Showing posts with label 5G. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5G. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) 2017 Conference summary

Picture Source: Martin Geddes

It was a pleasure to attend this conference this week. Not only was the topic of interest but I am always impressed by how well EIE organizes their events. Instead of writing my own summary, here is a story created from tweets, 'The Mobile Network' live blog and a summary write-up from Martin Geddes. I have my takeaways below.



My takeaway from the conference is that:

  • URLLC is going to be challenging but its achievable.
  • Ultra-reliable (UR) may have different use cases then low latency communication (LLC). Lumping them together in URLLC is not helpful.
  • Extremely low latency may not be achievable in every scenario. In some cases it would make more sense to continue with existing or proprietary solutions.
  • URLLC may not happen when 5G is rolled out initially but will happen not long after that. 
  • There are many verticals who may be able to take advantage of both the higher data rates that would come as part of eMBB and the low latency and high reliability as part of URLLC. 
  • The operators would have to foot the bill for upgrading the networks as there is a relucatnce from the verticals to invest in something they cant see or play with
  • There are verticals who invest heavily in alternative solutions that 5G may be able to solve. Some operators believe that this will bring new revenue to the mobile operators
  • Slicing has a lot of open questions including Security and SLAs - nobody has a clear cut answer at the moment
  • The industry is in a learning phase, figuring things out as they go along. There should be much more clarity next year.
  • #URLLC2018 is on 13 & 14 Nov. 2018 in London. Plenty of time to find all the answers 😉


Further reading:

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Couple of quick interviews from URLLC 2017 Conference

I tried the Facebook Live feature yesterday at the URLLC 2017 conference and recorded a couple of quick interviews with Martin Geddes and Prof. Andy Sutton. Hope you find them useful.

           

Friday, 10 November 2017

5G Research Presentation on URLLC


Dr.Mehdi Bennis from Centre for Wireless Communications, University of Oulu, Finland recently did a keynote at The International Conference on Wireless Networks and Mobile Communications (WINCOM'17), November 01-04, 2017, Rabat, Morocco. He has shared his presentation with us. Its embedded below and available to download from Slideshare.

Picture Source: Ericsson

For those who may not be aware, there are 3 main use cases defined for 5G. As shown in the picture above, they are enhanced Mobile BroadBand (eMBB), Ultra-Reliable Low Latency Communications (URLLC) and massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC). You can read the requirements here.



Next week I am attending URLLC 2017, looking forward to some more discussions on this topic

Follow the 5G label to learn more about 5G on 3G4G blog.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

RRC states in 5G

Looking back at my old post about UMTS & LTE (re)selection/handovers, I wonder how many different kinds of handovers and (re)selection options may be needed now.

In another earlier post, I talked about the 5G specifications. This can also be seen in the picture above and may be easy to remember. The 25 series for UMTS mapped the same way to 36 series for LTE. Now the same mapping will be applied to 38 series for 5G. RRC specs would thus be 38.331.

A simple comparison of 5G and LTE RRC states can be seen in the picture above. As can be seen, a new state 'RRC Inactive' has been introduced. The main aim is to maintain the RRC connection while at the same time minimize signalling and power consumption.

Looking at the RRC specs you can see how 5G RRC states will work with 4G RRC states. There are still for further studies (FFS) items. Hopefully we will get more details soon.

3GPP TS 22.261, Service requirements for the 5G system; Stage 1 suggests the following with regards to inter-working with 2G & 3G

5.1.2.2 Legacy service support
The 5G system shall support all EPS capabilities (e.g., from TSs 22.011, 22.101, 22.278, 22.185, 22.071, 22.115, 22.153, 22.173) with the following exceptions:
- CS voice service continuity and/or fallback to GERAN or UTRAN,
- seamless handover between NG-RAN and GERAN,
- seamless handover between NG-RAN and UTRAN, and
- access to a 5G core network via GERAN or UTRAN.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

5G Forecasts and 5G Deployed Claim

Source: GSA

5G forecasts have been arriving steadily with many different figures. Here are some numbers:

