5G commercial launch has begun all over the world, with 2019 recognized as the first year of 5G NSA commercial launch and 2020 as the first year of 5G SA commercial launch. Compared with 4G, 5G SA aims to achieve internet of everything (IoE). Therefore 3GPP defined three major scenarios: eMBB, uRLLC and mMTC, to enable man-to-man, man-to-thing and thing-to-thing communications. The new goal raises new requirements for 5G core networks. 5G SA Core needs to be more accurate, intelligent, flexible and simple.
As driven by the industry chain, the SA-based 5G Core will be commercialized on a large scale in 2020. Its commercial solution needs to meet the requirements of operators for efficient commercial use, as well as the differentiation and evolution needs of multi-waves in vertical industry applications. The key challenges are as follows:
—Slow E2E service provisioning: Due to the epidemic, enterprises need cloud-web synergy to achieve rapid cloud access. However, the actual network provisioning speed cannot keep up with cloud opening in minutes, and the network lacks automation of E2E service provisioning and operations.
—Weak network customization capability: The significant difference between 2C and 2B businesses requires that 5G Core should be more agile and can achieve fast network customization. Traditional pre-defined networks can hardly adapt to the wave of digitalization, leading to the bottleneck of innovation on the network side.
—Differentiated requirements in vertical industries: 5G network meets not only the needs of individuals but also the needs of various industries. Unlike individual needs, the needs of industries vary greatly from industry to industry. 5G Core needs to provide differentiated and guaranteed network capabilities on demand.
5G Cloud Core
To meet the challenges, ZTE has launched 5G SA Core, an accurate core network solution based on the 5G Common Core. Centering on the concept of full convergence, intelligence and simplification, the solution realizes capability construction and sustainable evolution of the core network, so it can rapidly deploy 5G for operators, make full preparation for the long-term development of vertical industries, and help operators improve their competitiveness in the 5G IoE era.
Convergence is Foundation
5G Core uses converged network elements as well as simplified functions and interfaces to support full-scenario access and on-demand customization, meeting differentiated network requirements. The deployment of 5G Core needs to consider the convergence of network elements as much as possible, which includes:
—4G/5G interoperability: supporting unified user data, policy control, session anchor and forwarding anchor
—Multi-access convergence: supporting the convergence of 2G/3G/4G/5G network elements for unified services
—Multi-scenario convergence: supporting Options 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 for full-scenario deployment.
Intelligence is Core
Through the full-process intelligence and automation, the 5G SA Core solution promotes the transformation of operation and maintenance (O&M) that involves network planning, deployment, O&M and optimization. It integrates the whole tool chain to implement intelligent and automated planning, design, deployment, and acceptance tests of 5G Cloud Core, significantly shortening the time of construction. Through a user-friendly interface, the solution achieves zero-distance interaction between tool functions and customer requirements in the whole life-cycle of network integration, helping operators solve their pain points in virtualized network integration.
—Design tool: It collects configuration parameters and resource requirements necessary for hardware, cloud platform, and MANO and NF deployment through the GUI, and automatically generates parameter files and design documents for integrated scene component instantiation.
—Deployment tool: It receives the instantiation parameter file generated by the design tool, intelligently deploys hardware, cloud platform, MANO and NF, and completes data configuration for NF.
—O&M tool: It implements routine maintenance and supports root cause analysis (RCA), automatic network inspection, fault self-healing and automatic work-order assignment, after the cloud platform, MANO and NF are deployed.
Simplicity is Key
Multidimensional slicing and DIY private network slicing are key capabilities for 5G SA architecture. Through automatic creation of dynamic slicing, network resources can be scheduled for rapid customization to address differentiated SLA. Thus, differentiated network requirements can be met in various vertical industries.
To deploy slices as soon as possible, a simplified solution is required that can give priority to implementing end-to-end slicing in the core and RAN part. At the early stage, operators focus on typical eMBB slices such as HD video and AR/VR, and adopt the edge deployment of the user plane of the core network to meet certain ultra-low-latency service requirements. At this stage, slicing can be combined with industry application demonstrations to fully verify that 5G slices meet the differentiated SLAs in different scenarios (Fig. 1)
With the maturity of 5G slicing standards, transmission and RAN sub-slices are introduced into the end-to-end network slicing. Slice design as well as guaranteed analysis and strategy are also added to the orchestration management system built in the early stage to provide full life-cycle management of the end-to-end slicing. While implementing slicing services, its operation mode needs to be considered, including slicing delivery, pricing, billing, and capability exposure, to accumulate experience and technologies for commercialization.
Evolution is Trend
In response to the rapid commercial needs of the first wave of eMBB and the differentiated needs and evolution challenges of the second or even more waves of vertical industry applications, 5G Core needs to evolve to support multi-dimensional 5G industrial packages and enable thousands of industries.
—5G and TSN are used to build an accurate network to enable real-time industrial IoT. Typical scenarios include intelligent orchestration of assembly lines, campus robots, accurate vehicle scheduling, and coordination of wind generators and rotors.
—NPN is used to build a secure, reliable and tailor-made 5G private network. Typical scenarios include industrial parks, mines, and container ports.
—5G LAN is used to rapidly deploy a secure and controllable enterprise LAN. Typical scenarios include large conferences, games, disaster relief, and remote office.
—Dedicated 5GC is used to build a low-cost and customized 5G network. Typical scenarios include various industrial applications that require high customization and security.
Through continuous cooperation with industry-leading operators, ZTE is accumulating more experience in 5G SA Core. Up to now, it has cooperated with more than 70 operators around the world with its leading products and solutions. ZTE is commercially deploying 5G SA Core on a large scale, making every effort to help leading operators offer 5G and make them be more competitive in the 5G IoE era.