Press Release | 28 Nov 2022

Vodafone opens UK’s first Edge innovation lab at HOST, MediaCity

The lab is an opportunity to support the growth of digital industries in the Greater Manchester area and create a global centre of excellence for real-time mobile applications.

  • Edge Innovation Lab to showcase Multi-access Edge Compute capabilities, and offer organisations the chance to trial new ideas with support from Vodafone experts.
  • Lab is an opportunity to support the growth of digital industries in the Greater Manchester area and create a global centre of excellence for real-time mobile applications.
  • Digital innovation will promote greater economic diversity in the region, supporting the Government’s Levelling Up agenda.

Vodafone has opened a new Edge Innovation Lab in MediaCity, Salford – the first of its kind in the UK. The lab will support the development of Manchester, and the surrounding region, into a Northern digital powerhouse.

The Edge Innovation Lab at HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology, will offer the opportunity for companies, academics, software developers and public sector organisations to see and test the possibilities of the next generation in network technology – Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC).

Software developers and innovators in the Greater Manchester region will have access to these technologies in the earliest stages of development. This head start will create a global centre of excellence for real-time mobile applications in the region, supporting the growth of digitally led businesses and industries in the area, as well as in the rest of the UK.

Nick Gliddon, UK Business Director, Vodafone, said: “MEC enables the creation of digital services and platforms that would otherwise be impossible to deliver. The lab offers innovators the opportunity to experiment with next-generation technologies and bring to life ideas that could revolutionise the way we do business and deliver public services.

“It will place Manchester and the surrounding region at the centre of the next stage of digital revolution.”

Living on the edge: What exactly is Multi-access Edge Computing?

Vodafone has announced the launch of Multi-access Edge Computing (MEC) services for UK business customers starting in spring 2021.

MEC technology enables real-time data processing at the network edge, allowing for the creation of low-latency services that would not be possible on today’s traditional network infrastructure. This offers innovators in the Greater Manchester area an opportunity to be at the forefront of next-generation digital services.

By installing specialist servers either with Vodafone or in customer facilities, applications are able to respond to commands significantly faster. The time applications take to respond, known as latency, is a barrier for next generation innovations that require almost instantaneous reactions, or are powered by artificial intelligence. When combined with 5G, latency could be reduced to speeds faster than the human brain processes information.

Use cases enabled by MEC include autonomous vehicles, autonomous operations in factories, immersive augmented and virtual reality, remote medicine, cloud gaming and drone transport.

Vodafone has deployed Dedicated MEC servers at the Edge Innovation Hub and has launched a Distributed MEC zone in the Manchester area in partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Vodafone will also showcase Mixed Reality and Visual Inspection services at the lab.

Vodafone has partnered with Kyndryl to offer customers professional and managed services for dedicated MEC as well as wider cloud-managed services.

Cloud computing: Everything you need to know

These days cloud computing touches most aspects of our digital lives, from the apps we use to Vodafone’s mobile network itself. But what exactly is it?

Tosca Colangeli, President, Kyndryl UK&I, said: “We are excited, as part of our strategic partnership with Vodafone, to be supporting the Edge Innovation Lab in Salford and to use the facility as inspiration and co-creation for our joint customer engagements.

“We expect edge technologies to increasingly become an enabler of business outcomes; allowing end users (and machines) and industries including manufacturing and energy, to reap the benefits of traditional cloud computing while gaining advantages such as reduced data latency, better data autonomy and enhanced security.”

This builds on Vodafone’s four-year partnership with HOST in MediaCity, where the lab will be located. HOST combines skills, innovation and start-up growth services all under one roof, with an inclusive community that supports businesses to learn, grow and succeed. It focuses on key sectors including data science, AI, cyber and immersive technologies so individuals and businesses can explore the pioneering opportunities available in these areas. HOST is also home to the UK’s Unity Centre of Excellence and Skills City’s digital Skills Bootcamps.

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4 Group, operator of HOST, said: “We are excited to extend our partnership with Vodafone as they bring their Edge Innovation Lab to HOST in MediaCity, Salford.

“Our mission is to support and develop use cases in innovation with start-ups, scale-ups and established businesses, and this is the missing piece of our jigsaw, which connects with our Unity immersive and AWS cloud infrastructures, our Cyber Security Operations Centre, and now we have Edge computing capabilities.

“This becomes a unique environment for any company looking to progress and accelerate its innovation in the region.”

Alongside the launch of the lab, Vodafone is also running the Edge Innovation Programme 2.0.

Using both dedicated and distributed MEC technologies, the Edge Innovation Programme 2.0 will inspire the creation of innovative and futuristic services, products and applications. Participants of the trial will be able to ‘try before you buy’ MEC services and will also receive a voucher for further discounts on additional services following trials and proof-of-concepts, as well as work alongside Vodafone network and technology experts to bring ideas to life.

