Four key enablers for 5G monetization

Four key enablers for 5G monetization

Four key enablers for 5G monetization

 

August 05, 2021

 

 

Introduction

Operators today provide connectivity to millions of people who are embracing a more digital lifestyle. They are also facilitating this shift for enterprises as they undergo digital transformation. To make their 5G investments profitable, CSPs need a monetization strategy that takes a multipronged approach. In addition to direct monetization, they must include partnerships, digital ecosystems, as well as unique and innovative business models. 5G monetization demands that communications service providers (CSPs) reshape and evolve their revenue management systems to ensure they can support complex B2B, B2C, and B2B2X services. So, what are the key enablers for this change?

5G use cases ready to be monetized 

5G means CSPs will be able to offer a host of new services that require advanced monetization platforms, new business models, and new ways of thinking from traditional voice and data subscriptions. These include services enabled by 5G capabilities such as:

  • Enhanced Mobile Broadband (eMBB): enables CSPs to handle ever-increasing data rates, user density, and traffic capacity.
  • Massive Machine-Type Communications (mMTC): enables the IoT ecosystem, where a large number of devices are connected to the network with varying policies.
  • Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC): caters to latency demands, especially for mission-critical and safety-critical applications.
  • Network Slicing: enables operators to use shared physical infrastructure to create multiple autonomous networks, each one catering to different QoS requirements for bandwidth, storage, processing power, and more.

The key enablers for 5G monetization

To cater to the needs of their individual and enterprise customers, and to capitalize on the possibilities of 5G, CSPs need to focus on these four key enablers:

Platform-based business model

As the 5G ecosystem expands the services and applications that can be consumed through the network, CSPs need to evolve their business models to serve as platforms that connect consumers with producers. A platform-based business model enables operators to build a wide range of industry-specific business models based on consumption (APIs, insights, and so on), use of shared infrastructure, customer journeys, and more. Operators can also set up digital ecosystems using the platform business model. These ecosystems or digital marketplaces connect businesses with consumers.

5G operators can leverage their existing infrastructure to forge diverse partnerships and offer a platform to producers, manufacturers, retailers of products and services. Network slicing enables CSPs to support and monetize these services. These partnerships can span across industry verticals such as connected cars, smart cities, industrial IoT, and more.

CSPs today are associated with multiple diverse service chains and can leverage their customer data and analytics to create highly profitable platforms that are mutually beneficial for customers and the providers of the service. They can be used to introduce more advanced offerings. For instance, Telefónica UK provides an insurance offering called O2 Drive, leveraging customer data insights to create contextual offers at better rates. The app uses GPS tracking to monitor customer journeys, giving each customer a score to tell them how safely they drive and providing tips to improve.

Robust partnership ecosystem

One of 5G’s core transformative abilities is in enabling service providers to forge diverse partnerships, thus enabling B2B2X ecosystems. 5G and IoT open business opportunities at multiple levels, with business models such as shared infrastructure, revenue-sharing, connecting multiple devices on a single network, and more. Operators can monetize partnerships based on SLAs and QoS, volumes, product/service type, inventories, infrastructure use, API and service consumption, and so on. Partners can, in turn, implement subscription- and transaction-based models, charging consumers based on their usage in terms of time, volume, output, and more.

CSPs can facilitate and monetize diverse and advanced telco as well as non-telco applications, building a partner ecosystem that spans across industries. Use cases such as road safety with self-driving vehicles and smart traffic management hold immense ROI potential. Logistics companies can be provided platforms to maximize business efficiency through real-time fleet tracking, route and fuel optimization, and more. Smart grids and utility providers can use data from IoT and connected devices to manage distribution. Healthcare professionals can benefit from platforms that enable telemedicine and remote surgeries. Agriculture can employ connected devices such as drones, sensors, and cameras to monitor soil and crop quality. Manufacturing units and factories can connect all devices on the floor from larger machines right down to a screwdriver to optimize efficiency. For retail applications, operators can help enable smart home portals and apps, digital ecosystem platforms, and much more.

Customer-focused innovation

Customer experience (CX) is a major driver for success today, compelling operators to shift their focus to customer service and service monetization in all aspects of their business, from designing products to the partnerships they build.

Ensuring good CX includes innovative business offerings, digitized experience, high network performance, service availability, and reliability. It also means billing, charging, settlement, customer support processes need to be CX-driven. Operators must look at automating CX by integrating artificial intelligence (AI) in their back-office processes such as order management as well as by implementing chatbots and automation in their payment and self-care apps.

So, how do operators monetize CX? A major part of it is ensuring simple and easy-to-implement pricing structures. Offering asset-light business models is especially beneficial to enterprises, where CSPs can provide the underlying IT and charging infrastructure to businesses, granting them full control of the services they offer to their consumers without having to invest in their own infrastructure.

