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To unleash the full potential of 5G, it’s time to look beyond 5G Core

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Beyond 5G Core Network Technology

Unless you’ve been weathering the storm that is the year 2020 on some secluded remote island (in which case, lucky you, got room for one more?), you will no doubt have heard of the latest wireless broadband and cellular network standard known as 5G.

5G is the Fifth Generation of mobile network technology standards developed & published by 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the telecommunications standards organisations which develop protocols for mobile telecommunications. 5G is the planned successor to 4G/LTE networks which provide connectivity to the majority of today’s telecommunication service provider networks around the world (refer to the reference links at the end, for a summary of all five telecom generations).

As a result of working within the telecommunications industry, I have witnessed first-hand the transformation and impact of 5G since mobile service providers worldwide began rolling it out circa 2019. As those of you who follow my articles, interviews and social posts can attest, I am convinced 5G is already changing the world. My own “daily driver” smartphone is a 5G enabled and activated device.

The impact is already being seen across key market segments, from end user and consumer markets to small/medium business, large enterprise, state and federal governments alike – as most of you have most likely already heard me say before, 5G is not “just another G”, it is an entirely new family of technical standards which define and make possible high speed, low latency, high bandwidth / throughput / density, massively scalable, flexible, dynamic and secure networking architectures, the likes of which we have never seen.

As with all such new and innovative technologies, there is enormous interest for telco & -Communication Service Provider (CSP) organisations to join the 5G marketplace early, to establish a market lead and gain early technical or commercial benefits.

A substantial number of leading communication service providers around the globe have already successfully launched various B2C or B2B products and services, based on 5G New Radio (NR) non-standalone (NSA) and existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC) networks. 5G-enabled smartphones or devices of some form are rapidly becoming the norm, and consumers are showing readiness to move to 5G where coverage is available.

I pay particular attention to the leading telecommunications vendors supporting CSPs on their 5G journey. In fact, Ericsson Digital recently announced they have over one hundred (118) 5G agreements signed and in play supporting 72 live 5G networks worldwide, highlighting how rapidly mobile carriers are moving to adopt 5G in some form.

Driven by both consumer demand and market opportunity, telcos and CSPs alike now face the immediate challenge of unlocking the full potential of 5G and taking the natural evolutionary steps to transition to and evolve to NR standalone (SA) and 5G Core (5GC).

Interested parties such as telcos, carriers, and CSPs and enterprise businesses of all shapes and sizes should become familiar with what 5G is, where this new technology fits, and how best they can approach it from early strategy and planning through to design, development, and deployment. It’s a big topic, and it needs appropriate attention to detail.

New “How to” guides released by Ericsson on 5G core networks

Ericsson Digital have developed a powerful library of knowledge to address the most pressing business and technology questions that decision-makers have around 5G. Their newest addition is a series of guides covering the six strategic areas CSPs should consider when building an e2e cloud native 5G core network: 

  • 5G Voice
  • 5G Core
  • Cloud infrastructure
  • Automation and orchestration
  • Operations and management
  • Network security

I’ve read them all (multiple times) and have key takeaways on each topic for you. I strongly suggest downloading the series (see Further Reading below). My goal for you is to be informed and empowered, to be ready and able to develop appropriate strategies and plans, and to see your organisation successfully deploy and manage the type of cloud-native 5G core solutions required to secure your future success in this rapidly emerging model for telecommunications, carrier, and service provider business and technology.

5G Voice

Especially in the post-pandemic world and remote-first working environments, consumers are looking for highly reliable, always-on digital voice communications. Demand for video calls, high speed data, applications of mixed media, music streaming, video streaming and more will only accelerate – and that’s just the consumer side.

With the fourth industrial revolution well underway, demand for secure and reliable enterprise connectivity solutions will scale exponentially with new sensors feeding information and data being processed and relayed back within milliseconds. Enterprise companies also require high-quality, reliable and flexible mobile voice and communication services, to communicate effectively within their own company, as well as with customers and partners.

The IP Multimedia Subsystem or IMS is the magic component enabling mobile 5G voice and communication services. Widely used for VoLTE today, the IMS also supports efficient 5G Voice deployment. Telcos can begin their 5G voice journey with Ericsson’s existing cloud automated IMS, before evolving to cloud native IMS with improved total cost of ownership (TCO) and faster time-to-market. Between core, IMS and radio network functionality, Ericsson has all the pieces in place to enable CSPs to introduce 5G Voice. Reference the “5G voice network evolution” guide to learn more.

