Spark trials New Zealand’s first end-to-end 5G standalone network

To lay the groundwork for Spark to roll out standalone 5G at scale in the future, and explore the future benefits of 5G, Spark has created and run two proof-of-concepts for standalone 5G with technology providers Mavenir (5G standalone cloud-native core solution) and AWS (multi access edge computing and 5G optimised cloud solutions), and technology partners Nokia (cell site infrastructure) and OPPO (5G devices).  

From ‘non-standalone’ to ‘standalone’ 5G 

Telecommunication companies in New Zealand are currently implementing ‘non-standalone’ 5G – while networks have been updated to 5G, data centres and network cores are still running on legacy, non-5G systems, which are dependent on 4G infrastructure.   

To achieve standalone 5G, data centres and core mobile networks need to be upgraded and deployed on a cloud-native platform. Existing mobile networks run out of a centralised data centre have relatively static use-cases and are complex to customise.   

A 5G standalone network is ‘cloud native’, meaning that it is fully virtualised, can run on any cloud service, is designed with a microservices approach and architected to address evolving customer needs in a scalable way, while also offering inherent resilience.  This creates flexibility in an end-to-end 5G solution and allows users of the network to realise the full range of benefits of a standalone 5G network – including low latency, and advanced capabilities such as network slicing, private networks, and multi access edge computing.   

Trialling the potential of 5G standalone network for enterprise customers

5G has the potential to create a step change for business and enterprise customers through new use cases that leverage low latency (single-digit milliseconds) and high throughput, such as enhanced virtual and augmented reality, industrial automation, real-time video analytics with artificial intelligence, digital twins and ‘massive IoT’.   

A standalone 5G network enables low-latency access to multi access edge compute solutions, allowing customers to deploy solutions that can push compute capacity from the core network right to the customer’s work site, factory, or workplace.  

To test these benefits, Spark has deployed a Mavenir 5G standalone cloud-native core solution on AWS Snowball Edge, a physically rugged device that provides edge computing and data transfer services. This is Mavenir’s first global edge deployment on AWS Snowball Edge. Using an AWS Snowball Edge device allowed Spark to create a highly portable edge solution that could literally fit into a suitcase – to process and store data close to where it’s generated, enabling low latency and real time responsiveness.  

Spark tested a video analytics tool on the solution – and the results demonstrated low latency to deliver real-time video analytics, with latency reduced by 70% to single-digit milliseconds, prior to the edge deployment of the 5G standalone cores solution and analytics service.  

The proof-of-concept allows Spark to experiment with how a highly customisable network can be sliced and adapted to evolving enterprise requirements. For example, creating dedicated virtual networks with functionality specific to the service or customer over a common network infrastructure. The proof-of-concept shows how businesses such as port authorities (with large mobile device fleets that require high throughput and low latency) to operate on virtual network slices that optimise the use of a physical private network.    

Trialling the potential of a 5G standalone network for consumer wireless broadband 

Since Spark launched 5G, the initial use case has been to increase both speed and capacity in Spark’s wireless broadband and mobile products. The company saw another opportunity to explore how its wireless broadband service would further benefit from operating on a 5G standalone network.   

To test this, Spark has deployed a Mavenir 5G standalone cloud-native core solution on AWS Outposts, a fully managed solution delivering AWS infrastructure and services to virtually any on-premise or edge location. This is the first New Zealand mobile network deployment on AWS Outposts. Testing a wireless broadband service on this proof of concept showed faster download speeds and reduced latency when compared to pre-deployment results, providing a better experience for Spark’s wireless broadband customers.  

Josh Bahlman, Spark’s Tribe Lead for Telco Cloud explains, “These proof-of-concepts create line of sight for us to deliver the enhanced benefits of standalone 5G – both to New Zealand businesses looking to innovate using 5G connectivity and multi access edge compute, and to New Zealanders accessing a network that supports applications such as instant video streaming, cloud hosted gaming and the reaction times required for driverless vehicles. The 5G standalone network opens the door on capacity and low latency to help accelerate IoT trends, such as connected cars, smart cities and IoT in the home and office.   

“The solutions offered by AWS and Mavenir provide an opportunity to test and learn by leveraging cloud-native solutions and multi access edge compute services optimised for 5G. Testing the technology in this way allows us to identify the optimal combination of vendors and solutions to deliver the benefits we want to achieve. We have further proof-of-concepts underway as we work to bring relevant use cases specific to New Zealand’s local requirements.”  

Mavenir is a network software provider of cloud-based network solutions for 5G use cases deployed on cloud services such as AWS. Ashok Khuntia, President, Core Networks, Mavenir says, “Our cloud-based network solution offers flexibility and advanced capabilities such as network slicing to enable efficiencies in overall service design and deployment times to accelerate trials and service rollouts. We are excited to work with innovative organisations like Spark NZ to explore what's possible as communication service providers move network solutions into the cloud.”   

Tiffany Bloomquist, Country Manager, Commercial Sector, AWS New Zealand says, “It’s exciting to see Spark leverage AWS to experiment and drive innovation across its network for its customers. AWS continues to invest in edge computing capabilities, and we are excited to collaborate with Mavenir, and Spark to advance their 5G standalone network, and identify more use cases and opportunities to deliver leading mobile edge solutions for customers in New Zealand.”   

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