Building for convergence: common core accelerates network convergence

25 Feb 2019

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The 2G network makes the conversation easier, the 3G network makes data services essential, the 4G network changes the life, and the 5G network changes the production. Technologies are refreshing more and more quickly, but existing networks still have value in a certain period of time. With the commercial deployment of the 5G network in the future, operators will face the coexistence of 2G/3G/4G/5G/Fixed networks. Managing so many networks at the same time will be a huge challenge for operators. How can operators simplify the network structure, optimize the network quality, reduce the TCO, and meet more diverse network requirements?

Based on the NFV technology, SBA/SBA+ (service-based architecture), DevOps concept, and AI technology, ZTE introduces the fully converged Common Core solution to simplify the network architecture and reduce the complexity of operation and maintenance (O&M), helping operators solve all the challenges and embrace the 5G era.

One Core for all
The 2G/3G/4G/5G/Fixed multiple access modes are subject to different requirements of the control plane, user plane and forwarding plane in various scenarios. ZTE Common Core adopts SBA/SBA+ to reorganize functions of the control plane, user plane and forwarding plane, to carry out resource sharing maximally and reduce TCO. For example, an SGSN/MME in the 2G/3G/4G network may be converged into an AMF (Access and Mobility Management Function) of the 5GC, to implement shared mobility management at the micro-service level. User planes from different access systems are also fully converged, to provide consistent user experience for end users.

Signaling on the control plane is unified by the full convergence technology. Therefore, signaling interaction between users with different access modes is greatly optimized, and the latency of signaling interaction is greatly reduced, switching time is greatly shortened, and user experience is greatly improved.

On the forwarding plane, the CUPS technology and acceleration technology of telecom virtualization are used. The forwarding plane is moved to the city or even the edge to perform efficient forwarding, meeting requirements of URLLC (Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications) and eMBB (enhanced Mobile Broadband).

ZTE Common Core solution provides the full convergence of converged control, converged strategy, converged data and converged forwarding. End-to-end network slices are deployed to meet diversified access modes and requirements of different network scenarios. This solution is to achieve One Core for All.

Open network architecture

Figure 1 Network Architecture of ZTE 5G Converged Common Core

SBA introduced by 5G is a new technology innovation. It is a top-down, full-open architecture that is thoroughly opened and decoupled at the service layer. This architecture is very helpful for operators to rapidly deploy rich and variable services, and implement on-demand orchestration and upgrade through fine-grained services, so as to meet requirements for long-term network evolution.

At the same time, Common Core has proposed the innovative SBA+ which is an optimization of SBA by extracting and reassembling the functions of the SBI (Service Based Interface) bus and NF (Network Function). For example, some common functions such as LB (Load Balance), Router, and Controller in the SBI bus are extracted to form a part of the Service Framework, so that the SBI is more efficient and flexible in deployment. Common Core optimizes and reconstructs the AMF NF, and subdivides its communications functions. As a result, functions of NFs are purer, and coupling degree is lower, so that richer NF entities can be combined. A road is paved for evolution from the R15 SBA to the R16 eSBA.

Supporting both NSA and SA networking
In the early stage of 5G network construction, hot spot coverage is mainly performed. Therefore, the existing EPC need to cooperate with 5GC to support 2G/3G/4G/5G services. In the maturity period of 5G network , 4G and 5G networks will still coexist for a long time. EPC equipment will gradually exit the network, while the converged 5GC will support multiple access modes.

Based on the cloud native design of SBA/SBA+, ZTE Common Core enables EPC/EPC+ to share the advanced architecture of 5GC, and supports any combination of EPC/EPC+/5GC to meet the diversified requirements of operators for NSA and SA networking deployment. Common Core can dynamically adjust the resource allocation of NSA and SA networks according to requirements, and implement smooth evolution from the existing network to the target SA network, so as to avoid secondary upgrade.

Simplified network operation and maintenance
In the 5G era, operators face various challenges such as diversified requirements, complicated O&M, fast onboarding and growing cost. Common Core integrates DevOps into the full-lifecycle management of the entire network, breaks through the end-to-end process from design, development, test, orchestration, to deployment and O&M, provides unified O&M, and finally realizes fast onboarding of services as well as simplifies and accelerates O&M, to help operators reduce OPEX.

At the same time, 5G is also an intelligent big data era. Common Core innovatively introduces AI technology into DevOps. By analyzing massive O&M data and combining with advanced algorithms, it optimizes these data to achieve intelligent and automatic network O&M with the fastest speed, most accurate response, highest efficiency and lowest cost.

Figure 2 End-to-End Management Orchestration Architecture of ZTE CloudStudio

As a part of the Common Core solution, ZTE’s CloudStudio end-to-end management orchestration system carries out system-wide automatic orchestration and end-to-end automatic fulfillment, so that DevOps can be implemented to provide the entire system including wireless, bearer and core networks with the end-to-end network-wide orchestration and deployment, ensuring the end-to-end service experience and service quality.

Born for Convergence
Through the convergence design concept of One Core for All, the network is simplified and converged to bring new value to users and operators.

The open network architecture of SBA/SBA+, the automatic O&M of DevOps, and network slicing and CUPS technologies of 5G, enable end users and operators to benefit from the converged network.

From a user's point of view, he/she can enjoy shorter delay, faster speed, and better experience; from the operator's point of view, the improvement of customer experience brings more customer value, and a simpler, open, integrated and intelligent network saves TCO and enables the operator to be in a more advantageous position in the competition.

In addition, operator's investment is protected by unified converged One Core, unified anchor point, unified user experience, unified user account, unified O&M, and smooth upgrade.

As of now, ZTE Common Core has been highly recognized by mainstream operators worldwide. ZTE carries out in-depth cooperation with more than 20 operators to develop 5G technologies. For example, ZTE worked with China Unicom and Qualcomm to make through the world’s first 5G 3.5GHz NSA First call based on the R15 930; For China Mobile, ZTE took the lead in completing the 3-laye decoupling test of 5GC and deploying the SA 5GC; For China Telecom, ZTE made through the SA 5G First Call based on 3-layer decoupling. In addition, ZTE collaborate with Italy WINDTre to build the first 5G pre-commercial network in Europe, and complete the field First Call of NSA 5G.

Common Core makes One Core for All becoming the network convergence accelerator for operators to welcome the arrival of the 5G era.

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