5G Core

4G isn’t going away overnight. CSPs need to simultaneously introduce 5G services while continuing their 4G operations. Managing that total cost requires an integration solution and a migration path to cloud-native. Ericsson’s solution for this is called ‘dual-mode 5G Core’.

It’s built on cloud-native, micro-services based technology and combines Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and 5G Core (5GC) network functions into a common multi-access and cloud-native platform that supports 5G and as well as previous generations. This makes it much easier to migrate to 5G and to reduce total core network cost of ownership during the migration phase.

In Ericsson’s new series of guides, you’ll find two relating to 5G Core: “One core – the best of two worlds” and “Building a new world, evolving from EPC to 5G Core.” Within you will find the architectural description and business justification for embarking on the 5G journey. 

Cloud Infrastructure

Network functions virtualisation (NFV) started back in 2012 and many CSPs are now ready to evolve significant parts of their telco cloud infrastructure to cloud-native. Cloud-native spans application design and development to technology and infrastructure, processes and ways of working, and management and orchestration. 

The process usually involves technology from multiple vendors, which means that an open-source ecosystem is required. Moving to cloud-native means shifting to a micro-services model and a DevOps framework utilising CI/CD and container-based software.

And, for 5G, it also means shifting to a shared infrastructure with orchestrated network slices to efficiently deploy multiple services. Service orchestration is an automated framework for rapidly designing, creating, delivering and monitoring new service offerings. Network slicing involves digital partitioning of the infrastructure to group specific characteristics and capabilities according to the business case or SLA. 

In their “Cloud native transformation” guide, Ericsson outlines five design principles to follow when designing cloud native telecom applications. And, in the “Building a cloud native infrastructure” guide, Ericsson guides us across the multi-year journey of evolving the cloud infrastructure, by adding a container-as-a-service (CaaS) layer, based on Kubernetes, to support cloud native network functions.

Automation and Orchestration

Automation and orchestration both deserve deeper understanding, as they are core to operating a digital network infrastructure. Automation and orchestration are the digital building blocks that create the agile platform enabling 5G capabilities. Ericsson defines network automation as “the process of automatically deploying, configuring, orchestrating and assuring network functions and services using software.”

The distribution, scale and complexity of 5G network functions will be incredible, far beyond human capability to manage, and they will have to be constantly optimised, across every event impacting a service. 

Automated orchestration calculates and executes the appropriate steps while maintaining service intent via ongoing closed-loop monitoring. It uses AI/ML to perform and improve operations to create an intelligent network. The Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration model is multi-vendor and standards based, which means it’s applicable to any network, IT or cloud service. Let that sink in. 

I advise starting with the “Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration” guide first, to see the automation workflow, and then absorb the “zero-touch” benefit and the “TCO benefits.”

Operations and Management

By this point you’ve grasped the enormity of this transformation and you’re contemplating the internal changes required to culture, structure and operations. You’re correct – it’s massive. Fortunately, this is a collaborative effort and thousands of hours have already gone in to documenting best practices for making the transition. 

Ericsson’s guide to “Transformation operations on the way to 5G” highlights why CSPs should define their strategies; what are the challenges they will face on a cloud native network; what should they consider when defining their strategies in the operations and management areas and which solutions are available to support them.

The journey is not linear. Each telco arrives with different strategic advantages and business opportunities. Exploit that knowledge up front by purposefully staggering the journey and prioritising the capabilities required to support the most important use cases. And at the risk of repeating myself, join the partner ecosystem. This is not a single-vendor or single-provider environment. Lean on infrastructure providers to accelerate your transformation, support the standards organisations and collaborate with the larger telco industry. 

Network Security

As I wrote in an earlier blog post (see Further Reading links below), 5G creates an entirely new cybersecurity minefield that must be addressed as part of the digital network design and creation process. Billions of new devices (remember, Industry 4.0 will far surpass consumer applications in terms of 5G usage models) and new deployment scenarios will come face to face with rising security threats and increasing regulatory requirements.

The level of risk will be both ever-changing and ever-increasing. “Building secure and trustworthy networks and services depends on all layers, says Ericsson: “mobile network standardisation, implementation of secure products, network deployment and operation are all essential.” 

As with automated orchestration, security will also require automation to support compliance, threat detection and response. I strongly recommend reading Ericsson’s guide “Mastering complete 5G network security” as well as reviewing their integrated packet core firewall solution. In fact, you may also enjoy watching the Spotlight video series on 5G Core where I interview Anders Lundstrom, Victor Ferraro Esparza, Folke Anger and Yasir Liaqatullah from A10 Networks about security and other essential 5G Core topics. 

5G

What can we expect from Huawei? Innovation, 5.5G and much more.

