5G SA Cloud

5G SA cloud-native core, the complexity of the landscape, and network testing challenges

In the first of a two-part blog, VIAVI looks at some of the deployment options for 5G SA cloud-native core. In part two, we’ll raise some of the challenges this complex landscape presents, and look at how these can be addressed.

Last year, we saw a growing number of service providers trialling and deploying 5G standalone (SA) core networks. As of January this year, 99 operators across 50 countries have been investing in 5G SA, according to the GSA. Of these, at least 20 had seen their networks go live.5G cloud native core

2022 will see a continuation of this, with a number of highly-anticipated network launches. These include Verizon, which shifted the date for the commercialization of its 5G SA core (originally stated for 2021); and DISH, whose network, when it goes public, will be the first 5G SA core network running on the public cloud, via Amazon Web Services.


5G SA cloud-native core: why and how?

Why the interest? 5G SA’s Service Based Architecture (SBA) provides the digitalized platform needed to deploy new cloud services and to take advantage of cloud-native 5G benefits: massive and critical IoT, edge computing, and network slicing. This will unlock new monetization opportunities for operators and transform 5G business cases. It’ll also enable some pretty exciting end-user experiences too.

How? The 5G SA core is disaggregated, with different parts of the infrastructure possible to locate in disparate physical and virtual locations. Functions such as AMF, SMF, NRF, PCF are housed in central distribution centres on x86 servers, while functions with latency sensitivities such as UPF and O-CU can be housed in local cloud-based environments.

Operators have a number of different choices when it comes to deployment and there are benefits and challenges to each. These include

  • Deployment across self-built and owned data centers
  • Private cloud deployment: a third-party company builds a dedicated data center for the telco
  • Public cloud infrastructure such as AWS

The disaggregated infrastructure will deliver benefits to operators and network users further down the line. However, with many service providers still at the network testing phase, there remain major stumbling blocks in the immediate future.

Complexity and confusion in a 5G SA cloud-native core

Ensuring 5G services run optimally across a mix of deployment platforms is critical to the smooth running of the network. However, the more options there are available, the more confusing and complex things get when it comes to testing. And remember: this is in addition to the jump in complexity that the evolution from 4G to 5G core has already caused. The 3GPP’s TS23.501 specifications cite 36 5G core network functions, versus around a dozen with 4G, for example.

You can find out more about how to address this complexity in part II. First, though, we’ve provided an overview of the three deployment models mentioned.

Deployment across owned data center architecture

  • This is the traditional model of cloud deployment, involving a service provider deploying core infrastructure on its own cloud.
  • We’ve already seen a number of traditional telcos reinvent themselves as cloud providers, having built their own data centers to host their core network and other data.
  • There are benefits to this approach. As it’s privately-owned, service providers obviously have total control over their infrastructure, which some argue provides more robust security. This is an environment that service providers know well and will likely be able to deploy rapidly with minimal risk.
  • Examples include Vodafone in Germany, which deploy the first 5G SA core in Europe using Ericsson and Nokia. We can probably assume this is across its own data center infrastructure.
  • In the future, we’ll also see a growing number of service providers building and managing their own edge computing infrastructure, to support the distributed 5G core network.

Private cloud for 5G SA

  • This model of core deployment is very similar to the above, albeit the operator uses a third-party cloud provider to build and manage its data center.
  • An example is greenfield operator in Germany, 1&1, which is using Rakuten’s vendor ecosystem – Symphony – to build its 5G network on private cloud infrastructure.
  • This model will benefit operators that are looking to extend their 5G cores out towards the edge of the network. Operators will now be able to leverage the edge computing capabilities of their cloud provider in the race to scale out their networks.

Public cloud for 5G SA

  • A number of service providers have opted for this approach, utilizing the infrastructure and services of public cloud providers such as AWS, Azure and Google Cloud.
  • AWS and DISH, for example, have joined forces to build the first standalone 5G O-RAN network entirely on the public cloud. DISH will be able to leverage AWS hardware and software, as well as AWS Outposts and Local Zones to support processing at the network edge.
  • Benefits of this approach include:
    • Cost savings: using infrastructure owned by public cloud providers reduces CAPEX.
    • Customer offering: services providers may pass these cost savings onto their customers, offering lower prices.
    • Access to services: In addition to compute, storage and databases, public cloud providers can offer capabilities like AI/ML, networking, IoT, ID and security, and data analytics.
  • Public cloud infrastructure is also being developed at edge of the network. AWS Outposts and Wavelength; Microsoft Azure Edge and Google Distributed Cloud Edge are just some examples.
  • Service providers can also utilize these infrastructures to scale out their 5G core networks towards the edge.

What’s the market view on these deployment options? Are service providers getting caught up in the promise and hype of 5G SA core – without fully considering the critical stage of network testing?

In part II, we’ll take a look at these issues, address the challenges faced, and (hopefully!) help service providers feel confident to develop and deploy new networks – as well as ensuring they deliver amazing end-user experiences and ROI.

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

VIAVI Perspectives