Vodafone Business today unveiled a powerful new service, combining the quick response times of distributed Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) technology with the fast speeds of 5G. 

Vodafone is the first company in Europe to enable organizations to create pilot applications using distributed MEC with Amazon Web Services (AWS). This is made possible by embedding AWS Wavelength at the edge of its 4G and 5G networks to bring customers and key applications closer together. 

In collaboration with AWS, Vodafone Business’ distributed MEC service will be rolled out in the spring of 2021, starting with the first commercial center in London, and with other locations in the U.K. and Germany to follow. These will give business customers, application developers and independent software vendors (ISVs) a head start in developing new digital services and access to real-time analytics so they can better respond to events and end user needs. 

The commercial MEC center in London will provide an ultra-low latency zone over a wide area and make use of Vodafone’s 5G network in the capital. In addition to areas within and around London, the low latency zone will extend to Cambridge, Oxford, Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff, as well as many towns home to tech firms along the M4 motorway corridor and parts of Wales and Cornwall. 

MEC is a key component to unlock the full potential of 5G as it moves cloud-based IT services to the edge of the network, providing services with almost instantaneous connectivity. Combined, MEC and 5G is the platform on which remote surgery, connected industrial robots and autonomous cars as well as critical Internet of Things (IoT) applications will work by allowing ultra-low latency response times between the user and the application housed within the edge of the network. 

Today’s news builds on the agreement Vodafone Business and AWS announced last year. Vodafone has been piloting MEC based on the AWS Wavelength Zones with customers in two beta trial sites in the U.K. An additional beta trial location is due to open in Dusseldorf, Germany early next year with general availability in Dortmund later in 2021. This first AWS Wavelength Zone in Germany will enable developers to create ultra-low latency applications for organizations in the economic heart of Germany, including Dusseldorf and Cologne.  In addition to London, these locations will also be used to support innovation hubs for business customers and ISVs.

Innovative companies like Dedrone have already built and successfully tested applications deployed in Vodafone’s test facilities. 

“Every millisecond matters in digitalizing manufacturing, safeguarding citizens and workers, transporting medical supplies by drone or eliminating motion sickness when wearing a VR headset,” said Vodafone Chief Technology Officer Johan Wibergh. “Putting these services much closer to the customer with Vodafone’s edge computing service will significantly reduce any delay in transmitting critical services. By opening up new innovation hubs within our 5G network, which currently spans 127 cities and nine markets in Europe, we can help turn new business ideas into commercial successes.”   

Vinod Kumar, CEO of Vodafone Business, added: “Working with AWS on edge computing means we are making it simpler for both independent software vendors and our customers to experiment with this emerging technology. We’re doing this by offering an incubation space to create and test applications that we can then industrialize and scale. And we’re already seeing some innovative applications that provide positive business outcomes from Dedrone, Digital Barriers, HERE Technologies, Groopview and Unleash live, with so much more to come once our MEC innovation program is running.”

Vodafone Business will run an MEC innovation program in collaboration with AWS from early 2021 for a wider developer and business community to experiment with this new technology. Interested parties can find out more about the program here.

“Cities of the future will require complete airspace awareness of drone activity,” said Dedrone CEO Aaditya Devarakonda. “As unmanned traffic management systems are being developed and deployed globally, Dedrone and Vodafone Business are working to deliver a comprehensive airspace security solution to detect, classify and localize drones. Integrating Dedrone’s counterdrone platform into Vodafone Business’ MEC solution means customers can quickly and easily extend their security systems to better protect their lower airspace from drone threats.”