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Vodafone has already worked with more than 20 companies to trial new MEC services, including:

  • Aurrigo: Cambridge-based SME Aurrigo used MEC and Vodafone’s 4G/5G network to improve the safety and performance of its driverless vehicles, as well as enhancing security as data is not exposed to the public internet.
  • Sportable: The company’s ball embedded and wearable IOT technology captures every movement on the pitch, delivering real-time insights to fans, coaches, officials and broadcasters.
  • InterDigital: MEC can better support applications like ‘zero-defect’ manufacturing, to unlock huge benefits for the Industry 4.0 and smart factories.
  • Keyless: Keyless is a privacy-first biometric authentication solution that makes the authentication processes for digital payments faster. MEC makes real-time multi-factor authentication a reality for all end-users, so businesses and consumers can embrace seamless biometric technology.

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Notes to Editors

What is Multi-access Edge Compute (MEC) technology?

MEC technology allows for data to be processed by applications closer to the point of origin. With specialist servers installed in either Vodafone or customer locations, rather than in traditional data centres, the distance data has to travel to be processed is reduced, therefore reducing the amount of time it takes for an application to react to a command. This Round-Trip Time (RTT) is known as latency.

By reducing latency of applications, new ideas can function as designed and safely. One example is an autonomous vehicle.

With traditional network infrastructure, it could take between 50-200 milliseconds for the vehicle to react to a change in the environment. This is because a sensor would detect a change in the external environment (e.g. a person crossing the street), send this information to be processed in a data centre which could be hundreds of miles away, before reacting when the data has been processed and the command sent back to the vehicle.

By using specialist MEC servers installed on the “edge” of the network, the Round-Trip Time is significantly reduced, allowing the vehicle to react faster. This could be as fast as sub-10 milliseconds in an optimal MEC environment using 5G Standalone connectivity, vastly improving the performance and safety of the autonomous vehicle.

5G: Everything you need to know

If you have questions about 5G, then our regularly updated guide has the answers.

What is the difference between Distributed and Dedicated MEC?

Distributed MEC technology is when the application is hosted in the public cloud. In reality, this means a specialised server in Vodafone facilities. The servers support multiple customer workloads and is a more cost-effective solution.

Dedicated MEC technology is when the application is hosted on specialist servers deployed on the customer’s premises. To achieve the greatest performance, the deployment of Dedicated MEC should be paired with a private connectivity offering or network slicing capabilities.

What is Mixed Reality?

Mixed Reality is the merging of real and virtual worlds, where real-world and computer-generated objects appear to interact and integrate naturally.

What is Visual Inspection?

Visual Inspection is a software capability to detect, classify and label objects. The Artificial Intelligence (AI) model can be trained to detect anomalies or specific events, which in turn can result in an action or series of actions.

For example, in a smart factory the Visual Inspection technology can be applied to an automated production line. By hosting the software on the edge of the network, defects or anomalies can be detected in real-time, removing the need for more time-consuming human inspection and the risk of faulty products leaving the factory.

What are the potential use cases for MEC?

MEC services, as an enabler of low latency requirements, can support countless use cases across a variety of industries, for example:

Mobile gaming

Without MEC, gaming applications would have to communicate with servers in traditional data centres that could be anywhere in the world. This could introduce lag or buffering, impacting the customer experience.

Robotics and autonomous machines/things

Autonomous operations (for example, self-driving cars) require almost real-time communication with the server where the application is hosted to ensure near real-time responses. The lower the latency, the faster a machine responds, which is critical in some operations, such as self-driving cars reacting to pedestrians, other vehicles on the road or other obstacles.

Augmented and virtual reality

The data processing requirements of AR and VR mean applications have to be in the cloud, otherwise headsets would be too expensive. To ensure AR and VR applications react fast enough (to provide the expected customer experience and to prevent motion sickness), latency would have to be below 20 milliseconds (at a minimum). This is only possible through MEC or headsets that are connected to the internet using cables.

About Vodafone UK

Vodafone UK is a technology communications company that connects people, businesses and devices to help our customers benefit from digital innovation. Our services span mobile, fixed-line connections, home and office broadband, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

We have a strong track record as a tech pioneer, making the UK’s first mobile phone call, sending the first text message, and making the UK’s first live holographic call using 5G in 2018. We were the first to start carrying live 5G traffic from a site in Salford, Greater Manchester and now have 5G in locations across Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain as well as the UK. Meanwhile, our 4G network coverage currently reaches over 99% of the UK population.

Today, Vodafone serves more than 18 million mobile and fixed-line customers in the UK. Vodafone is the largest provider of full fibre in the UK – our superfast broadband services are now available to nearly 12 million homes across the UK.

Sustainability is also at the heart of what we do: as of 1 July 2021, 100% of the grid electricity we use in the UK is certified to be from renewable sources.

For more information about Vodafone UK, please visit:

Vodafone UK Media Relations

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