Date Predicted by Number of Connections Year Any other comments
23-Aug-16 Strategy Analytics 690 million 2025 "690M Connections and 300M Handset Shipments"
15-Nov-16 Ericsson 500 million 2022 "North America will lead the way in uptake of 5G subscriptions, where a quarter of all mobile subscriptions are forecast to be for 5G in 2022."
30-Nov-16 ABI Research 500 million 2026 "500 Million 5G cmWave and mmWave Subscribers Will Bring $200 Billion in Service Revenue through 2026" - what about non mmWave/cmWave 5G subs?
12-Apr-17 CCS Insight 100 million 2021 "Smartphones sales will rise to 1.90 billion in 2021, when smartphones will account for 92 percent of the total mobile phone market."
26-Apr-17 GSMA 1.1 billion 2025 "5G connections are set to reach 1.1 billion by 2025, accounting for approximately one in eight mobile connections worldwide by this time."
16-May-17 Ovum 389 million 2022 "Ovum now forecasts that there will be 111 million 5G mobile broadband subscriptions at end-2021, up more than fourfold from Ovum’s previous forecast of 25 million 5G subscriptions at end-2021"
14-Aug-17 Juniper Research 1.4 billion 2025 "an increase from just 1 million in 2019, the anticipated first year of commercial launch. This will represent an average annual growth of 232%."
17-Oct-17 GSMA 214 million in Europe 2025 "30 per cent of Europe’s mobile connections will be running on 5G networks by 2025"
23-Oct-17 CCS Insight 2.6 billion 2025 "1 Billion Users of 5G by 2023, with More Than Half in China", "broadly similar path to 4G LTE technology...more than one in every five mobile connections."

If we just look at 2025/2026, the estimates vary from 500 million to 2.6 billion. I guess we will have to wait and see which of these figures comes true.

I wrote a post earlier titled '4G / LTE by stealth'. Here I talked about the operators who still had 3G networks while most people had 4G phones. The day the operator switched on the 4G network, suddenly all these users were considered to be on 4G, even if they didn't have 4G coverage just yet.

I have a few questions about what 5G features are necessary for the initial rollout and when can an operator claim they have 5G? In fact I asked this question on twitter and I got some interesting answers.

Just having a few 5G NR (new radio) sites enough for an operator to claim that they have deployed 5G? Would all the handsets with 5G compatibility then be considered to be on 5G? What features would be required in the initial rollouts? In case of LTE, operators initially only had Carrier Aggregation deployed, which was enough to claim they supported LTE-A. Would 100MHz bandwidth support be enough as initial 5G feature?

Please let me know what you think.

Monday, 23 October 2017

5G Architecture Options for Deployments?

I have blogged earlier about the multiple 5G Architecture options that are available (see Deutsche Telekom's presentation & 3G4G video). So I have been wondering what options will be deployed in real networks and when.
The 3GPP webinar highlighted that Option-3 would be the initial focus, followed by Option 2.


Last year AT&T had proposed the following 4 approaches as in the picture above. Recall that Option 1 is the current LTE radio connected to EPC.

ZTE favours Deployment option 2 as can be seen in the slide above

Huawei is favoring Option 3, followed by Option 7 or 2 (& 5)

Going back to the original KDDI presentation, they prefer Option 3, followed by Option 7.

If you are an operator, vendor, analyst, researcher, or anyone with an opinion, what options do you prefer?

Saturday, 7 October 2017

2G / 3G Switch Off: A Tale of Two Worlds

Source: Wikipedia

2G/3G switch off is always a topic of discussion in most conferences. While many companies are putting their eggs in 4G & 5G baskets, 2G & 3G is not going away anytime soon.

Based on my observations and many discussions that I have had over the past few months, I see a pattern emerging.

In most developed nations, 2G will be switched off (or some operators may leave a very thin layer) followed by re-farming of 3G. Operators will switch off 3G at earliest possible opportunity as most users would have moved to 4G. Users that would not have moved to 4G would be forced to move operators or upgrade their devices. This scenario is still probably 6 - 10 years out.



As we all know that 5G will need capacity (and coverage) layer in sub-6GHz, the 3G frequencies will either be re-farmed to 4G or 5G as 2G is already being re-farmed to 4G. Some operators may choose to re-balance the usage with some lower frequencies exchanged to be used for 5G (subject to enough bandwidth being available).


