Monday, 18 December 2017

Control and User Plane Separation of EPC nodes (CUPS) in 3GPP Release-14

One of the items in 3GPP Rel-14 is Control and User Plane Separation of EPC nodes (CUPS). I have made a video explaining this concept that is embedded below.

In 3G networks (just considering PS domain), the SGSN and GGSN handles the control plane that is responsible for signalling as well as the user plane which is responsible for the user data. This is not a very efficient approach for deployment.

You can have networks that have a lot of signalling (remember signaling storm?) due to a lot of smartphone users but not necessarily consuming a lot of data (mainly due to price reasons). On the other hand you can have networks where there is not a lot of signalling but lot of data consumption. An example of this would be lots of data dongles or MiFi devices where users are also consuming a lot of data, because it’s cheap.

To cater for these different scenarios, the control plane and user plane was separated to an extent in the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). MME handles the control plane signalling while S-GW & P-GW handles the user plane

CUPS goes one step further by separating control & user plane from S-GW, P-GW & TDF. TDF is Traffic Detection Function which was introduced together with Sd reference point as means for traffic management in the Release 11. The Sd reference point is used for Deep Packet Inspections (DPI) purposes. TDF also provides the operators with the opportunity to capitalize on analytics for traffic optimization, charging and content manipulation and it works very closely with Policy and charging rules function, PCRF.

As mentioned, CUPS provides the architecture enhancements for the separation of S-GW, P-GW & TDF functionality in the EPC. This enables flexible network deployment and operation, by using either distributed or centralized deployment. It also allows independent scaling between control plane and user plane functions - while not affecting the functionality of the existing nodes subject to this split.

As the 3GPP article mentions, CUPS allows for:
  • Reducing Latency on application service, e.g. by selecting User plane nodes which are closer to the RAN or more appropriate for the intended UE usage type without increasing the number of control plane nodes.
  • Supporting Increase of Data Traffic, by enabling to add user plane nodes without changing the number of SGW-C, PGW-C and TDF-C in the network.
  • Locating and Scaling the CP and UP resources of the EPC nodes independently.
  • Independent evolution of the CP and UP functions.
  • Enabling Software Defined Networking to deliver user plane data more efficiently.

The following high-level principles were also adopted for the CUPS:
  • The CP function terminates the Control Plane protocols: GTP-C, Diameter (Gx, Gy, Gz).
  • A CP function can interface multiple UP functions, and a UP function can be shared by multiple CP functions.
  • An UE is served by a single SGW-CP but multiple SGW-UPs can be selected for different PDN connections. A user plane data packet may traverse multiple UP functions.
  • The CP function controls the processing of the packets in the UP function by provisioning a set of rules in Sx sessions, i.e. Packet Detection Rules for packets inspection, Forwarding Action Rules for packets handling (e.g. forward, duplicate, buffer, drop), Qos Enforcement Rules to enforce QoS policing on the packets, Usage Reporting Rules for measuring the traffic usage.
  • All the 3GPP features impacting the UP function (PCC, Charging, Lawful Interception, etc) are supported, while the UP function is designed as much as possible 3GPP agnostic. For example, the UPF is not aware of bearer concept.
  • Charging and Usage Monitoring are supported by instructing the UP function to measure and report traffic usage, using Usage Reporting Rule(s). No impact is expected to OFCS, OCS and the PCRF.
  • The CP or UP function is responsible for GTP-u F-TEID allocation.
  • A legacy SGW, PGW and TDF can be replaced by a split node without effecting connected legacy nodes.
CUPS forms the basis of EPC architecture evolution for Service-Based Architecture for 5G Core Networks. More in another post soon.

A short video on CUPS below, slides available here.

Further reading:

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