Monetization models can be based on a host of different parameters depending on the applications, such as UE/MAC address for IoT and I-IoT applications, infrastructure use, inventories, geographical locations, time of day, demand, and more.

SBA core driven networks

SBA architecture with 5G core and cloud infrastructure are key enablers to the network, helping launch advanced services like URLLC, network slicing, and more. Network slicing is set to revolutionize how networks are used and monetized. And while sharing network resources means more efficient use of the infrastructure, it demands advanced charging systems to cater to the diverse use cases it supports. One slice may demand low-latency QoS, while another demands ultrafast speed, and a third demands high bandwidth. Monetizing these network slices demands dynamic near-real-time charging and policy control.

In addition to QoS, 5G monetization platforms enable charging for network use, based on the number of connections, data frequency, real-time versus non-real-time operations, location precision, and more.

Solutions that maximize 5G monetization capabilities 

In consumer as well as enterprise applications, 5G supports endless possibilities of business models and charging use cases. They will be required to support online as well as offline charging, scaling to handle the demands of IoT billing so they can charge small amounts at a massive scale. They will also need to support a range of revenue-sharing arrangements with n-level hierarchies. CSPs will need to ensure they are constantly innovating to support charging with evolving services like on-demand network slices.

As CSPs make the transition to 5G, successful monetization relies largely on the flexibility of an operator’s billing, charging, and policy infrastructure systems to support multiple pricing models. They also need to implement a next-gen partner management solution to handle diverse partnerships. Implementing a future-proof digital BSS/OSS infrastructure helps begin their journey of digital transformation, enabling them to get the most out of their 5G monetization infrastructure.

Rajesh Mhapankar

Rajesh Mhapankar

Vice President, Product Management

A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

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Leveraging partnerships to increase 5G revenue

Leveraging partnerships to increase 5G revenue

Leveraging partnerships to increase 5G revenue

 

August 05, 2021

 

 

Introduction

Partnerships are the future of 5G, and they will shape the future of the CSP. Success will rely on the systems and infrastructure that enable CSPs to create new and innovative business opportunities, helping build a vast and diverse partner ecosystem. Increasing their 5G revenue will mean that telecom operators will need to look beyond offering network coverage and support more advanced uses and outcomes with the connectivity they provide.

The use of technology is increasing in sectors such as agriculture, logistics, energy, manufacturing, automotive, and transportation, helping drive business decisions, improve processes, optimize resource use, and secure new revenue streams. Many have also begun using RFID tags, sensors, cameras, drones, and other real-time surveillance and data-gathering devices. As more and more industries begin to digitize their businesses and use cloud-based infrastructure, they need robust and reliable network connectivity to ensure they can efficiently monitor and operate their assets, support process automation, and handle large volumes of data unlike ever before. And that’s where 5G comes in.

Through private or enterprise 5G, CSPs can enable businesses to run their own secure and reliable networks. Network slicing also reduces the need for businesses to invest in dedicated infrastructure. CSPs can optimize and monetize their network by dividing it into dedicated “slices” for different enterprise customers, allocating resources depending on the use case.

Top 8 industries that benefit from 5G partnerships

Partnerships provide infinite possibilities for CSPs, though some industries are more likely to be early adopters of the technology. Some of these industries and their use cases include:

Transportation

5G will revolutionize transport: a recent World Bank report states that 5G holds the potential to accelerate several evolving technologies such as sharing economy and digital platforms, electric and autonomous vehicles, and advanced business models like Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The report also says that mobility-driven demand for connectivity will likely be an important revenue stream for expanded 5G coverage, and the revenue from connected vehicles in major road corridors could potentially yield ROI within just 3-4 years.

Autonomous vehicles will improve road safety and be especially viable on closed campuses in the near future. Smart traffic control with real-time management through connected traffic lights will alleviate traffic congestion. Extending route-mapping technology to transport fleets will improve efficiency and provide real-time updates to commuters on transit times and/or delays. Connecting public places like stadiums with public transport systems will enable them to anticipate higher demand during events.

  • V2X communications
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle communication
  • Airborne taxis
  • Prognostic maintenance
  • Digital twins
  • Remote vehicle health monitoring
  • In-vehicle infotainment
  • Intelligent traffic
  • Energy and utilities

    The energy industry currently faces the shift to renewable power, uncertainty over fuel prices, outdated infrastructure, declining revenues, and regulation and policy restrictions. Next-gen technology can help tackle these challenges, helping build a digitalized smart grid using AI, machine learning, and data analytics, and connected with 5G. Intelligence gathered from IoT devices and other technologies gives utility providers more control over distribution, battery energy storage, and renewable energy generation. This enables building smart factories, improved agility, improved CX, lower operating costs, decentralized business models, and high ROI.