On the other hand, in the developing and less-developed nations, 3G will generally be switched off before 2G. The main reason being that there are still a lot of feature phone users that rely on 2G technologies. Most, if not all, 3G phones support 2G so the existing 3G users will be forced onto 2G. Those who can afford, will upgrade to newer smartphones while those who cant will have to grudgingly use 2G or change operators (not all operators in a country will do this at the same time).

Many operators in the developing countries believe that GSM will be around until 2030. While it may be difficult to predict that far in advance, I am inclined to believe this.

For anyone interested, here is a document listing 2G/3G switch off dates that have been publicly announced by the operators.



Let me know what you think.

Further reading:

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

5G Dual Connectivity, Webinar and Architecture Overview

One of the things that will come as a result of NSA (Non-StandAlone) architecture will be the option for Dual Connectivity (DC). In fact, DC was first introduced in LTE as part of 3GPP Release 12 (see 3G4G Small Cells blog entry here). WWRF (Wireless World Research Forum) has a good whitepaper on this topic here and NTT Docomo also has an excellent article on this here.

A simple way to understand the difference between Carrier Aggregation (CA) and Dual Connectivity (DC) is that in CA different carriers are served by the same backhaul (same eNB), while in DC they are served by different backhauls (different eNB or eNB & gNB).


We have produced a short video showing different 5G architectures, looking mainly at StandAlone (SA) and Non-StandAlone (NSA) architectures, both LTE-Assisted and NR-Assisted. The video is embedded below:



Finally, 3GPP has done a short webinar with the 3GPP RAN Chairman Balazs Bertenyi explaining the outcomes from RAN#77. Its available on BrightTalk here. If you are interested in the slides, they are available here.

Related posts:

Sunday, 3 September 2017

5G Core Network, System Architecture & Registration Procedure

The 5G System architecture (based on 3GPP TS 23.501: System Architecture for the 5G System; Stage 2) consists of the following network functions (NF). The functional description of these network functions is specified in clause 6.
- Authentication Server Function (AUSF)
- Core Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF)
- Data network (DN), e.g. operator services, Internet access or 3rd party services
- Structured Data Storage network function (SDSF)
- Unstructured Data Storage network function (UDSF)
- Network Exposure Function (NEF)
- NF Repository Function (NRF)
- Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF)
- Policy Control function (PCF)
- Session Management Function (SMF)
- Unified Data Management (UDM)
- Unified Data Repository (UDR)
- User plane Function (UPF)
- Application Function (AF)
- User Equipment (UE)
- (Radio) Access Network ((R)AN)

As you can see, this is slightly more complex than the 2G/3G/4G Core Network Architecture.

Alan Carlton, Vice President, InterDigital and Head of InterDigital International Labs Organization spanning Europe and Asia provided a concise summary of the changes in 5G core network in ComputerWorld:

Session management is all about the establishment, maintenance and tear down of data connections. In 2G and 3G this manifested as the standalone General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). 4G introduced a fully integrated data only system optimized for mobile broadband inside which basic telephony is supported as just one profile.

Mobility management as the name suggests deals with everything that needs doing to support the movement of users in a mobile network. This encompasses such functions as system registration, location tracking and handover. The principles of these functions have changed relatively little through the generations beyond optimizations to reduce the heavy signaling load they impose on the system.

The 4G core network’s main function today is to deliver an efficient data pipe. The existence of the service management function as a dedicated entity has been largely surrendered to the “applications” new world order. Session management and mobility management are now the two main functions that provide the raison d’etre for the core network.

Session management in 4G is all about enabling data connectivity and opening up a tunnel to the world of applications in the internet as quickly as possible. This is enabled by two core network functions, the Serving Gateway (SGW) and Packet Data Gateway (PGW). Mobility management ensures that these data sessions can be maintained as the user moves about the network. Mobility management functions are centralized within a network node referred to as Mobility Management Entity (MME). Services, including voice, are provided as an “app” running on top of this 4G data pipe. The keyword in this mix, however, is “function”. It is useful to highlight that the distinctive nature of the session and mobility management functions enables modularization of these software functions in a manner that they can be easily deployed on any Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware.

