Why do you need a 5G Core network and 5G NR Standalone?
You’ve probably heard about advanced 5G use cases which, thanks to ultra-low network latency and very high throughputs, will revolutionize businesses and the day-to-day lives of consumers. But none of those will be possible without 5G Core (5GC) and New Radio (NR) standalone technologies. Right now, you might be asking “why?” But the real question should be “how do we start?”
5G NR standalone deployments are just around the corner, and leading service providers are lining up their market rollouts for 2020. But despite being a key trend in the mobile industry, one question still hangs in the air: “Why does 5G NR stand-alone require a completely new core network architecture, also known as 5GC?”
Currently, all commercial 5G deployments are based on NR non-standalone (NSA) technology which uses existing LTE radio access for signaling between devices and the network, and Evolved Packet Core (EPC) networks which are enhanced to support 5G NSA. This approach allowed new 5G services to be introduced quickly while maximizing the reuse of existing 4G networks. However, this is also the reason why it’s impossible to unlock 5G’s full potential using these networks to support the vast majority of critical internet of things (IoT) and industrial automation use cases.
The 4G network architecture was defined to meet the mobile network needs that existed at that time, but today it presents certain limitations. Here’s how the 5GC architecture network overcomes these limitations.
A new core architecture for agility and operational efficiency
When several experts in the telecom industry got together to define the new 5GC architecture they took on the challenge of creating something to address the needs of not just today, but the future – raising mobile communications to unprecedented levels and making it possible to digitalize entire societies.
This new architecture is built using IT network principles
Talking about deployment flexibility and reusability, another key characteristic of 5GC is that it’s built using cloud native technologies, and each NF is formed by a combination of small pieces of software code called as microservices. Some microservices can even be re-used for different NFs, making implementation more effective and facilitating independent life-cycle management – which allows upgrades and new functionalities to be deployed with zero impact on running services.
To learn more about cloud native design principles download the Cloud Native eBrief.Download eBrief
The provisioning and integration of new NFs can be done more easily compared to traditional physical or virtual Core networks. For example, mobile operators can save up to 75 percent in network integration activities when introducing a new network function.
Moreover, the end-to-end orchestration and automation of processes based on cloud-native deployment will also radically simplify NF life-cycle management.
The possibility to add new network functionalities, introduce in a highly agile way, scale capacity very quickly and run in-service software upgrades, will make it possible to create and deploy new services in hours.
Improved network capabilities
The new 5GC architecture will make mobile networks more efficient and easier to . But how does this connect to the advanced 5G standalone services I previously mentioned?
Firstly, it reduces time to market for new services and makes it easier to manage services with shorter lifespan. It will, for instance, allow new services to be launched quickly to test the market demand, and if the services don’t fly, they can be phased out just as easily – Simplified operations will also play a critical role in enabling new advanced 5G services as they will require additional network capabilities that will significantly increase the complexity in the network. The 5GC architecture and the cloud native/microservices implementations will reduce this complexity while keeping operating expenses low.
So, let’s talk about some of the new and improved capabilities that are key to enabling advanced 5G use cases.
With 5GC, service providers will be able to provide better network slicing and offer end-to-end service level agreements (SLA) to business customers. The 5GC and NR SA introduces the e2e network slice identifier that is used throughout the network by UE, RAN and Core, and simplifies the management and configuration of a network slice. Network slicing scalability is also increased and a 5G device will be able to connect to multiple slices simultaneously. The new Network Slice Selection Functions (NSSF) will allow an improved isolation and separation of concern between slices, which is a critical requirement for some business segments.
Edge computing support in 5GC will provide multiple new features to distribute user plane functionality, break out traffic at the edge and dynamically control the traffic break out. The reduction in latency, increase in service reliability and traffic and services isolation will contribute to an overall enhancement in the end-user experience.
The list of capabilities goes on, but here are a few others:
- Service exposure and traffic steering functionalities introduced in the 5GC will provide additional tools for service differentiation
- Enhanced QoS model that is more flexible and granular than in 4G networks and that will allow multiple services (QoS flows) per PDU Session
- Security is improved to secure end-to-end communication with enhanced key handling and a unified authentication model for applications and network users
- Service differentiation per geographical area is also increased which is, for instance, useful to control access to FWA services or other localized services
A future-proof network architecture
Is 5GC and NR SA future proof? Let’s see…
5GC and NR SA are the target network architecture for the mobile industry and 3GPP focus has completely shifted from Evolved Packet System – EPS (LTE+EPC) – to the 5G System - 5GS (NR+5GC) with all innovation being made on going forward.
The whole telecom industry is focusing on evolving to 5GC and NR SA, as this new architecture is key to addressing multiple vertical needs and opening up new business opportunities for service providers. These industry verticals include, manufacturing and automotive, private and mission critical networks and wireline access.
The new 5GS network architecture enables a wider eco-system for service innovation. It implements open and standardized APIs that will enable the development community to leverage mobile network services when building new services for enterprise customers, and to build a truly programmable network for faster services creation and implementation.
This technology is futuristic enough to support our industry needs in the foreseeable future. But best of all, it’s available now and in the next few years it will transform businesses and societies.
To conclude, I leave you with a picture summarizing the main advantages of the 5GC for 5G NR SA support. I hope it’s clear why you need to embrace them to stay competitive and remain a relevant player in your market.
Do you want to know what needs to be in place in the network to introduce the new cloud native 5GC solution? Watch this video of Folke Anger, head of Solution Line Packet Core, talking to Light Reading to find out answer to this question and learn how Ericsson, based on our experiences from early deployments, can help you to adapt to a new set of operational procedures coming with it.