Vendors and telcos turn their attention to the 5G core network

3GPP June 2018 © Samsung Newsroom

3GPP June 2018 © Samsung Newsroom

  • Samsung and SK Telecom develop a new 5GC
  • InterDigital demos a 5G control plane
  • Both concepts use service-based architectures (SBA)
  • Nokia and China Mobile look to integrate AI with 5G

No sooner have we agreed the standards for the next generation of cellular radio specifications than the industry shifts its focus to the core network. Release 15 of the 3GPP’s cellular standards completed work on the 5G NR new radio specifications and interworking with various architectures (the so-called standalone and non-standalone modes, and combinations thereof), but there remains a huge amount of work to be completed before we can say we have a complete 5G standard. ETSI’s Adrian Scrase provided TelecomTV with a technical update recently, which, as always, is well worth watching.

This week, Samsung and SK Telecom released information about their development of a 5G core network – or “next generation core (5G NC)” as Samsung refers to it. Note that there is references to 5G NC in the 3GPP specifications – it uses the terms 5GC and NGC.

With a new service-based architecture that introduces software features such as Control and User Planes Separation (CUPS), Network Slicing and VNFs deployed on containers, the two partners say this is the world’s first trial of a 5G core that implements VNFs based on 3GPP standards-compliant, service-based architecture (SBA). Their 5G core control plane includes the HTTP web standard, which has now been adopted by 3GPP, to enable a seamless connection between the core network and web-based services and that will allow third party companies to more easily create new 5G services.

SK Telecom and Samsung say they have jointly submitted more than 30 5G core contributions to the 3GPP standardization process for consideration and have completed several related PoC activities.

5G control plane

Service-based architectures have also caught the attention of InterDigital. This week it released details of a successful demonstration of a 5G control plane based on SBA principles. The demo was actually conducted in April, but details have only just been published. The company says it shows how network control functions can be wholly created and run in cloud environments as web service-like implementations using standard servers, reducing cost but also improving scalability, velocity and flexibility in creating virtual control plane services.

In effect, it was a demo of the 3GPP’s common communication enabler (COEN), which governs the services in a 5G control plane. Using the communication model of current web services to create multiple software instances within a cloud infrastructure, it supports the evolution of future telecoms infrastructure towards fully SDN and virtualized compute resources.

“The majority of 5G effort and focus to date has been on radio access development, but fully virtualized and dynamic core infrastructure is vital if 5G is to accomplish its latency, throughput and capacity goals,” said Robert DiFazio, VP of InterDigital Labs. “Web service firms like Amazon and Google have successfully used a service-based approach to create highly scalable cloud infrastructures, and our demonstration shows that adopting such techniques can solve many of the cost and efficiency challenges ahead for 5G.”

The company claims that visibility and registration of new service instances can be achieved in less than 20ms with its proposed solution, which utilizes an edge IP architecture that deploys a topology manager, rendezvous points, a surrogate manager that redirects resources within the edge network, and SBA network access points that interface with the Internet.

Introducing AI into the RAN

Whilst not directly concerned with the core, in related news this week, Nokia and China Mobile have announced that they will create a joint “AI*5G Lab” for further research using artificial intelligence and machine learning in 5G networks, to optimize future networks and enable the delivery of new Edge Cloud and 5G services. The companies will jointly establish a laboratory in Hangzhou, China to develop the demo system to verify technology use cases using Nokia 5G Future X architecture, while China Mobile will lead the research in terms of scenario selection, requirements confirmation, open API standardization and solution definition.

The two partners say they will foster an open RAN and 5G ecosystem working with third parties to leverage AI and ML to optimize networks for the delivery of services such as cloud virtual reality gaming. In addition, they will jointly conduct technology field trials and demonstrations. It also plays into the recent spate of announcements around the O-RAN telco initiative.

“With the signing of this MoU, we are pleased to initiate the collaboration on the research of big data and ML technologies applying to 5G RAN networks, and make joint effort in the O-RAN alliance which was kicked off recently to enhance the intelligence of 5G network, reduce the complexity, and explore the new capabilities of network,” said Yuhong Huang, Deputy General Manager of China Mobile Research Institute (CMRI).

“The work we are doing with China Mobile is a prime example of how we can help our customers unlock the potential within their 5G networks using open interfaces and toolkits,” added Marc Rouanne, president of Mobile Networks at Nokia. “The use of AI and machine learning will enable myriad new services opportunities.”

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