Using 5G cloud-native architecture to deliver the future
As user demands change and new Radio Access Network (RAN) technologies emerge, 5G+ networks will continue to evolve rapidly. That means RAN technologies (such as massive MIMO, beamforming, and network slicing) will be essential for delivering the high data rates and low latency that 5G promises. The Internet of Things (IoT) also has the potential to drive 5G growth as more user devices leverage Long Term Evolution for Machines (LTE-M) and Narrowband IoT (NB-IoT). Operators will continue the march toward virtualization to support these new use cases. That includes Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Cloud RAN (C-RAN) to enable low latency communication between devices and the edge computing infrastructure. All of these technologies make new services possible and help contain the overhead costs of 5G infrastructure and services.
5G cloud-native architecture and orchestration are the foundation of sustainability
5G cloud-native architectures provide the scale, flexibility, and resilience that are the bedrock of 5G services. A key feature of cloud-native architecture in 5G networks is the separation of control and user plane functions. With the increase in user data in 5G networks, data processing has the potential to impede forwarding. Centralizing the control plane and processing user data in another location solves that problem and allows operators to independently scale and optimize compute resources, controlling operating costs and maintaining network efficiency. 5G Cloud-native architectures typically use containerization and continuous integration/continuous deployment methods to enable fast and efficient deployment of network functions. These methods allow operators to quickly spin up new instances of RAN functions as needed, contributing to network scalability, agility, and cost containment.
5G cloud-native architectures need orchestration frameworks that automate network function deployment, provisioning, scaling, and versioning. These frameworks also work to manage dynamic resource allocation, which means that network resources can be allocated and reallocated on demand. Dynamic allocation ensures that resources use only what they need, when needed, resulting in more efficient energy usage, which is a key sustainability goal for most operators. Cloud-native architectures are well-suited for edge computing environments, bringing RAN functions closer to end-users. Edge compute helps reduce latency by offloading some of the processing and data storage requirements to the edge, reducing the amount of time it takes to process and deliver data services from the 5G core.
Considerations for new use cases and services in 5G networks to prepare for the future
These advances support new use cases and services like connected vehicles, smart cities, and industrial IoT. To support these new use cases and services, telecom operators and RAN vendors must consider a number of factors, such as network capacity, coverage, and security. They also need to work closely with other stakeholders, such as automotive manufacturers, city authorities, and industrial companies, to ensure that the RAN solutions meet the specific requirements of each use case. It also means that parallel networks that share network infrastructure must move from static to dynamic entities to manage network capacity and capability as required, avoiding over-provisioning and over-investment.
Dynamic network slicing supports mission-critical applications and services by partitioning cloud-native network resources into multiple logical networks, or “slices,” dynamically and as needed, with their performance characteristics and Quality of Service (QoS) parameters. By providing network resources that meet specific requirements for each application or service, dynamic network slicing increases an operator’s ability to support mission-critical applications and services, such as public safety communications, industrial automation, and healthcare. Because these types of services aren’t specific to a single network or single network operators, MNOs and vendors need to collaborate, as well as with other stakeholders, such as regulators and application developers, to develop and use open and standard interfaces and architectures.
Collaboration and co-creation is key to innovation
Collaboration between telecom operators, equipment vendors, and software providers is critical for creating and testing new RAN solutions. Telecom operators can leverage the expertise of their partners to develop RAN solutions that overcome common problems, meet specific requirements and use cases, and have more time to develop innovative solutions for their customers. Working with multiple partners allows them to access a broader range of technical expertise and resources than they can by themselves. Collaboration can accelerate the development and deployment of new RAN solutions, improve the quality and reliability of the solutions, and reduce development costs. Additionally, these collaborations can help telecom operators stay updated with the latest industry trends and innovations and ensure that their networks remain competitive and sustainable.
A few ways that MNOs can work with their partners to create and test new RAN solutions include:
- Joint development: Share expertise and resources (such as R&D facilities) to develop and test new technologies and solutions.
- Proof of Concept (PoC) testing: This can involve setting up testbeds in a lab or field environment to validate the performance, scalability, and reliability of the solution, as well as to identify any issues or challenges.
- Field trials: MNOs can conduct field trials to test new solutions in real-world environments.
- Open architectures and platforms: Operators can work with like-minded equipment vendors and software providers on open innovation platforms that enable collaborative development and testing of Open RAN solutions. That can include sharing ideas, development, and testing solutions in a controlled environment.
Learn more in this Heavy Reading interview
Recently, we sat down with Heavy Reading’s Ruth Brown to explore these ideas a bit more. In this short interview, you can listen to new insights, some of the challenges that lie ahead, and the opportunities that 5G networks present for the future of mobility.