The biggest change in 5G is perhaps that services will actually be making a bit of a return...the plan is now to deliver the whole Network as a Service. The approach to this being taken in 3GPP is to re-architect the whole core based on a service-oriented architecture approach. This entails breaking everything down into even more detailed functions and sub-functions. The MME is gone but not forgotten. Its former functionality has been redistributed into precise families of mobility and session management network functions. As such, registration, reachability, mobility management and connection management are all now new services offered by a new general network function dubbed Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF). Session establishment and session management, also formerly part of the MME, will now be new services offered by a new network function called the Session Management Function (SMF). Furthermore, packet routing and forwarding functions, currently performed by the SGW and PGW in 4G, will now be realized as services rendered through a new network function called the User Plane Function (UPF).

The whole point of this new architectural approach is to enable a flexible Network as a Service solution. By standardizing a modularized set of services, this enables deployment on the fly in centralized, distributed or mixed configurations to enable target network configurations for different users. This very act of dynamically chaining together different services is what lies at the very heart of creating the magical network slices that will be so important in 5G to satisfy the diverse user demands expected. The bottom line in all this is that the emphasis is now entirely on software. The physical boxes where these software services are instantiated could be in the cloud or on any targeted COTS hardware in the system. It is this intangibility of physicality that is behind the notion that the core network might disappear in 5G.


3GPP TS 23.502: Procedures for the 5G System; Stage 2, provides examples of signalling for different scenarios. The MSC above shows the example of registration procedure. If you want a quick refresher of LTE registration procedure, see here.

I dont plan to expand on this procedure here. Checkout section "4.2.2 Registration Management procedures" in 23.502 for details. There are still a lot of FFS (For further studies 😉) in the specs that will get updated in the coming months.


Further Reading:

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Enhanced 5G Security via IMSI Encryption


IMSI Catchers can be a real threat. It doesn't generally affect anyone unless someone is out to get them. Nevertheless its a security flaw that is even present in LTE. This presentation here is a good starting point on learning about IMSI Catcher and the one here about privacy and availability attacks.


This article by Ericsson is a good starting point on how 5G will enhance security by IMSI encryption. From the article:
The concept we propose builds on an old idea that the mobile device encrypts its IMSI using home network’s asymmetric key before it is transmitted over the air-interface. By using probabilistic asymmetric encryption scheme – one that uses randomness – the same IMSI encrypted multiple times results in different values of encrypted IMSIs. This makes it infeasible for an active or passive attacker over the air-interface to identify the subscriber. Above is a simplified illustration of how a mobile device encrypts its IMSI. 
Each mobile operator (called the ‘home network’ here) has a public/private pair of asymmetric keys. The home network’s private asymmetric key is kept secret by the home network, while the home network’s public asymmetric key is pre-provisioned in mobile devices along with subscriber-specific IMSIs (Step 0). Note that the home network’s public asymmetric key is not subscriber-specific. 
For every encryption, the mobile device generates a fresh pair of its own public/private asymmetric keys (Step 1). This key pair is used only once, hence called ephemeral, and therefore provide probabilistic property to the encryption scheme. As shown in the figure, the mobile device then generates a new key (Step 2), e.g., using Diffie–Hellman key exchange. This new key is also ephemeral and is used only once to encrypt the mobile device’s IMSI (Step 3) using symmetric algorithm like AES. The use of asymmetric and symmetric crypto primitives as described above is commonly known as integrated/hybrid encryption scheme. The Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES) is a popular scheme of such kind and is very suitable to the use case of IMSI encryption because of low impact on radio bandwidth and mobile device’s battery. 
The nicest thing about the described concept is that no public key infrastructure is necessary, which significantly reduces deployment complexity, meaning that mobile operators can start deploying IMSI encryption for their subscribers without having to rely on any external party or other mobile operators.

'3GPP TR 33.899: Study on the security aspects of the next generation system' lists one such approach.