  • Smart street lighting
  • Virtual power plants
  • Smart energy management
  • Drone monitoring
  • Smart metering
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Healthcare

    Private 5G is set to revolutionize healthcare, helping ensure more efficient patient care, implement monitoring to enable preventative practices, and reduce escalating treatment costs. It will also mean improved healthcare practices, safer storage of patient data, and broadening access even to those in remote or distant areas.

    The high speeds, reliable connectivity, low latency, and real-time data streaming that private 5G networks provide enable limitless IoT applications, also known as the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT). Teleconsultation is already being adopted by many hospitals and clinics – a trend escalated by the pandemic to enable patients to access quality medical care from the safety of their homes. As IoT-enabled automation and private 5G networks become more pervasive, healthcare professionals will be able to leverage these technologies to provide e-health applications and personalized treatment options.

  • Remote surgeries
  • AR/VR-enabled healthcare
  • Telemedicine
  • Robot-assisted minimally invasive surgeries
  • Remote patient monitoring
  • Wearables and ingestibles
  • Connected ambulances
  • Implantable device monitoring
  • Financial services

    Today, the success of financial services such as banks, finance, and insurance (BFSI) companies is hinged, among others, on two important factors: security and customer experience. Private 5G helps fulfill these two requirements by providing ultra-high reliability, higher data capacity, and low latency. The adoption of private 5G and more widespread use of IoT systems and devices will help boost security and CX while driving ROI. It supports disruption from fintech firms, enables a host of advanced mobile transactions, and facilitates service providers to create custom financial solutions to meet an array of business requirements.

  • Smart bank branches
  • Remote tellers
  • Internet of Moving Things
  • Payment-enabled wearables
  • Entertainment and media

    5G technology will change the face of entertainment and media. According to this report, the global media industry is expected to gain $765bn in cumulative revenues from the new applications and services that 5G enables. Smartphones and consumer devices increasingly support the richer and more advanced audio, video, and multimedia experiences that are facilitated by 5G’s low latency and high bandwidth. The next step is new media experiences for residential and enterprise applications. This will mean collaborative and shared live entertainment, AR/VR, interactive and cloud gaming, immersive events such as sports, personalized content, immersive advertising, and much more.

  • Temporary event networks
  • Enhanced mobile advertising
  • Smart stadiums
  • Connected haptic suits
  • Immersive media
  • Enhanced mobile media
  • In-car entertainment
  • Ultra-high-definition video streaming
  • Manufacturing

    Manufacturing units that run business-critical activities require infrastructure and applications that demand high reliability, low latency, and uninterrupted connectivity without a wired network. Enterprise or private 5G enables the application of robotics, AI, automation, Industrial IoT, and augmented reality to improve efficiency, lower costs, transform production processes, and facilitate new business models for manufacturing companies. It can help minimize downtime and delays in production, enable streamlined supply chain management, facilitate improved quality checks, boost staff safety, and empower more informed decision-making in real-time using BI analytics.

  • Smart factories
  • Predictive maintenance
  • Drones
  • Human-robot collaboration
  • Education

    The pandemic has already accelerated a massive digital revolution in learning, moving teaching to virtual classrooms. And while e-learning is off to a good start, 5G will help bridge the divide caused by the limitations inherent to legacy networks such as lagging speeds and the lack of more immersive experiences. Improved connectivity, ultrafast speeds, and the integration of IoT and robotics will enable educators to create enriched educational experiences that not only match classroom experiences but also surpass them.

  • Smart classrooms
  • AR/VR
  • Remote learning
  • Holographic instructors
  • Robots educators
  • Personalized learning
  • Agriculture

    5G is expected to revolutionize the agricultural sector, enabling centralized and real-time control over agricultural practices. Many have been turning to newer technologies in recent years to monitor and improve farming practices. Drones, sensors, and cameras are already in use to monitor soil hydration, rainfall, soil nutrients, weeds, temperature, and so on. Connecting these devices to a 5G network and leveraging next-gen features will enable more precision and efficiency in the systems. Smart farming applications enable farmers to segment their fields and treat different sections based on their unique needs using machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and AI. Farmers can use geolocation services to track livestock in real-time, monitor food intake, keep a check on animal health, and more.

  • Precision farming
  • Autonomous plants
  • Self-driving tractors
  • Extended IoT and M2M
  • Wireless sensors and drones
  • Livestock tracking
  • How Alepo can help

    Cross-industry partnerships will be the most lucrative path to success for 5G service providers, and to attract more partners, they will need to enable innovative 5G use cases. This means providing a robust platform that supports easy onboarding of partners and customers, omnichannel support, and in-built monetization systems. As early movers in enabling 5G, we’ve already begun facilitating operators to stay ahead of the global trend of small and medium businesses turning to operators for their private 5G networks. Our end-to-end solutions enable operators to forge cross-industry partnerships, meet regulatory needs, and develop fail-proof cybersecurity strategies. Learn more about our 5GC solutions.