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At this week’s Win-Win·Huawei Innovation Week, in a keynote speech entitled “Innovation, Lighting up the 5.5G Era”, David Wang set out the next evolution of 5G technology, which the company terms 5.5G. He also laid out an industry innovation roadmap for the next five to ten years.

“Looking ahead to 2025, the sheer diversity and magnitude of network service requirements will create huge new market potential,” said Wang. “We’re here to discuss these opportunities with operators and industry partners, and explore the innovations we need to help pave the way for 5.5G.”

First proposed by Huawei at the 11th Global Mobile Broadband Forum in 2020, 5.5G has more recently been supplemented by F5.5G (or fixed 5.5G) this April at the Huawei’s Global Analyst Summit (see Elnion’s coverage of the event).

A wealth of new requirements will raise the bar for next-generation ICT infrastructure

According to Wang, new developments in digital technology need to support a truly real-time, engaging, and more immersive experience in the digital world, and gradually make a 10 Gbps network experience available everywhere on the planet.

On the industrial front, digitalisation has already entered the fast lane. AI will be fully integrated into enterprise production processes, and the size of the 5.5G IoT market will grow rapidly. Collaboration between robots and people in complex scenarios will impose greater requirements on next-generation industrial field networks.

Currently, bottlenecks in computing, such as memory walls, unbalanced utilisation of data center resources, and low energy efficiency, are hindering the rise of new computing demand. To address these challenges, Huawei is looking to help the industry needs innovate at the architecture and system levels to boost computing supply.

Six features of 5.5G – New value for digital life and development

The first is a 10 Gbps user experience. 5.5G will deliver a 10 Gbps experience through MIMO technology that boasts larger bandwidth, higher spectrum efficiency, and higher-order modulation. With next-generation technologies like FTTR, Wi-Fi 7, 50G PON, and 800G, F5.5G will bring a 10 Gbps experience everywhere.

At the event, Wang proposed Net5.5G for the first time, defining the evolution of IP networks to meet the rising demand for computing power by intelligent applications. “As digitalisation takes hold, intelligent applications will see large-scale commercialisation and computing resources will be located across multiple clouds,” said Wang. “Enterprises need to make use of computing power from multiple clouds at lower costs, with greater agility and flexibility. To this end, we need to keep innovating based on IPv6 to help the industry thrive. This is why we proposed Net5.5G.”

Second, the business scope will go beyond connectivity. 5.5G will go beyond connectivity to include sensing, which will result in a wealth of new scenarios and applications. Wireless sensing and fiber sensing technologies will be used in vehicle-road collaboration and environment monitoring. Passive IoT will integrate cellular and passive tag technologies to create 100 billion potential connections. 5.5G core networks will redefine architectures and foundational technologies to enable new service scenarios, such as industry private networks, industrial field networks, and new calling.

Third, diversified computing will enable diversified applications. In the 5.5G era, computing architectures will be redefined to increase computing efficiency by 10-fold through chip engineering and full peer-to-peer interconnection architectures.

Fourth, data-centric storage will break through existing limits in storage architecture. Future storage will improve storage performance by 10-fold through data-centric hardware and software architecture and diversified data application acceleration engines.

Fifth, full-stack AI native will make L4 highly autonomous driving networks (ADNs) a reality. ADNs have become a common goal of the industry. Full-stack AI native, from network elements to networks and services, will accelerate breakthroughs in ADN technology. The results of new innovation, such as compression algorithms for hundreds of network indicators and unknown fault identification by AI foundation models, will be widely applied in the 5.5G era.

Lastly, developments in green technology and system-level innovation will increase energy efficiency. The ITU-T has adopted Network Carbon data/energy intensity (NCIe) as the unified energy efficiency metric to guide the industry’s green development roadmap. Huawei has developed innovative solutions for green sites, green networks, and green operations to increase network capacity and cut energy consumption per bit. These solutions will empower operators in the 5.5G era.

“As we move towards the 5.5G era, all industry players need to work together to bring standards to maturity and cultivate a thriving industry,” said Wang. He proposed three recommendations to conclude his speech.

  • The industry needs to work closely together to define the vision and roadmap for 5.5G.
  • The industry should define technology standards within the standards frameworks set by 3GPP, ETSI, and ITU.
  • All industry players should work together to promote a thriving industry ecosystem by incubating more use cases and accelerating digital, intelligent transformation.

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Next-Gen Networks & 5G, Facilitating Enterprise Business Transformation

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Enterprise Business Transformation

The prospective industrial network is taking the same route as that of Operations Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT). Varying from WAN and LAN, holding a third-party network to outsource cloud-based SaaS solutions via public clouds.

