Solving the 5G Core Network System Architecture Challenges for smooth Evolution

Huawei MWC2017 White Paper for SOC Core

Solving the 5G Core Network System Architecture Challenges for smooth Evolution

Sheikh is Huawei Middle East Senior Architect for NFV , SDN ,Telco Cloud with focus on ICT Service delivery through Telco DevOps . Focussed to define the Roads for future 5G Core Network . Always interested in those disruptive technology driving the industry transformation

From early 90’s the Telecom industry has seen a steady progression from 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G just seems around the corner. The proponents of 5G claims that there is huge potential in the new technology and will be bread and butter of Telecom Market for at least 10Years. Consider the Market worth of 5G along with the potential opportunities it will create it is reasonable to be ready for the new network readiness to milk the market , however the so many interfaces with too complex use cases means lot of complexity in integity and value creation for this NG Solution .

Infact the great opportunity also comes with big challenges, the inclusion of many verticals in the 5G network will mean loss of challenges especially with regard to Integration with existing technology and networks and smooth migration. This is also a question how to build the operations model of such converged Core or which we call in Huawei as SOC (Service Oriented Core) which will be shared among many verticals .

Actually the complexity and capacity volume which 5G networks are around to offer surmount complexity which require consideration around many domains like

  • Eradicate dependency on any Access Network and UE’s and still need assure 100% interworking and backward compatibility
  • NFV to build capacity
  • SDN to program capacity efficiently
  • API exposure to integrate many 3rd parties
  • Unified Pane of operations to make all components work as a System
  • Open Architecture based on Software industry Micro service and SOA

If we see to meet those challenges we need to understand lot of standards and customize it as per customer requirements and this is the key task for the system integrator.

The requirements of 5G Core networks will be much customized in two ways. The first one they have to offer the services to many end users like Industry vertical, Government, Healthcare, Telco’s, Media entertainment and secondly in each vertical it needs to offer a customized solution for every customer segment hence the traditional fixed use cases can not apply, as Core Network service catalog has to customized and optimize for each segment and customer.

With more than 10Gbps speeds readiness for the end-users/devices it is clear the brain of the 5G network must be based on hyper scaling of NFV Clouds powered by agility of SDN. May be the space of enterprise will also converge to Carrier to deliver across geographical provision capability through SD-WANs

How the CSP’s will deliver value of well-defined and standardized systems in this complex Eco systems surely will require lot of work to do around Tools , Management systems , Automation and efficiency to meet the new network requirements

With the overall system becoming more open the risk for Security will be huger. Especially with billions of devices connecting and authorizing through the DCN and 3rd party platforms will require proactive measure to find security breaches such as to build in-house security systems around red/blue teams, it will require security integration and testing in ways far exceeding simple LDAP or IAM measures.

To well imagine the change in Network architecture it is very important to understand the IT and Enterprise architecture, after all the two technologies NFV and SDN are inherited from the World of IT. As IT consultants we all know that the first base of IT applications is that they are totally separated from the Hardware. It means the Application itself can decide HA, Healing, Data availability and restore with almost no dependency on under lying layer. However in Telco’s most of the work depends on close coordination between the two layers. Hence the VNF design itself should adjust around micro service based on VNFC (VNF Components) integration through APIs’. It is really very important for service scaling.

As is the case in Telco industry today all the SLA compliance and KPI settlement is based on NF functional architecture with less focus and control for each user . However in 5G with so many users from different segments using the service the network really have to support the way of Naas (Network as a service) to provide the accurately tuned slice for the customer tied with the offered SLA/KPI . The Network slice is a concept that will extend beyond Tenant provision and control. It is because slice has to start from Radio resource to IP to Tenants to VNF. In other words the slice need to be well contained and defined and every Node and Function that to monitor/Manage and report the slice usage.

What is an API, recently we have seen huge growth in the API integrators and ecosystem .The market itself is worth billions and we really need to see the advantages API will bring to the 5G. Like it will support for any 3rd party integration, 3rd party programming and finally service modelling and control. This is a perfect new world.

What we know is Cloud is written in PYTHON and VNF support YANG modeling with YAML /XML for onboarding and above all the REST API is standard way to retrieve information from each layer. This model of using programming the functions will enable to apply DevOps model to the 5G Network and to apply software style to improve service and end user experience. For Example NFVO can write a Python code to program service which can compose of GSO , NFVO , SDNO to deliver seamless experience of service across the data centers .It can also monitor and report the SLA for customer offering and can integrate with OSS .

Multi tenancy is a key concept in the cloud world where by many applications like VNF can host on the same cloud the key ideas of VPC , Cell , Region ,Domain , AZ will support all VNF to assure of its share and control separately including Horizon dash board and low parameters tweaking such as connectivity with Neutron Provider networks . It means future the 5G Network is all about a number of data centers. The Co-Deployment is key trend in 5G and to start journey towards Hyper scaling of Clouds.

The recent report from Light reading have suggested that the industry will need layered DC architecture to offer 5G which means central DC cannot meet the service requirements , this is where AWS , Google ,Face book data centers have not delivered opening a big opportunity pipe of CT vendors to design the layers accurately to meet the service requirements . The DC design to meet the uRLC and eMBB latency and delay requirements is key enabler to build a future proof 5G Network.

The security measures need to emphasize in each layer of the network including NFVI, Cloud, MANO, Application and in VNF as well .Most important point is that the authentication /interface are de-coupled from the other CN functions .Various authentication methods will support plug and play with access agnostic manner and the authentication capabilities will be open for the Apps for the new stream revenue.

Though 5G network seems exciting but it must be clear it has to live with the existing legacy network for at least 3-5years in mature markets. It is therefore that 5G have to support number of networking modes to assure smooth integration with the 3G/4G networks and offloading options as well. The R13, R14 Décor /eDecor interworking will make such a solution possible .However it seems clear the future many of UE /Device functions must move to the Network side to assure the smooth evolution of the whole eco system.

It is assumed that in first phase only the 5G Radio also called gNB will be ready only and first phase must be its integration with EPC /4G it will also help to solve lot of issues related to radio before evolving to the 5G Core.

Finally the 5G Network will require a lot of Organization adjustment both in terms of skills and process. The new technology will require accurate modeling for the transformation and automation. To support this wave the CSP’s need to acquire lot of IT skills for the future programmable network. One of very close friend and Guru in DevOps once said to me it’s not about the code but why and how the code is written which will decide the future of organization roles in CSP’s and for sure the Scrum master is going to be the key to glue the transformation from as in situation to the to be situation because with so many solution evolving and no uniform way to apply DevOps or IaaC cycle to the NFV/SDN network.

I hope you have found this paper useful, I have tried to craft this paper solely to understand the myths of technologies and complexities that surround the 5G Core network Architecture . It is believed NFV, SDN, Transformation, DevOps, Telco Cloud dreams must be achieved before 5G Core arrives in the market . It is also rumored in the industry the Open Source is key contributor to achieve the goal. Hence as a Technologist it is exciting era to look how these complex and related technologies will guide the future network of 2020 .

As we continue to travel ,it is expected to find lot of new challenges along the road and I will try to keep my audience well informed with what we will face and how to find a collaboration model to solve it !!! Best of Luck


The key 5G Core Network Components are

  1. AMF is the access and mobility management function , the AMF will also include the Slice selection functionality
  2. SMF is session management function
  3. UPF is user or data pane management totally separate from control Plane
  4. UDM is unified data management a part of SDM
  5. NRF is the VNF repository to be called by each VNF through API the key requirement to build Open and scalar 5G Core Network

3GPP TR23.501

Light Reading

KT Telecom White Paper

3GPP TS 23.711

ETSI NFV Phase2 Specifications

OPNFV DANUBE the use case of Telco DevOps

Open -O Mercury use cases of VoLTE and Core Network System Integration

Linux Founation seminar on 04th May on Running a successful Open Source Project

Published by

Saad Sheikh

I am a Senior Architect with a passion to architect and deliver solutions addressing business adoption of the Cloud and Automation/Orchestration covering both Telco and IT Applications industry. My work in carrier Digital transformation involve Architecting and deploying Platforms for both Telco and IT Applications including Clouds both Open stack and container platforms, carrier grade NFV ,SDN and Infra Networking , DevOps CI/CD , Orchestration both NFVO and E2E SO , Edge and 5G platforms for both Consumer and Enterprise business. On DevOps side i am deeply interested in TaaS platforms and journey towards unified clouds including transition strategy for successful migration to the Cloud Please write to me on

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