    Pankaj Garg

    Pankaj Garg

    Director, Product Management

    Pankaj Garg is a telecom and FinTech expert with over 15 years of experience in the software industry. Handling digital BSS and 5G offerings is among the many hats he wears at Alepo. Always up to speed with the newest advancements in the products he handles, he takes it slow only when he’s road-tripping across India to discover new places.

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    Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

    Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

    Deployment Modes for 5G Compact Core

     

    April 8, 2021

     

     

    Introduction

    5G holds immense potential to transform virtually every industry with its ultrafast speeds, low latency, high bandwidth, and reliability. As healthcare, automotive, manufacturing, entertainment, and a host of other sectors eagerly await the application of next-gen use cases, the race is on for service providers to find the easiest path to rolling out and monetizing the next-gen technology, especially for their enterprise clients. Alepo’s Compact Core facilitates the support of enterprise deployments, particularly those looking for private networks, and it offers a host of flexible options depending on the operator’s unique business requirements.

    Alepo’s Compact Core

    Most existing 5G networks are powered by 4G core/EPC and 5G RAN (non-standalone 5G or 5G NSA), and since they are dependent on the 4G core, they aren’t true end-to-end 5G networks. Alepo’s new-generation Compact Core, along with the ESS Portal, is set to change that. All elements in the 5G-compliant Compact Core are pre-integrated, ensuring that enterprises can swiftly set up standalone 5G networks (5G SA) that are independent of the 4G core, while also supporting combo deployments over an existing 4G core.

    The industrialized Compact Core solution enables service providers to support enterprise and industrial use cases for a small number of subscribers. A complete pre-integrated and self-contained solution, the Compact Core includes the network core and other networking infrastructure, working seamlessly with end devices and the radio access network without impacting or depending on external systems.

    The solution comprises AuSF for Authentication, UDM for Authorization, a converged policy combo (PCF + PCRF), and Data Repository for Subscriber Data Management. It also includes an enterprise self-service portal for enterprises to import and efficiently manage all connected devices. (For more details on its features and benefits, read our blog, Envisioning Private 5G Success with Compact Core.)

    Compact Core Deployment Modes

    Local deployment model

    DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
      The 5G Core (5GC) is deployed on-premise over private cloud or standalone servers. The containerized 5G core network functions (NFs) are deployed on cloud-native infrastructure. It is a completely isolated system with no external inputs or outputs, and all data processing is completed and stored onsite.
    • High security with local control and no outside connection

    • Optimizes OPEX

    • One-box solution

    • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools

    • Manufacturing

    • Utilities

    • Public safety

    • Smart buildings

    • Education

    Hybrid deployment model

    DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
      The User Plan Function (UPF) is deployed on the telco edge or enterprise premise, while the 5G core is deployed on private or public cloud at a centralized location. All devices are connected to a centralized server; the data payload dynamically changes depending on the edge location, helping ensure low latency.
    • Enables low-latency data connectivity

    • The UPF is connected to the 5G Core using a secured tunnel, ensuring failproof security

    • All 5GC NFs are deployed with a minimal resource footprint

    • Enables focus on data control and access, with dedicated communications only where needed

    • Ensures smooth operations and maintenance through support for integrated EMS and PaaS tools
    • V2X (vehicle to everything) tracking

    • Centralized and distributed campus networks

    • 5G network slicing

    • Logistics

    Public cloud model

    DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
      The 5G core NFs are deployed on highly distributed public cloud infrastructure, enabling one or more geographic locations both within the operator’s premises as well as in other regions. Supports secure and reliable wireless infrastructure for industrial applications.
    • Reduces network management complexities and ongoing IT maintenance

    • Lowers CAPEX and deployment time

    • Simplifies deployments through automated orchestration and configuration

    • Helps efficiently manage traffic

    • Industrial IoT (IIoT)

    • Manufacturing automation

    • Events

    • 5G AR

    • Base station sites

    • Regional and/or national data centers for edge infrastructure

    4G+5G combo model

    DescriptionBenefitsUse Cases
      This converged offering for a joint 4G and 5G core supports containerized 4G+5G core NFs that are deployed over cloud-native infrastructure, with support for inter-RAT and intra-RAT mobility.
    • Can be deployed with or without N26 interworking support

    • A one-box solution

    • Helps optimize CAPEX and OPEX

    • Supports integrated EMS and PaaS tools for smooth operations and maintenance
    • Enterprises who want to support LTE from a 5G core

