5G new opportunity, 2B new market
On March 24, China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) issued the Notice Regarding Promoting the Quick Development of 5G. This notice explicitly proposes to speed up the construction and deployment of 5G networks, enrich 5G technology application scenarios, promote the coordinated development of 5G and various industries, and build an 5G application ecosystem. According to the CCID Consulting, the 5G industry will generate a direct output of 484 billion yuan in 2020, with an increase of 3.3 trillion yuan in 2025 and 6.3 trillion yuan in 2030. It is estimated that by 2025, there will be 1.1 trillion yuan invested for telecom operator networks and 0.47 trillion yuan invested for vertical industry networks and equipment.
It is easy to see that 5G construction targets not only include the 2C market for ordinary consumers, but also the more important 2B market with wider and sustained growth spaces. The new business model and consumption model brought by the 2B market will inject new impetus to the development of the 5G industry.
The traditional consumer-oriented 2C network provides consumers with unified and consistent high-bandwidth service experience. It fundamentally meets consumers’ common requirements. The technical upgrades involved in this process include moving the user plane to edge, constructing cloud infrastructure, and upgrading CPUs and NICs of hardware servers. However, the business model has not changed in essence.
The mission of 2B is to enable a variety of industries. The diversity of 2B service requirements and strong customization and differentiation of industrial services determine that 2C-oriented networks cannot be simply reused as 2B networks. 2B service innovation focuses on the core network. Therefore, the 5G core network needs to be optimized and enhanced in accordance with characteristics of 2B industries to build new networks and empower new businesses.
2B new business promotes comprehensive enhancement of 5G Core
The following is an analysis of the magic quadrant market opportunity points of the 5G-enabled 2B new business, including 5G Core enhancement technologies corresponding to each type of market opportunity point.
Figure 1: Distribution of 2B New Business Market Opportunity Point and 5G Core Enhancement
To match 2B service development, the 5G core network need to carry out enhancement and evolution in three directions: Function reconstruction, standard first, and edge innovation.
It includes three aspects: CUPS enhancement, redefinition of 2B UPF, and decoupling of N4 interface.
The 2B-oriented 5G core network continues to upgrade and evolve on the CUPS architecture, and supports ETSUN (Enhancing Topology of SMF and UPF in 5G Networks). SMF and UPF also introduce more layers and forms into ETSUN.
As the most directly related network function in the core network and 2B industry, UPF requires to adapt and optimize the architecture, redefine and enhance the function set, and adjust and extend the NE form, so as to be reconstructed as a 2B UPF. 2B UPF differs from 2C UPF in that it supports more rapid customized, more open capability and more flexible deployment. It is tailored to meet the development needs of 2B industry.
The exposure and decoupling of the N4 interface is an urgent problem for 2B industrial applications. In March, 2020, China Mobile released the OpenUPF White Paper – N4 Decoupling Specifications (Phase 1), aiming to achieve open interfaces and unified architecture for vertical industry applications and promote win-win cooperation of the whole industry. As the first vendor to launch the 2G/3G/4G/5G fully converged core network (Common Core) in the industry, ZTE will continue to tap into the 2B-oriented UPF and enable new business upgrade.
At the standard level, R16 introduces more standards for 2B scenarios, such as 5G LAN, TSN (Time Sensitive Networking), NPN (Non-Public Network), and URLLC (Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communication). It makes a layout ahead of time for large-scale integration of 5G with 2B applications at the standard layer.
The introduction of enhanced specifications such as 5G LAN, TSN and URLLC not only greatly reduces the latency, improves reliability, but also provides service experience with deterministic latency, meeting the requirements of latency-sensitive services in industries such as industrial manufacturing and electric power. By combining LAN and 5G technology, end stations can be inter-connected remotely within a LAN that transmitted on 5G, so as to greatly improve the communication efficiency of the industrial Internet.
5G standards will serve 2B business. 5G should be an enabler rather than a subverter. For example, to make the 5G network providing TSN capability, the standard considers that the whole 5G system should be transparently connected to the industry TSN network as a bridging node, without changing the original TSN network architecture, so as to quickly promote the integration of 5G and the industry.
As the standard of R16 2B enhanced functions is gradually improved, ZTE will continue to iterate and evolve its technologies to launch end-to-end solutions and products.
In general, the innovation of technology is from top to bottom. With the development and deployment of 5G, the innovation of 5G Core is also gradually shifting from the center to the edge. According to Gartner’s latest TOP 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020, empowered edge is one of the trends.
The combination of 5G and edge leads to a series of technical innovations such as 5G MEC, heterogeneous computing, hardware acceleration and edge exposure. In essence, this also indicates that the 2B-oriented construction needs to follow 2B applications which are driving 5G network innovation and upgrade.
The edge need not only traditional CT but also IT capabilities, including big data, machine learning, video rendering and so on. At the same time, the edge needs to establish channels connecting to the network slicing system and the BSS/OSS, to implement unified subscription, orchestration and operation and maintenance of edge capabilities.
ZTE took the lead in launching an innovative network slicing+MEC solution in the industry to break through end-to-end 5G edge networks.
ZTE 5G Common Core with all-round enhancements assists 2B business innovation
As a practitioner of 5G, ZTE actively participates in the construction of national 5G new infrastructure, continuously implements update and iteration on the basis of the 2C-oriented 5G Core, and is going to build an enhanced 2B-oriented 5G Core.
Figure 2: ZTE 5G Common Core 2B Enhancement Solution
ZTE Common Core can meet flexible deployment requirements of 2B and 2C at the same time. It is recommended that 2B and 2C be deployed separately and share some basic NFs. Common Core provides full-series and full-scenario solutions from center to edge, from software to hardware, and from NFs to infrastructure, meeting diversified requirements of 2B services.
At the software level, Common Core provides multiple product forms of 2B UPF, multiple session types of IP and Ethernet access, flexible multi-path offloading strategy, and multiple exposure capabilities of CT and IT integration, to construct the application-driven 2B software architecture.
On the hardware layer, corresponding hardware can be deployed in accordance with different requirements of data centers. In the central DC, as it has sufficient resources and requires strong computing capability, computing-intensive hardware can be selected. In the city and edge, as they have high requirements on the forwarding plane, network-intensive nodes are selected, such as E5430. If there are extremely high requirements for network bandwidth and latency, ZTE’s leading FPGA-based 100G SmartNIC can also be used to obtain forwarding performance several times that of software acceleration. ZTE has also continuously launched a highly integrated hardware platform to continuously meet the development requirements of the 2B industry.
2B UPF is one of the most customized network functions of the 5G core network. Considering long-term differences and variations in messages and parameter of the N4 interface, ZTE combines the flexible dynamic codec mechanism and configuration commands in UPF design, so that ZTE UPF can flexibly adapt to external interface changes and support fast iteration.
Based on the feature of some 2B industries having massive connections, ZTE continuously improves stateless design, optimizes the context storage structure, and supports super big data connections. ZTE further simplifies front-end processing instructions and optimizes signaling flows to meet the requirements for massive connections and agile elasticity of 2B services.
SBA is upgraded to R16 eSBA, and the microservice architecture is further integrated and optimized, so that a high-efficiency microservice platform is built to provide gray upgrade at the microservice level. The microservice-based gray upgrade has small granularity. During the upgrade, services are not affected, and applications are unaware, meeting innovative and customized development requirements of 2B services.
Following the fast innovation concept of “one-point innovation and multi-point replication”, ZTE builds a lightweight one-stop 5G edge network. The out-of-the-box plug-and-play 5G edge network can obtain addresses automatically, establish links dynamically, and provide one-stop service experience at the edge.
ZTE Common Core provides dual-engine of VM and container. Deployed at the edge, containers with the lightweight characteristic achieve small resource occupation and fast elasticity, which are more applicable to industry applications with frequent traffic model changes. On the other hand, deploying containers makes it easier for IT and CT integrating on the same platform and helps to construct an open PaaS platform that can provide generic service capabilities of the platform.
The edge UPF supports built-in vFW to provide anti-attack capability, which guarantees the security and reliability of the edge network and further reduces the network construction cost of the operator.
From the beginning of design, ZTE 5G Common Core fully considered network features of 2B services and differences between business models, and can meet construction requirements of both 2C and 2B networks. So far, ZTE has obtained 46 5G commercial contracts worldwide, and has carried out in-depth 5G cooperation with more than 70 operators worldwide. ZTE will consistently uphold the core concept of “Simplicity and agility make success”, continuously enhance the 5G core network, and lead technological innovation on the new 2B track, to empower 2B new business.