Jump to section

Understanding mobile edge computing

Copy URL

Mobile edge computing is a type of network architecture that provides cloud computing capabilities and an IT service environment at the edge of the network. Mobile edge computing is sometimes used as a synonym for multi-access edge computing, or MEC. The goal of both mobile edge computing and multi-access edge computing is to reduce latency, ensure efficient network operation, and improve customer experience.

Innovate for digital success: Lead as a digital service provider

Mobile edge computing, and the related concept of multi-access edge computing (MEC), describe an evolution in cloud computing that uses mobility, cloud services, and edge computing to move application hosts away from a centralized datacenter to the edge of the network. The result is applications that are closer to end users and computing services that are closer to application data.

The concept of edge computing brings computational functionality closer to the user of the data, with the goal of providing more scalable performance, reducing network load, and speeding up data transmission. Mobile edge computing takes this a step further, supporting ultra-low latency and high bandwidth, along with data and radio network information that can be used by applications in real-time.

As computer technology continues to expand beyond the datacenter and desktop into connected devices, mobile edge computing plays a greater role in enterprise architecture.

5G refers to the fifth generation of mobile networks, representing upgrades in bandwidth and latency that enable services that weren’t possible under older networks. 5G networks promise gigabit speeds—or data transmission speeds of up to 10 Gbps. 5G service also vastly reduces latency and can expand coverage to remote areas.

5G can be considered a use case for edge computing, and it also enables other edge use cases. Edge computing is a way to meet the performance and low latency requirements of 5G networks and improve the customer experience.

Adopting edge computing is a high priority for many telco customers as they seek to offer new services, and for telco providers themselves as they modernize their networks and seek new sources of revenue. Specifically, many service providers are moving workloads and services out of the core network (in datacenters) toward the network’s edge, to points of presence and central offices.

For telcos, the apps and services their customers want to build and consume on edge networks can be the key to revenue generation, but success depends on building the right ecosystem and coordinating among stakeholders and technology partners alike. To remain competitive, telcos must adapt to simplify network operations and improve flexibility, availability, and efficiency, all while serving an increasing number of edge devices and bandwidth-hungry applications.

Telco cloud is a software-defined, highly resilient cloud infrastructure that allows telcos to add services more quickly, respond faster to changes in demand, and centrally manage their resources more efficiently. It is one of the key foundational components for transforming a telecommunications company into a digital service provider.

Early telco clouds applied virtualization concepts from the datacenter into the network. With the advent of 5G, telco clouds building upon newer technologies like containers and microservices, as well as hybrid cloud architectures. As they are deployed into telco clouds, containers and microservices will have to coexist with older virtualized network functions (VNFs), like EPC, SD-WAN and security technologies, that are running today.

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the process of connecting everyday physical objects to the internet—from common household objects like lightbulbs; to healthcare assets like medical devices; to wearables, smart devices, and even smart cities.

IoT refers to any system of physical devices that receive and transfer data over wireless networks with limited human intervention. These systems can contribute significant amounts of data—along with the benefits and challenges that come with it—to a mobile edge computing implementation.

A related concept, IIoT, stands for Industrial Internet of Things. IIoT covers connected devices in manufacturing, energy, and other industrial practices. IIoT devices are often deployed in connection with edge computing. IIoT is significant for bringing more automation and self-monitoring to industrial machines, helping improve efficiency. As mobile connectivity expands, connected IoT and IIoT devices play an increasingly important role in edge computing strategies.

IoT produces a large amount of data that needs to be processed and analyzed so it can be used. Edge computing moves computing services closer to the end user or the source of the data, such as an IoT device.

Edge computing is a local source of processing and storage for the data and computing needs of IoT devices, which reduces the latency of communication between IoT devices and the central IT networks those devices are connected to.

Edge computing allows you to benefit from the large amount of data created by connected IoT devices. Deploying analytics algorithms and machine learning models to the edge enables data processing to happen locally and be used for rapid decision making. Along with IoT, mobile edge computing can bring applications closer to end users, and computing services closer to the location of actionable data.

Network functions virtualization (NFV) is a way to virtualize network services, such as routers, firewalls, and load balancers, that have traditionally been run on proprietary hardware to support mobile networks. These services are packaged as virtual machines (VMs) on commodity hardware, which allows service providers to run their network on standard servers instead of proprietary ones. It is one of the primary components of a telco cloud, which is reshaping the telecommunications industry.

With NFV, you don’t need to have dedicated hardware for each network function. NFV improves scalability and agility by allowing service providers to deliver new network services and applications on demand, without requiring additional hardware resources.

Microservices are a way to break software applications down into their small components, independent from each other. Instead of a traditional, monolithic, approach to apps, where everything is built into a single piece, microservices are all separated and work together to accomplish the same tasks. 

Combine microservices with containers and you’ve formed the foundation of cloud-native development, which supports the modern digital requirements that make mobile apps reliable, secure, agile, and responsive. Microservices-based development can enable workload portability, so apps work consistently across cloud boundaries, ensure efficient use of resources, and deliver consistent experiences.

Microservices and mobile intersect in several ways. Microservices can extend capabilities to mobile apps, making it possible for users to interact with useful services. Additionally, mobile edge computing can provide an application service environment for telecommunications customers at the edge of the mobile network where it has closer proximity to mobile users.

Enterprise open source platforms from Red Hat help IT leaders solve business challenges across platforms, including at the edge. 

With mobile edge computing, customers can extend application services to remote locations and manage a network that focuses on creating a reliable, low-latency network with computing environments close to mobile and fixed users. Mobile edge computing helps digital service providers respond to the demands of their customers as they modernize their networks and seek new sources of revenue.

Red Hat’s open source solutions such as Red Hat® Enterprise Linux® and Red Hat OpenShift® can help support changes to core networks and support systems with simplicity, flexibility, scalability, and improved security—and work on top of all relevant public clouds and computer hardware. And we collaborate with a vast technology and community ecosystem to meet the needs of our customers and their unique environments.

Open Source Stories logo

Starting Small: Open Data in Chile

Meet Javiera de la Fuente, who’s enlisting “citizen scientists” to help preserve a Chilean national park. Using the open source app Elun, more than 200,000 users have snapped photos of plant and animal life, creating data that maps how climate change is impacting different species and habitats.

Watch the full film

Keep reading


IoT and edge computing

IoT needs compute power closer to where a physical device or data source is located. Edge computing provides that local source of processing and storage for IoT.


What is edge computing?

Edge computing is computing that takes place at or near the physical location of either the user or the source of the data.


Edge computing for telco

Edge computing is a priority for many telco service providers as they modernize their networks and seek new sources of revenue.

More about edge


A stable, proven foundation that’s versatile enough for rolling out new applications, virtualizing environments, and creating a more secure hybrid cloud.

An enterprise application platform with a unified set of tested services for bringing apps to market on your choice of infrastructure.

A portfolio of enterprise software optimized for lightweight deployment at the edge.



Edge computing in action: Space


Command Line Heroes Season 8, Episode 8:
"Robots and vehicles"


Gain a competitive edge with your container strategy