers, Telstra, Verizon and Vodafone.

According to GSMA, the project will enable operators to leverage their existing relationships with enterprises who already have edge use cases; their local footprints; their organizational experience on providing high-reliability distributed networks; and “an inimitable position for stringent security and data privacy, residency [and]sovereignty.” Notably, cloud capabilities “will be treated as a subset of edge,” rather than the other way ’round.

“Edge Cloud has an exciting potential to enable and enhance many innovative experiences for our customers. I welcome this operator initiative to take ownership of the edge opportunity by joining forces to deliver our capabilities in a federated edge service,” said Claudia Nemat, Board Member Technology & Innovation at Deutsche Telekom. “Leveraging MobiledgeX as platform partner and aggregator in the federation puts operators on the best track to create scale, bring in the developer community and make a market impact.”

MobiledgeX also today announced the release of version 2.0 of it Edge-Cloud, which is part of the GSMA initiative. MobiledgeX has been operating an early-access edge program since last year using DT’s network, and about 100 companies have been on-boarded thus far. The new release supports aggregation of edge processing power across multiple enterprise on-premise and telecom network locations, according to MobiledgeX, among other attributes.

“Unlike cloud execution, which is designed to appear infinite and ‘somewhere else,’ edge execution is location-specific, finite in terms of per location resources, and requiring a multi-vendor, multi-cloud, multi-access solution. The MobiledgeX Edge Cloud design is based on maximizing control, choice, and trust from the perspective of all participants: the application owner, the business customer and the infrastructure operator,” said Sunay Tripathi, CTO of MobiledgeX.

Geoff Hollingworth, CMO of MobiledgeX, told RCR Wireless News that he has been very close to the company’s collaboration with the GSMA/operator initiative. He said that the goal of the program is to build an operator edge platform that presents a solution “as homogenous as possible” to the enterprise market, in the same way that the mobile industry has presented global messaging and data solutions.

“They want to fast-track that in the industry, as much as possible into the real world,” he said. Enterprises, Hollingworth went on, need easy access to high-performance, cloud-native computing close to where they need that data processed, whether it’s in a country where their products are manufactured or perhaps where they are used, or both. He said there is more than one model for providing that, such as a form of aggregated networks where local operators are paid for being part of it and running workloads locally, or via something similar to roaming agreements between operators for so-called “east-west interfaces” that allow access to local edge computing resources. He expects both to be explored in the GSMA initiative.

“It’s purely a question of agreeing to roll out in a way that actually meets the needs of the real customers,” he added. MobiledgeX, Hollingworth said, has been in conversations with operators around the world as it seeks to build its own edge computing platform footprint, and he said it has a good handle on just what enterprise customers and application developers need and brings that knowledge to the table as part of its participation in the GSMA Operator Platform Project.

Edge use cases, he went on, always begin with one thing in common: a large volume of data that is very information-rich, that needs to be interpreted in real-time, probably by artificial intelligence; and then resulting insights need to be transmitted both locally to make an immediate change, and to a larger big-data engine for longer-term processing. MobiledgeX sees that such data streams are often coming from video cameras being used as IoT sensors and requiring vast, fast image processing capabilities. Even in the case of lower-data-intensive IoT sensor capabilities, Hollingworth said, those capabilities are increasingly being built into products and solutions that enterprises are buying—but they’re not being turned up, even if the companies would like to use them, because the enterprises can’t cope with the volume of information that would result. Globally available, easily accessed edge computing resources could change that.

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