The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is the IP based core network defined by 3GPP for use by LTE and other access technologies. It provides mobile core functionality that in previous mobile generations like 3G, has been realized through two separate subdomains which includes circuit-switched for voice and packet-switched for data. The goal of EPC provides a simplified all IP core network architecture to efficiently provide advanced real-time services with enhanced quality of experience.

The EPC has already radically changed networking from previous 2G and 3G generations. The EPC is composed of a number of elements and functions including:

  • Mobility Management Entity (MME) authenticates and track users across the network.
  • Serving Gateway (S-GW) routes data packets through the access network.
  • Packet Gateway (P-GW) acts as the interface between the LTE network and data networks.
  • Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) to provide data flow detection and policy enforcement.
  • Home Subscriber Server (HSS) offers a central database for user and subscription related information.

ACG Research predicts that the EPC market continues to increase as it is the critical part of the overall network transformation. Service providers are already convinced that this part of the network is crucial and will simplify, and enhance their customers’ experiences with new and media-rich communication services. And according to recent analysis by the ITU, there are now more than 7 billion mobile cellular subscriptions globally, or the equivalent of 98% penetration of the world’s population underscoring the EPC market.

On the Move: The Virtual EPC

Additional research has shown that virtualizing the functions of Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) further saves mobile operators costs. Virtualizing the EPC saves on both capex and opex by using the network functions virtualization (NFV) approach placing software functions onto commodity hardware. The virtual EPC abstracts and decomposes the various EPC functions and allows them to run in unique combinations on standard COTS servers. An NFV architecture is proven to yield significant savings because of its cost-efficient scalability, which will enables operators to quickly recover initial investments.

And with network upgrades and capacity demand around 5G around the corner, the vEPC is expected to grow even faster in 2017 as the technology matures. Since many large mobile operators have already built out new high-capacity mobile cores for their 4G LTE deployments, the first wave of vEPC deployments looks to be targeting more greenfield applications including Internet of Things (IoT).

Just like any new complex technology, the vEPC creates new challenges for mobile operators. It is now more important than ever that the mobile operators can successfully test, validate and trial vEPCs for various applications before deployments.

VIAVI’ TeraVM delivers a fully virtualized and complete mobile core testing solution. TeraVM is proven to help mobile operators prepare for the exponential growth of data and connected devices. TeraVM emulate real-world control and data traffic to provide visibility into response times, throughput, and real-time quality of service measurements to enable successful vEPC deployments.

TeraVM is an application emulation and security performance solution, delivering comprehensive test coverage for application services, wired and wireless networks. TeraVM is offered as a virtualized solution enabling the flexibility to run anywhere – lab, datacenter and the cloud, with consistent performance coverage, ensuring that highly optimized networks and services can be delivered with minimal risk.

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