    • Network slicing

    Business Benefits of Alepo’s Compact Core

    Partnering with Alepo for the Compact Core offers a host of advantages for service providers:

    • The solution’s flexibility in deployment is unparalleled, ensuring a low resource footprint no matter what deployment mode an enterprise chooses. 
    • The Compact Core leverages cloud-native features to ensure hassle-free, automated, and cost-efficient operations that can be tailored for each enterprise’s unique business requirements.  
    • The plug-and-play capability enables enterprises to swiftly launch a private network, bundling in one solution a host of network offerings (broadband, voice, and more). The various open interfaces such as Radio Access Network (RAN) or core network can plug into the operator’s network for wide-area coverage. The solution enables the enterprise to support and control services (like edge computing) and facilitates network management using a network slice.
    • Alepo is an early mover in helping operators implement 5G technology, with many 5GC projects and compact cores deployed. As an end-to-end solutions provider, we leverage our many cross-industry partnerships, build cybersecurity plans, and ensure regulatory compliance in your region of operations, enabling you to realize your operational and business goals so you can focus on helping your enterprise clients do that same.

     

    Begin your next-gen journey today by booking a demo with our 5G solution experts.

    Prathamesh Malushte

    Prathamesh Malushte

    Principal Solution Architect

    Prathamesh is a PDM and solution integration specialist with expertise in 5G core network functions and protocols. He specializes in creating user stories, call flows, and designs for 5GC as well as legacy networks, as well as in handling OSS/BSS intricacies. After hours, he loves sports, enjoys trekking, and is passionate about playing different musical instruments.

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    The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

    The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

    The advantages of 5G service-based architecture (SBA)

    18th of March 2021

    An introduction to 5G service-based architecture

    5G brings transformational changes to the core network with a modular and cloud-native approach. One key advancement is that it upgrades the traditional telco architecture to Service-Based Architecture (SBA), enabling more flexible service development.

    Introduced to improve the modularity of the network system, SBA lets network elements or network functions (NFs) in 5G communicate with each other over a service-based interface. It allows the decoupling of NFs with more precise functionalities. Each NF provides a set of services to another NF in the SBA. These NFs communicate with each other using a more open REST-based interface rather than traditional telco protocols such as Diameter.

    What does this integral change in network architecture mean for telcos?

    The SBA offers a host of benefits, including:

    • Deploys as containers orchestrated by Kubernetes, allowing the core to run on non-proprietary infrastructure
    • Lets new software vendors plug-and-play their NFs for a best of breeds approach
    • Enables network slicing, with dynamic and efficient resource utilization
    • Simplifies operations using application programming interface (APIs)
    • Leverages the use of harmonized protocols such as HTTP/2 and its well-developed security mechanisms
    • Facilitates seamless integration of third-party applications with the core network

    SBA offers a host of benefits

    How network functions communicate in SBA

    Every NF in the SBA acts as a service producer and a service consumer for each NF. All NFs communicate with each other using one of two mechanisms:

    • Request-response mechanism: here, a consumer NF requests a producer NF for services over HTTP/2 request, and the producer NF complies.
    • Subscribe-notify mechanism: a consumer NF subscribes to certain events of the producer NF, and the producer NF notifies the consumer NF once the particular event occurs.

    All of this communication is always completed using JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) objects.

    The Network Repository Function – a standalone NF – acts as a unified NF repository and an internal mediator between NFs for operations such as discovery and status tracking of NF instances. For instance, if the Access and Mobility Function (AMF) wants to communicate with the Session Management Function (SMF) to establish a data session, and needs certain information about the SMF (including NF type, FQDN/IP address, endpoint information, services supported, and more) to ensure its communication with the SMF is seamless, it requests this information from the NRF. The NRF responds with the required data, facilitating smooth communication between the two.

    The SBA provides an underlying REST-based stateless transaction framework for previously stateful services.

    From the development standpoint, interfaces (APIs) for SBA are defined with Interface Definition Language (IDL). The interface definitions are written using YAML, and are language- and platform-independent, reducing development time and effort. They are utilized by the producer NF and consumer NF to ensure that communication between them is standardized and harmonized.

    The full potential of 5G SBA

    5G SBA allows any third-party application, referred by 3GPP as Application Function (AF), to interact with 5G NFs in a secured manner. Another NF – Network Exposure Function (NEF) – acts as a mediator for external communication. For example, the AF will subscribe to AMF events via NEF, the AMF will notify the NEF once the event occurs, and the NEF will then notify the AF. This is vital in enabling several next-gen use cases such as precise indoor navigation for complex buildings such as airports, train stations, hospitals, malls, trade shows, offices, industrial areas, and more.