Presently, the sole aim of most organisations is to acquire real Business Operations Transformation while acquiring more significant business concessions, ROI from network technologies acquisitions, and services sustaining their business core.

Perhaps I can witness the enterprise IT transformation, as the businesses have been continually developing systems, indulging in crafting designs, plans and following the trial and error to roll out Private Converged enterprise networks, with a motive to leverage 5G in particular, regardless of their size and shape. 

But what’s unfortunate is the challenges the enterprise business transformation has brought along due to a lack of experience and skills. This frequently leads the HR departments of the enterprises to struggle while sourcing in-house expertise and understanding of digital enterprise transformation networks. As a result, the challenges bind them to bring those powers to their organisations from the market for a Partner of Choice. 

The difficulties enterprises face when embracing and operating consolidated digital enterprise transformation networks, and 5G solutions are the expertise, as these aren’t their core business. Instead, they ought the suited technology and telecoms counterpart to function with to yield flourishing results.

I recently hosted and mediated a live-stream discussion featuring two globally leading telecom executives, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient, and Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation. Horizon Power, for Cyient, titled CXO Cyience – Designing Networks of Tomorrow.” 

Our conversation was near and around the emerging transition in converged networks as enterprise IT transformation by assembling their own remote converged networks. Our discussion also covered some of their distinctive insights and stances on conceiving a savvy infrastructure. 

Though there wasn’t much that we could cover in our short conversation, after concluding our live stream, I realised that there were two major takeaway points that I believed needed to be heightened for you people. So here are two essential highlights I brought away from our live-stream event and what Aashu and Ray had to articulate on each matter when I requested them both to confer on them.

Takeaway #1

Early adopters witness prospects for instantaneous triumphs, and early adopter yields from Next-Generation Networks mainly fused personal networks across firms, which are usually prepared to leverage 5G, are flaring up prospects on multiple fronts, resulting in the advancement of creative business prototypes as new use cases for Customer and Business conditions arise.

I’m witnessing an inflated number of prospects for corps to attain influential Enterprise Business Transformation via Next Generation Networks by embracing new functioning models and use cases that access the technology that enables consolidated and Next Generation Networks.

Undoubtedly, this was conferred in profundity during our live-stream affair. Still, I felt there was more that my ace visitors could convey, so I contacted Ray and Aashu Virmani and requested them to elaborate the topic with instances of where they are witnessing possibilities for both prompt victories and early adopter returns. So here is what they had to state:

“Cyient is internally organised across ten industry verticals, from Communications to Utilities, Mining, Rail, Aerospace, and Medical – just to name a few. Within the past six months, we’ve seen over a dozen of our clients, with whom we were previously engaged for their vertical-specific use cases, start initiatives around communications and developing their own private networks — all in the context of their own enterprise transformation. More and more, we are recognizing internally how our Communications business is fast becoming ‘horizontal’ across all of our other verticals when it comes to private networks. We are simultaneously engaging with our CSP customers to help them develop and expand their implementation practices around offering private networks to their enterprise accounts.”, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient.

“Quick wins are a great and important way to prove out and demonstrate the value of next-generation network investments, and certainly in the space we occupy there is no shortage of examples. For example, five years ago, we installed advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to underpin our Smart Grid goals and objectives. Initially, we used it to collect, send, and analyse consumer energy consumption data. Since then, we’ve leveraged the same data sets to automatically detect neutral integrity issues. Looking to tomorrow, we want to leverage the abilities of our AMI infrastructure to self-heal, support demand-side DER management, and enhance energy efficiency.”, Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation, Horizon Power.

Takeaway #2

The content of architecture industries can currently think when enforcing personal networks persists in flaring up assertive new prospects for enterprise business transformation. Multiple believed the things of telcos & carriers are now obtainable to enterprise consumers across the range.

The emphasis now is not solely to construct it correctly the foremost time, but likewise, construct it ‘intelligently’ so that process & administration evolves actually and efficiently.

Corps have become ever more critical to find the best probable Partner of Choice to defend them to accomplish such transformative developments. But, unfortunately, it is not usually the core business for most institutions to enforce, function, or drive Next Generation Networks.