The Key steps are as follows:

  1. UE is configured with 5G (e)UICC with ‘K’ key, the Home Network ID, and its associated public key.
  2. SEAF send Identity Request message to NG-UE. NG-UE considers this as an indication to initiate Initial Authentication.
  3. NG-UE performs the following:
    1. Request the (e)UICC application to generate required security material for initial authentication, RANDUE, , COUNTER, KIARenc, and KIARInt.
    2. NG-UE builds IAR as per MASA. In this step NG-UE includes NG-UE Security Capabilities inside the IAR message. It also may include its IMEI. 
    3. NG-UE encrypts the whole IAR including the MAC with the home network public key.
    4. NG-UE sends IAR to SEAF.
  4. Optionally, gNB-CP node adds its Security Capabilities to the transposrt message between the gNB-CP and the SEAF (e.g., inside S1AP message as per 4G).
  5. gNB-CP sends the respective S1AP message that carries the NG-UE IAR message to the SEAF.
  6. SEAF acquirs the gNB-CP security capabilities as per the listed options in clause 5.2.4.12.4.3and save them as part of the temporary context for the NG-UE.
  7. SEAF follows MASA and forward the Authentication and Data Request message to the AUSF/ARPF.
  8. When AUSF/ARPF receives the Authentication and Data Request message, authenticates the NG-UE as per MASA and generates the IAS respective keys. AUSF/ARPF may recover the NG-UE IMSI and validate the NG-UE security capabilities.
  9. AUSF/ARPF sends Authentication and Data Response to the SEAF as per MASA with NG-UE Security Capabilities included.
  10. SEAF recovers the Subscriber IMSI, UE security Capabilities, IAS keys, RANDHN, COUNTER and does the following:
    1. Examine the UE Security Capabilities and decides on the Security parameters.
    2. SEAF may acquire the UP-GW security capabilities at this point after receiving the UP-GW identity from AUSF/ARPF or allocate it dynamically through provisioning and load balancing.
  11. SEAF builds IAS and send to the NG-UE following MASA. In addition, SEAF include the gNB-CP protocol agreed upon security parameters in the S1AP message being sent to the gNB-CP node.
  12. gNB-CP recovers gNB-CP protocol agreed upon security parameters and save it as part of the NG-UE current context.
  13. gNB-CP forwards the IAS message to the NG-UE.
  14. NG-UE validates the authenticity of the IAS and authenticates the network as per MASA. In addition, the UE saves all protocols agreed upon security parameters as part of its context. NG-UE sends the Security and Authentication Complete message to the SEAF.
  15. SEAF communicates the agreed upon UP-GW security parameters to the UP-GW during the NG-UE bearer setup.

ARPF - Authentication Credential Repository and Processing Function 
AUSF - Authentication Server Function 
SCMF - Security Context Management Function
SEAF - Security Anchor Function
NG-UE - NG UE
UP - User Plane 
CP - Control Plane
IAR - Initial Authentication Request 
IAS - Initial Authentication Response
gNB - Next Generation NodeB

You may also want to refer to the 5G Network Architecture presentation by Andy Sutton for details.

See also:

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

5G Security Updates - July 2017


Its been nearly 2 years since I last blogged about ETSI Security workshop. A lot has changed since then, especially as 5G is already in the process of being standardised. This is in addition to NFV / SDN that also applied to 4G networks.

ETSI Security Week (12 - 16 June) covered lot more than 5G, NFV, SDN, etc. Security specialists can follow the link to get all the details (if they were not already aware of).

I want to quickly provide 3 links so people can find all the useful information:

NFV Security Tutorialdesigned to educate attendees on security concerns facing operators and providers as they move forward with implementing NFV. While the topics are focused on security and are technical in nature we believe any individual responsible for designing, implementing or operating a NFV system in an organization will benefit from this session. Slides here.

NFV Security: Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), leveraging cloud computing, is set to radically change the architecture, security, and implementation of telecommunications networks globally. The NFV Security day will have a sharp focus on the NFV security and will bring together the world-wide community of the NFV security leaders from the industry, academia, and regulators. If you want to meet the movers and shakers in this field, get a clear understanding of the NFV security problems, challenges, opportunities, and the state of the art development of security solutions, this day is for you. Slides here.



5G Security: The objectives of this event are to:
  • Gather different actors involved in the development of 5G, not only telecom, and discuss together how all their views will shape together in order to understand the challenges, threats and the security requirements that the 5G scenarios will be bringing.
  • Give an update of what is happening in:
    • 5G security research: Lot of research is on-going on 5G security and several projects exist on the topic.
    • 5G security standards: Standardization bodies have already started working 5G security and their work progress will be reviewed. Also any gap or additional standardization requirements will be discussed.
    • Verticals and business (non-technical) 5G security requirements: 5G is playground where different verticals besides the telecom industry is playing a role and their requirements will be key for the design of 5G security. In addition 5G is where "security" will become the business driver.
  • Debate about hot topics such as: IoT security, Advances in lightweight cryptography, Slicing security. Privacy. Secure storage and processing. Security of the interconnection network (DIAMETER security). Relevance of Quantum Safe Cryptography for 5G, Authorization concepts....
Slides for 5G Security here.