    A 5G standalone (5G-SA) network will leverage the full potential of service-based architecture, elevating the consumer’s mobile network experience while also opening a host of monetization and partnership opportunities for MNOs.

    How Alepo can accelerate your 5G journey

    With its vast experience in automation and digital transformation, Alepo designs advanced 5G Core and digital BSS solutions that ensure modern, flexible, secured, and operationally efficient deployments.

    Alepo’s 5G Converged Core supports 4G, 5G Non-Standalone (NSA), as well as 5G SA deployments. Along with Alepo’s 5G core network functions, it provides key components of the 5G core, including subscriber data management, policy control and charging, AUSF, UDM+HSS, UDR, PCF+PCRF, and more.

    The Converged Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservices-based software architecture and supports flexible deployment models such as public, private, and hybrid. It also supports both containerized (using Docker) as well as VNF-based deployments, facilitating matured, integrated, and robust 5G implementation at the application, infrastructural, and process levels.

    Nitish Muley

    Nitish Muley

    Senior Engineer

    Nitish has spent years building mobile apps for technologies like VR, AR, IoT, and is currently working on Alepo’s newest products. Always up to speed with the latest in the industry, Nitish is a voracious reader – and fervent writer – about all things related to tech and wireless standards. After hours, he wears a traveler’s hat, pursuing his love for photography as he explores different countries.

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    Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

    Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

    Why 5G standalone core needs to be on every operator’s roadmap

    22nd of October 2020

    By now we all know that 5G’s ultrafast speeds, high bandwidth, and low latency will open a world of opportunities, its advanced applications transforming virtually every industry. From manufacturing, healthcare, and the Internet of Things (IoT), to AR, VR, and gaming, the possibilities are endless. Service providers have two ways of transitioning to a next-gen network: 5G NSA (non-standalone) and 5G SA (standalone), with SA being the end-goal. 5G NSA (4G LTE EPC plus new RAN) remains the strategy to quickly launch high-speed 5G broadband, yet lacks the new architecture and functionality that will allow 5G to fulfill its visionary use cases.

    Unlike 5G NSA, which reuses the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), 5G SA uses cloud-based and Service-Based Architecture (SBA) that optimize network infrastructure with virtualized network functions (NFs), enabling operators to launch differentiated services, ensuring a high quality of service.

    5G NSA: step one in 5G launch

    The most popular choice of service providers to deploy 5G is 5G NSA, which is 5G radio using an existing 4G EPC. This option is considered the most viable and cost-effective. The only condition is that the 4G EPC needs to be 3GPP Release 15-complaint with additional functionalities to support dual-radio connectivity. This will enable operators to seamlessly launch 5G services and offer high-speed internet and improve access capacity.

    5G NSA focuses on offering higher data speeds and improved radio coverage in densely populated areas, helping CSPs rapidly market 5G to gain a competitive edge. However, it does not offer many of the advanced use cases possible with 5G SA, such as ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC) and massive machine-type communications (mMTC).

    5G-SA: the path to full 5G benefits

    The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has revamped core network architecture, having moved away from traditional telecom protocols to more open, modern SBA. The 5G Core comprises multiple NFs, each responsible for specific core network functions. These NFs use REST-based APIs to interface with each other over HTTP/2 protocol, which is collectively referred to as the Service-Based Interface (SBI).

    5G SA key components 5G SA key features and components

    With the sheer number of use cases it supports and the forecast for devices, traffic is far more dynamic in a 5G network. And so a robust underlying core network is necessary for the network to swiftly respond to demands. 5G SA enables just that. Some of its key features:

    Multi-vendor ecosystem opens the doors for new vendors, who are not just restricted to the telecom sector, or in the legacy core. The adoption of new technologies that are in-line with modern infrastructure such as REST-based (HTTP/2 or Open APIs) widens the scope for innovative vendors to contribute and revolutionize network operations and processes.

    Service-Based Architecture defines key 5GC components as NFs that integrate with each over modern APIs that support multiple varied core network functions.

    Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) enables independent scaling between the control plane and user plane functions, facilitating flexible network deployment and operation. For instance, if the data traffic load increases, more data plane nodes are added without affecting the functionality of the existing control plane.

    Network function virtualization (NFV) allows virtualizing entire network functions and appliances using standard vendor-neutral hardware and IT infrastructure in the 5G network. It helps operators achieve a faster service life cycle, rapid deployment, scalability, operational efficiency, agility, and more.

    Network slicing enables operators to build multiple dedicated networks to cater to different business verticals with diverse requirements of high-bandwidth, ultra-reliability, low-latency communication, and more.

    Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) distributes computing resources along the communication path using decentralized cloud infrastructure. MEC brings data and computational capabilities closer to the source and network edges such as users’ devices, IoT devices, vCPEs, and more.

    Some key components include:

    Unified Data Management (UDM) enables managing all subscription-related data for authorization and access services.

    Unified Data Repository (UDR) stores all structured data on a flexible and highly available platform, enabling the network to readily respond to critical demands in real-time.

    Policy Control Function (PCF) is evolved from the PCRF of legacy networks, providing policy assets to handle access mobility related to policies, as well as handling data- and application-related policies. It enables advanced plan and policy customization for 5G use cases.

    Network Repository Function (NRF) keeps a record of all network function instances in the network and helps automate the functioning of NFs.

    Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF) plays an essential role in network slicing, dynamically selecting slices based on real-time information.

    Network Exposure Function (NEF) ensures information is securely translated and communicated from external applications. It is fundamental in the authorization for any access request received outside of the 3GPP network, thus ensuring the network supports use cases like cellular IoT, edge computing, and more.

    Business benefits you can derive with a robust 5G SA solution

    A 5G SA solution is meant to enable service providers to adapt to key technological changes like a cloud-native and microservice-based architecture, helping achieve operational excellence while maximizing ROI. It can facilitate:

    • Rapid introduction of new services without interfering with existing services
    • Scaling to support changing network demands and growing subscriber bases
    • Offering differentiated services with high QoS
    • Automating functions like network slicing
    • Lowering operational costs

    Alepo’s role in your 5G journey

    Alepo offers core network solutions and a digital business support system (BSS) to support unified 4G management (EPC, IMS), C-IoT, and non-3GPP networks (such as WiFi).

    Alepo’s 5G Core solution includes AUSF, subscriber data management (SDM), UDM, UDR, EIR, PCF, and Charging Function (CHF). It also includes a unified and highly scalable subscriber repository that holds identities and subscription profiles for both 4G and 5G. The 5G Core employs cloud- and PaaS-agnostic microservice-based software architecture and supports public, private, and hybrid deployment options. And it supports both containerized and NFV-based deployment.

    Alepo also supports operators who are not yet ready to move to 5G, bridging the gap by creating a modern next-gen omnichannel experience for subscribers by adding WiFi offload into the operator’s network as well as enabling unique and advanced IoT offerings on the legacy network.

    Tell us your business needs, and we’ll help design network innovations to drive ROI. Connect with an Alepo expert today.

    Rajesh Mhapankar

    Rajesh Mhapankar

    Director, Innovations

    A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

    Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter

    5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

    5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

    5G SA vs 5G NSA: What Are The Differences?

    October 19, 2020

    Introduction

    For leading mobile network operators (MNOs), 5G is mainly about offering high-speed connectivity to consumers, on devices that support fifth-gen network services. To smoothly transition from the existing legacy core to 5G, MNOs have two pathways: Non-Standalone (NSA) or Standalone (SA) architecture. And while they are both means to the same end, NSA and SA are structurally and functionally different.

    NSA allows operators to leverage their existing network investments in communications and mobile core instead of deploying a new core for 5G. 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) can be deployed and supported by the existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC), lowering CAPEX and OPEX. To further lower network operating costs, operators can adopt the virtualization of Control and User Plane Separation (CUPS) along with software-defined networking (SDN). These initial steps will help quickly unlock new 5G revenue streams and offer faster data speeds.

    5G SA is a completely new core architecture defined by 3GPP that introduces major changes such as a Service-Based Architecture (SBA) and functional separation of various network functions. Its architecture has the definite advantage of end-to-end high-speed and service assurance, particularly useful for MNOs who are set to commence new enterprise 5G services such as smart cities, smart factories, or other vertically integrated market solutions. The deployment model enables the rapid introduction of new services with quick time-to-market. However, it means additional investment and complexities of running multiple cores in the network.

    Architecturally, NSA includes a new RAN, deployed alongside the 4G or LTE radio with the existing 4G Core or EPC. 5G SA, on the other hand, includes a new radio along with the 5G Core (5GC), comprising completely virtualized cloud-native architecture (CNA) that introduces new ways to develop, deploy, and manage services. 5GC supports high-throughput for accelerated performance than the 5G network demands. Its virtualized service-based architecture (SBA) makes it possible to deploy all 5G software network functions using edge computing.

    5G software network functions using edge computingAn overview of 5G SA and 5G NSA deployment options (Source: GSMA) 

    5G Standalone (SA) vs 5G Non-Standalone (NSA)

    5G SA Architecture

    According to a survey, 37% of MNOs will deploy 5G SA within two years; 27% of operators plan to deploy 5G SA within 12 to 18 months with an additional 10% increase within 24 months. 5G SA architecture will allow operators to address the fifth generation of mobile communications, including enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine-to-machine communications, massive IoT, and ultra-low latency communications.

    Standalone 5G NR comprises a new end-to-end architecture that uses mm-Waves and sub-GHz frequencies and this mode will not make use of the existing 4G LTE infrastructure. The SA 5G NR will use enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable and Low Latency Communications (URLLC), and huge machine-type communications (mMTC) to implement multi-gigabit data rates with improved efficiency and lower costs.

    5G SA also enables more advanced network slicing capabilities, helping operators rapidly transition to both 5G New Radio (NR) and 5G as the core network. Network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC bring ultra-low latency along with a wide range of next-gen use cases like remote control of critical infrastructure, self-driving vehicles, advanced healthcare, and more. However, the NR advanced cases are not backward compatible with the EPC, which is the framework that provides converged voice and data on a 4G LTE network. The level of reliability and latency that 5G provides will be indispensable for handling smart-grid control machines, industrial automation, robotics, and drone control and coordination.

    5G NSA Architecture

    NSA 5G NR is considered as the early version of SA 5G NR mode, in which 5G networks are supported by existing LTE infrastructure. It fundamentally concentrates on eMBB, where 5G-supported handsets and devices will make use of mmWave frequencies for increased data capacity but will continue to use existing 4G infrastructure for voice communications.

    NSA helps MNOs launch 5G quickly for eMBB to get a competitive edge in the telecom market. NSA also helps leverage its existing LTE/VoLTE footprint to maximize the LTE installed base and boost capacity while increasing delivery efficiency. It will not support network slicing, URLLC, and mMTC, but its higher broadband speeds will enable services such as video streaming, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and an immersive media experience.

    Non-Standalone 5G NR will provide increased data-bandwidth by using the following two new radio frequency ranges:

    • Frequency range 1 (450 MHz to 6000 MHz) – overlaps with 4G LTE frequencies and is termed as sub-6 GHz. The bands are numbered from 1 to 255.
    • Frequency range 2 (24 GHz to 52 GHz) – is the main mmWave frequency band. The bands are numbered from 257 to 511.

    Technical Differences between 5G SA and 5G NSA

    The main difference between NSA and SA is that NSA provides control signaling of 5G to the 4G base station, whereas in SA the 5G base station is directly connected to the 5G core network and the control signaling does not depend on the 4G network. In simple terms, NSA is like adding a solid-state drive to an old computer, which can improve the system’s performance, while SA is like replacing it with a new computer that has newer technologies and optimum performance.

    Some benefits include:

    • NSA is extremely low in cost compared to SA.
    • NSA eases 5G network deployments as it reuses existing 4G facilities, thus allowing rapid time to market for 5G mobile broadband.
    • With NSA, the deployment is faster and time-to-market is lower, as 4G locations can be used to install 5G radio. SA requires building 5G base stations and the back-end 5G core network to fully realize the characteristics and functions of 5G.
    • SA involves a 5G core with SBA for scalability and flexibility to deliver a superfast network with ultra-low latency for advanced 5G use cases.

    5G Usage Scenarios in NSA and SA Operation

    The requirements of 5G NR for the SA provide a complete set of specifications for the 5G core network that goes beyond NSA. The three major usage scenarios defined for 5G by the 3GPP and GSMA include:

    1. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB)
    2. Ultra-reliable and low latency communications (URLLC)
    3. Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)

    Enhanced Mobile Broadband with 5G Major 5G usage scenarios

    The Future of 5G Includes NSA and SA

    Early adopters of 5G primarily focus on NSA deployments as they compete to deliver 5G speeds with a quick time to market. These MNOs can move to SA-based architecture over a period of time, which most plan to do. NSA deployment remains a mainstream solution given its ability to handle both 4G- and 5G-based traffic, keeping these early adopters ahead of their competition as they undertake their network transformation. 5G devices are not widespread so the need for SA-based architecture is still nascent.

    In the future, the convergence of NSA and SA will help operators move to a full 5G network. A complete virtualized 5G architecture will allow MNOs to migrate and choose varied functionalities of their existing NSA solution to the 5GC platform, as new 5G services are launched, allowing them to monetize their investment gradually rather than move all at once and enabling them to recover their costs over time.

    Although SA is a more mature network architecture compared to NSA, NSA will continue to be the more commonly chosen path to 5G. All NSA single-mode 5G phones launched this year or early next year will be valid for a decade, and as SA architecture permeates, more and more 5G SA devices will be in our homes and businesses.

    Rajesh Mhapankar

    Rajesh Mhapankar

    Director, Innovations

    A seasoned professional, technologist, innovator, and telecom expert. With over 20 years of experience in the software industry, Rajesh brings a strong track record of accelerating product innovations and development at Alepo. He supports the company’s mission-critical BSS/OSS projects in LTE, WiFi and broadband networks, including core policy, charging, and control elements.

    Subscribe to the Alepo Newsletter