Similarly, I conferred this extensively with my visitors during our live-stream event. Still, I desired to proffer my ace visitors the chance to convey more on this. So I requested them to elaborate the topic with instances where they witness prospects. So here is what they had to convey:

“When it comes to intelligent network architectures, an important learning for us was that it’s not simply a case of one size fits all. If you focus on your use cases, then the right architecture/s become apparent. Once we resolved that, it was exciting to see other opportunities emerge. For example, in our case we started by looking at a use case that supported our Operational requirements, however, we subsequently realised that the architecture that emerged from this, offered support for a wide range of use cases we hadn’t considered that sat outside of our Operations group and that these particular use cases offered us the potential to develop a significant new revenue stream. In an environment where there is considerable pressure on costs and revenues, opportunities such as this are game-changing.”, Ray Achemedei, General Manager, Technology & Digital Transformation, Horizon Power.

“Developing the right architecture for a private network depends on the eventual use case (or cases) the customer is attempting to solve, and which of the following six criteria are most important drivers: coverage, latency, density, QoS, security, and cost. The right architecture, and which OEMs we use for the customer depends on which variables we are attempting to optimise, and can range between being an extension and densification of the CSP network at the enterprise premises, to being a completely air-gapped stand-alone network owned and managed by the enterprise, to a hybrid between these two extremes. The important thing to realise is that no two networks are equal because the business problem for a mining customer may be drastically different from that of a manufacturing plant owner. Having an understanding of various industry verticals gives us an advantage when it comes to tailoring a solution that is optimal for a customer.”, Aashu Virmani, Vice President & Client Partner, Communications, Cyient.

What I can conclude from what I was able to absorb and comprehend based on my prior knowledge about the related topic and the insights I received from our hearty discussion is that it is time to act as those waits are surely going to miss the opportunities that early adopters and next-gen network embracers are going to avail cause of begin, not just early but skilful birds.

Besides, please do listen via the link below if you haven’t already tuned into the exclusive panel conversation I had with Ray and Aashu. I look ahead to resuming this discussion with Ray, Aashu, and the crew at Cyient in the future.

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Enterprise Mobility Solutions, is your business ready to admire itself?

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Enterprise Mobility Solutions

The pandemic has not only affected healthcare but also has left businesses across the globe struggling in this practically completely altered world that’s boasted with new technologies. Where the tech was just an add on to enterprise mobility solutions for a few, for others, it emerged as an essential enabler for all aspects of their business. Irrespective of the size and importance of tech in past business, we all can relate to the fact that the future of business will be mobile.  

Recently I had a chance to talk to Jason Inskeep, Director, 5G Centre of Excellence at AT&T Business, and share a divine conversation on mobile solutions for enterprise. We spoke on an array of related topics starting right from the scope of changing service function to how 5G will change business and the share of AT&T in it. 

Understanding mobility in the context of Industry 4.0 and COVID-19

COVID-19 has practically changed the way we used to comprehend tech. It has certainly shown us we did rather underestimate its potential. The traditional definition has been eradicated through mobility in use cases. The need of having remote-first workers be connected securely to fetch immediate help to first responders has shifted the connectivity paradigm. 

Software-defined networks had supported us in fulfilling those commitments shown stability in trading with the hasty shift in behaviors and magnitude upsurge when we were in dire need of it.

Further, the inherent resilience and security built into the networks are growing stronger with each passing day. Now we are moving towards finding a solution that would help bridge the securities embedded in different technologies. 

But there’s likewise the subsequent level of a prospect to promote business opportunities while mitigating risks near the ‘welding points’ of data flow – not only into endpoints but likewise in how the edge is connecting.

AT&T Mobility Solutions

Encouraging mobile and secured networking that can be adapted and mounted as per use case

AT&T mobility solutions are devised to bear the idea of enterprise-grade security past the confines of the workplace and furnish them at the point-of-need – wherever business is transpiring. So, irrespective of your location, mobile networking solutions are prepared to furnish the speed, latency, and protection you ought, not just for seamless connectivity but decision-making on the motion in a vibrant environment, where circumstances develop and transform around you every moment.

Best way to enforce 5G? Ignore the G!

Customers are required to unlearn the ‘G’ and consider networking in terms of ‘the journey of the data packet’ to prepare an optimal consumer experience. 

As Jason puts it, “The good news is that the software is virtually ready to handle anything you throw at it. That’s also the bad news.” This implies its upto us to craft new paths and mitigates risks for an optimal 5G consumer experience. 

Use cases will determine the technology instead of the other way round

The potential of 5G is virtually limitless. What’s limiting us is our hesitation to embrace another iteration of networking. The need of the hour is for enterprises to comprehend 5G – not just from a technical viewpoint but operational or a financial standpoint of businesses. 

The continuum of command has developed for businesses, and with the commoditization of the scope, there is a possibility of paralysis by analysis. The trick is to remain calm and embrace the right way to upscale your business!

Further Reading

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