To embrace the coming of 5G era, telecom operators worldwide are searching for innovative technologies to develop and deploy networks and services intelligently and automatically. At the China SDN/NFV/AI Conference 2019 in Beijing. Chen Xinyu, ZTE’s President of Cloud & Core Network Products, shared his thoughts on the 5G network architecture construction.
5G is a service-oriented network, how will core network show its evolution and importance in the 5G era?
Chen Xinyu: The driving force of 5G is to meet the requirements of Internet of Everything, to support three scenarios, eMBB, URLLC and mMTC. The deep combination of 5G and vertical industry IoT applications becomes the biggest opportunity for operators to increase revenue. In the 5G era, operators should fully consider network + connection + content + application, and focus on key industries and applications, to actively promote 5G services.
Network architecture decides network competitiveness. Once determined, it is really hard to adjust network architecture. Serving as the control center of telecom network, core network is the brain of network. 5G requires massive machine connections, ultra-low latency and ultra-high bandwidth. Such requirements need core network making quick response and processing, so a smart new core network is essential. It is very important to build 5G target network architecture once for all. Building a new 5GC is the key to remodel operators’ competitiveness.
The new 5GC is based on NFV/SDN technology, convenient for centralized construction and intensive O&M. Service Based Architecture (SBA) is 5G target network architecture. The advanced network architecture can avoid overlapping investment and frequent network reconstruction, and help operators take the leading position in the market. End-to-end network slicing technology is the basis supporting Internet of Everything, facilitating developing cooperation with vertical industries, rapidly promoting new services, and conforming to requirements of innovation and development. The DevOps + AI based intelligent O&M system drives agile development and deployment of innovative services, which shortens the time-to-market (TTM) of new services, enhances operators’ market competitiveness, and reduces CAPEX and OPEX.
To build 5GC, ZTE introduces SBA and virtualization technology, what are the ZTE’s innovations on 5GC?
Chen Xinyu: ZTE 5GC is based on the latest 3GPP R15 SBA. Leveraging CUPS, architecture convergence, distributed resource pool, network slicing and other technologies, it will help the operator build an agile, efficient, converged and intelligent core network rapidly, meeting all kinds of scenarios of 2G/3G/4G/5G/Fixed and vertical industries, to assist digital transformation and 5G evolution.
ZTE 5GC has following main innovations.
- Ultra simplified architecture: independent service, configuration, upgrading and scalling based on SBA+; compare with traditional NFV, it provides more flexible plug-and-play network services in the 5G network, to lay a foundation for users’ customized network.
- Ultra wide forwarding: virtualization user plane solution uses various methods to improve forwarding capability, including supporting single/dual NIC, and high speed NIC (such as 100G SmartNIC). ZTE exclusively promote the traffic offload high-performance forwarding solution to achieve high-speed packet forwarding, to meeting high-speed, low-latency service requirements.
- Intelligent O&M: the full lifecycle of automated O&M capability is improved from design, deployment, and assurance through design tool, E2E deployment, automated service configuration and test, grayscale upgrade, and AI-based cross-layer alarm association RCA, so as to improve O&M efficiency of engineering and production line, reduce OPEX, and shorten service TTM.
On the technical layer, how to achieve fully openness to services? What service value will it bring?
Chen Xinyu: Facing differences and changes in the industry, quick adaption at low cost and continuous innovation are the ways to develop. With micro-service architecture design, a large core network system is split into multiple micro-service modules, and different modules are combined to realize required network element functions. Each micro-service is independent and provides a standard open API for upper layer services or third party system calling. Therefore, it can quickly respond to personalized industry needs and realize rapid deployment of services.
For example, ZTE provides an ICT microservice component library, containing 300+ 4G, 5G, IT and other components. By reusing and opening micro-services, application developers only need to focus on logic innovation and development, so as to accelerate application innovation of IoT, video, enterprise and so on.
ZTE proposed the intelligent simplified 5G network, what innovations have you made in network simplification? What step has been taken so far, and what is the further goal?
Chen Xinyu: ZTE’s intelligent simplified 5G network solution results from the close cooperation with our customers.
Network simplification must first meet the basic commercial requirements of customers, and secondly, adopt appropriate methodology. And the most important thing is a leading product.
ZTE has launched Common Core, the industry-leading 5G-oriented converged core network product and solution, to meet full access of 2G/3G/4G/5G/Fixed network. It contains converged control plane, forwarding plane, user data and policy management, supports unified resource management, unified authentication and authorization, unified user experience and unified O&M, and aims at providing operators with efficient, open and intelligent new-generation networks. It helps operators achieve multi-network service collaboration, deployment, and network evolution in the 5G era, to reduce deployment and evolution costs.
Currently, Common Core has achieved the convergence of 2/3/4/5G, and ZTE will achieve fixed and mobile convergence in the next step. On the basis of 5G eMBB, it will further support mMTC, uRLLC and more service scenarios.
From the attitude of Chinese government, 5G commercialization really needs to be accelerated. This year, commercialization should be based on NSA. What are the differences between NSA core network construction and SA core network construction?
Chen Xinyu: NSA mainly meets the requirements of eMBB services at the 5G initial stage, and has the advantage of quickly experiencing 5G services. NSA core network still uses the traditional 4G core network, and the software architecture layer has not changed. NSA can be supported by upgrading traditional equipment or building new virtualized 4G core network.
Compared with the NSA EPC network, the SA 5GC is naturally based on virtualization. By introducing MANO, slice/sub-slice management and other functions, it can meet the characteristics of on-demand slice customization, rapid generation, and dynamic release, to better meet differentiated demands of vertical industries. With unique edge computing capability and multi-level UPF architecture, it supports on-demand, multi-level, flexible deployment of UPF, and supports low-latency local processing services such as VR/AR, industrial Internet, IoT, and enterprise networks.
What are the key points for operators to invest in the construction of the core network? What is the performance of ZTE?
Chen Xinyu: Performance and cost are two key issues that operators pay attention to when building 5G core network. ZTE Common Core supports both NSA and SA, helping operators avoid overlapping upgrade and investment in 5G network construction, to realize one core network for multi-system access. Its industry-leading 5G virtual edge UPF breaks through the performance and latency bottleneck of virtualization forwarding, achieving ultra-high performance and ultra-low latency. It is the best solution for the industry to balance performance, cost and openness. The forwarding plane performance of single server increases by 3 times, from 60Gbps to 180Gbps. The latency declines by 90%, from 100us to 10us. The power consumption and footprint of each Gbit is reduced by more than 50%.
What test and verification progress has ZTE and operators made in the 5G core network? How is it performing? When is it expected to be put into commercial use?
Chen Xinyu: So far, ZTE has carried out 5G cooperation and test with over 30 mainstream operators worldwide, actively promoting the scale commercial use of 5G.
By virtue of excellent 5G products and solutions, ZTE ranks in the first camp of 5G. Since Chinese operators started 5G SA core network test in September last year, ZTE has won numerous firsts with its many years of professional and technical accumulation: the first to make through the 5GC First Call based on three-layer decoupling and SA architecture, the first to complete the two-way interoperation between 4G and 5G, and the first to complete comprehensive function test of multiple VNFs including AMF / NSSF / NRF / SMF / AUSF / UDM / PCF / UPF.
ZTE 5GC is commercial ready, and the commercial version of Common Core was released in Q1 2019, to accelerate 5G commercialization and 4G expansion.