Core network evolution from EPC to 5G Core made easy

The mobile core network is a central part of 5G network platforms. Where enabling functionality from 3GPP release 13 to 16 define a journey from existing 4G EPC to 5G Core. This post address how this evolution journey can be simplified, with a holistic evolution approach towards a dual mode core network, to reduce risk, cost and time to market.

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Core network evolution scenario

Mobile core networks are in the middle of a modernization cycle. Where the physical and virtualized 4g core network functions operate together in a hybrid mode. Before we start to introduce 5G Core capabilities.

Recent 3GPP releases have introduced new capabilities. With control and user plane separation and network slicing at various stages of implementation in commercial networks. Both standing out as important for the evolution to 5G.

Beyond the functional additions, business priorities has shifted, from a capex reduction/avoidance, focused on hardware, open source platforms and virtualized network functions. Focus going forward is on increasing agility and reducing opex. To unlock latent values expected from a future-proof software platform. At the same time as we introduce 5G and embrace a new core network architecture.

Possible core evolution journeys for 5G

3GPP has defined two architecture options for your consideration. Last year the Non-Stand Alone (NSA) alternative was approved as 5G EPC option 3. Enabling an upgraded 4G Evolved Packet Core to connect via a 4G eNodeB to a 5G New Radio (NR). Enabling a fast route to market for 5G network launches without architectural changes in the core network.



Right now an alternative architecture is in the final stages of standardization. Where the Stand-Alone (SA) architecture allow New Radios to be connected direct to a new 5G Core with new interfaces. The 5G Core differ from 5G EPC in 3 main ways. The adoption of a service based architecture (SBA) for agile service creation. The introduction of new interfaces and different functional splits between network functions. And last but not least designed for virtualized and cloud native network functions only.

You can start with a 5G EPC now and evolve in steps to a 5G Core. Or wait a little longer and deploy a 5G core as an overlay to the 4G EPC.

Stepping stones along the evolution journey

EPC and 5G Core define the core network evolution boundaries. Where your challenge is to manage the introduction of a number of key network functions. Without adding risk, cost and time-to-market to your 5G program.

Building blocks considered for defining the journey are all defined in 3GPP Release 13 to 15.



  • With control and user plane separation (CUPS) for decoupled scaling and life cycle management of control and user plane traffic.
  • Network slicing for creation of dedicated logical networks over a single physical network infrastructure.
  • 5G EPC option 3, as described above. Deployed in the production core network for 4G, or as a dedicated 5G EPC.
  • Aggregation of traffic from both mobile and fixed wireless access.
  • The distribution of core network functions closer to radio networks and end-customers.
  • The introduction of a service based target architecture and the introduction of open APIs for third party applications.

With an end-game defined by a dual mode core network for both 5G EPC and 5G Core.

Simplification of the core network evolution

Ericsson can simplify the core network evolution journey, from EPC to 5G Core. Where fragmented hybrid core networks can slow down 5G introductions, decrease agility and increase opex. Rather than becoming fast, agile and opex optimized.

We have released the paper 'Evolution from EPC to 5G Core made easy' to support you in defining the steps for your core network evolution journey to 5G. A paper outlining further details in this evolution path. With focus on a reality where you don’t have a 100% Ericsson core network today. And see a need to improve on the business metrics offered with a status quo approach.

In our recently released paper, "Evolution from EPC to 5G core made easy," we talk about the evolution alternatives and how Ericsson can help you to overcome the challenges and simplify your network evolution journey from EPC to 5G Core. Download the paper to get ideas on how we can support you on your journey.

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Thank you for investing 5-6 minutes of your time for a teaser in how Ericsson can improve the core part of your 5G platform. With a simplified journey from EPC to 5G Core towards a dual mode core end game

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