To be first in 5G, first get to the core network
The fifth generation of telecom networks provide the capabilities that will evolve existing industries and create new services. Yet to realize the full potential of 5G, today’s core networks will need to evolve into new eco-systems that foster service innovation.
5G core architecture and radio will open up multiple possibilities for differentiation and business. Capabilities for operators include being able to introduce 5G quickly and effectively; addressing new segments with flexibility and agility; launching IoT services; reducing cost and increasing performance and providing enhanced network stability and security.
Core network evolution in 5 steps
So, what are the next steps that operators should take to evolve to 5G Core? Ericsson believes in adopting a holistic approach to the core network evolution to reduce time, risk and cost in operators’ 5G programs:
Step 1. Virtualization of the Evolved Packet Core network:
To prepare the core network for the introduction of 5G, the recommended first step is the introduction of virtualization of the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network. This option allows New Radio (NR) to be added as a capacity boost to an LTE eNodeB and represents a fast opportunity to introduce 5G NR.
Step 2. Early introduction of 5G EPC and separation of control and user planes:
The next important step is preparing the core network to support the new 5G radio. By introducing Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) in EPC, operators can achieve maximum flexibility and completely independent capacity scaling.
Step 3. Optimize with distributed cloud:
With a 5G EPC solution in place and early implementation of some 5G use cases, it is now time to investigate the more advanced use cases. A distributed cloud infrastructure solution will enable a flexible and dynamic distribution of network elements and resources, according to each use case and traffic requirements, in an optimized and automated way.
Step 4. Expand network slicing:
By utilizing the full potential of network slicing, combined with virtualization and distributed cloud, many new industry use cases will be possible and the number of slices in the network may grow exponentially, requiring more advanced mechanisms in the core network and the orchestration layer. Read more in the blog post "How many network slices are needed?"
Step 5. Evolve to a dual mode core (5G EPC/5GC):
The last step of the evolution journey is to evolve to a dual mode core (5GC), which introduces a new network architecture known as Service-Based Architecture (SBA), built on cloud native principles, where services can be created faster and with more flexibility. Moreover, it allows operators to evolve their network without service disruptions.
These five building blocks are interlinked and are important steps on the way to achieving a 5G core network and a service-based architecture. By offering flexibility in the order the building blocks are introduced, operators will be able to benefit from a holistic approach to life cycle management across network functions.
Ericsson Cloud Core solution
Ericsson’s Cloud Core solution is a natural evolution of EPC systems for 5G. By comprising service-based architecture, combined with automation capabilities and network slicing technology, operational costs will be reduced and operators will be able to introduce agile and adaptive ways of working. We offer one core system for all accesses and services with a 5G dual mode operations core for a simplified evolution, even if your starting point is not from a complete Ericsson 4G core.
Today Ericsson has 100+ commercial vEPC customers. Together with 10+ live networks and hands-on experience from 5G trials with leading operators including BT, Wind Tre, Verizon and Swisscom, we have end-to-end system solutions that have been defined and extensively tested to secure an early and smooth time to market. Our implementation and delivery of Ericsson Radio Access and core solutions at Swisscom, including virtual EPC, has reduced the operator’s opex by 65% and improved software quality. We were also recently named a market leader of pre-tested mobile core solutions according to GlobalData.
The path to 5G core is a strategic choice. By offering a holistic view of the evolution journey with the flexibility of choosing which order to introduce building blocks and the option to combine several blocks in a larger step, operators will have all the building blocks necessary for the evolution to 5G core.
Find out more information about how the evolution journey can be simplified in our core evolution paper: