A market report from Spirent Communications and STL Partners suggests there is a disconnect between what customers of edge computing services need in terms of performance of 5G multi-edge computing (MEC) and what vendors are focused on. Service providers focused on marketing low latencies features of 5G MEC may not be meeting actual enterprise requirements — requirements that customers themselves may not be aware of. As it turns out, enterprises asking for low latency may actually be asking more for consistent latency — and are willing to pay for the latter.
As 5G adoption and competition increased, Steve Douglas, Spirent’s head of market strategy, says more service providers established early partnerships with public cloud providers with a focus on edge-delivered low latency services. While some enterprises rushed for the lowest latencies for 5G MEC, Spirent and STL Partners found a disconnect between demand and their actual need, based on 150 interviews and mobile edge network testing for their report titled, “Cutting Through the Edge Computing Hype – MEC Latency Expectations vs. Reality.”
The report says edge application demand and supply sides are disconnected. The report says there is a lack of data-based understanding of the latency numbers and ranges the enterprises actually need, and misalignment with when the network and 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) releases can actually support the requirements.
The latency and consistency disconnect
More than half of the edge customers surveyed (56 percent) said they would pay for a service-level agreement (SLA) with guaranteed latency that never exceeds a predefined window. However, about two-thirds (66 percent) needed latency of 50ms or less, and the window needed most (37 percent) was 20 to 50ms of latency.
That figure contrasts with a global survey conducted by analyst firm IDC which found that 75 percent of business leaders participating in the survey responded that they needed latency of 5ms or less for edge initiatives. To get consistent results in the 5ms range (end-to-end, from device to air interface and network to MEC stack), firms would need to deploy private 5G MEC on premises.
There were also varying levels of edge latency between regions that were discovered by the benchmarking results. As latency even varied between different markets within the same region, the report concludes that a national-level SLA would be “problematic.” It also concluded that an app developer would struggle to design a solution for a global utility if the latency window fluctuated from city to city.
“Our study shows that the industry is off to a solid start, but there is still work to do,” says Rich McNally, senior director of mobile service strategy at Spirent. “What we’re seeing through our 5G benchmarking service engagements is that the latency of real-world MEC services can fluctuate significantly — by time and across regions — with a lack of symmetry between the uplink and downlink.”
Most of the short-term edge opportunities were in gaming, video analytics, and augmented reality/virtual reality. Though they require low latency, Spirent and STL Partners say the current environment does not support their needs until consistent low latency is offered by 5G edge solutions.
“Ultimately, latency must be managed holistically, and end-to-end, to achieve reliable and desired customer experiences, and to meet SLAs,” McNally says.
The report also lists recommendations to improve MEC latency, ranging from 5G standalone upgrades, establishing a test regime for more accurate measurement across target markets, and choosing between a private MEC and a public MEC deployment.
Other recent market reports from STL Partners include an analysis of Google Cloud’s acquisition of MobiledgeX and a sustainability scorecard for telecoms.
3GPP | 5G | latency | MEC | Spirent | STL Partners | use cases