In addition, Jaya Baloo, CISO, KPN Telecom talks about 5G network security at TechXLR8 2017. Embedded is a video of that:


Monday, 19 June 2017

Network Sharing is becoming more relevant with 5G

5G is becoming a case of 'damned if you do damned if you don't'. Behind the headlines of new achievements and faster speeds lies the reality that many operators are struggling to keep afloat. Indian and Nigerian operators are struggling with heavy debt and it wont be a surprise if some of the operators fold in due course.

With increasing costs and decreasing revenues, its no surprise that operators are looking at ways of keeping costs down. Some operators are postponing their 5G plans in favour of Gigabit LTE. Other die hard operators are pushing ahead with 5G but looking at ways to keep the costs down. In Japan for example, NTT DOCOMO has suggested sharing 5G base stations with its two rivals to trim costs, particularly focusing efforts in urban areas.


In this post, I am looking to summarise an old but brilliant post by Dr. Kim Larsen here. While it is a very well written and in-depth post, I have a feeling that many readers may not have the patience to go through all of it. All pictures in this post are from the original post by Dr. Kim Larsen.


Before embarking on any Network sharing mission, its worthwhile asking the 5W's (Who, Why, What, Where, When) and 2H's (How, How much).

  • Why do you want to share?
  • Who to share with? (your equal, your better or your worse).
  • What to share? (sites, passives, active, frequencies, new sites, old sites, towers, rooftops, organization, ,…).
  • Where to share? (rural, sub-urban, urban, regional, all, etc..).
  • When is a good time to start sharing? During rollout phase, steady phase or modernisation phase. See picture below. For 5G, it would make much more sense that network sharing is done from the beginning, i.e., Rollout Phase


  • How to do sharing?. This may sound like a simple question but it should take account of regulatory complexity in a country. The picture below explains this well:



  • How much will it cost and how much savings can be attained in the long term? This is in-fact a very important question because the end result after a lot of hard work and laying off many people may result in an insignificant amount of cost savings. Dr. Kim provides detailed insight on this topic that I find it difficult to summarise. Best option is to read it on his blog.


An alternative approach to network sharing is national roaming. Many European operators are dead against national roaming as this means the network loses its differentiation compared to rival operators. Having said that, its always worthwhile working out the savings and seeing if this can actually help.

National Roaming can be attractive for relative low traffic scenarios or in case were product of traffic units and national roaming unit cost remains manageable and lower than the Shared Network Cost.

The termination cost or restructuring cost, including write-off of existing telecom assets (i.e., radio nodes, passive site solutions, transmission, aggregation nodes, etc….) is likely to be a substantially financial burden to National Roaming Business Case in an area with existing telecom infrastructure. Certainly above and beyond that of a Network Sharing scenario where assets are being re-used and restructuring cost might be partially shared between the sharing partners.

Obviously, if National Roaming is established in an area that has no network coverage, restructuring and termination cost is not an issue and Network TCO will clearly be avoided, Albeit the above economical logic and P&L trade-offs on cost still applies.

If this has been useful to understand some of the basics of network sharing, I encourage you to read the original blog post as that contains many more details.

Futher Reading:



Friday, 12 May 2017

5G – Beyond the Hype

Dan Warren, former GSMA Technology Director who created VoLTE and coined the term 'Phablet' has been busy with his new role as Head of 5G Research at Samsung R&D in UK. In a presentation delivered couple of days back at Wi-Fi Global Congress he set out a realistic vision of 5G really means.

A brief summary of the presentation in his own words below, followed by the actual presentation:
"I started with a comment I have made before – I really hate the term 5G.  It doesn’t allow us to have a proper discussion about the multiplicity of technologies that have been throw under the common umbrella of the term, and hence blurs the rationale for one why each technology is important in its own right.  What I have tried to do in these slides is talk more about the technology, then look at the 5G requirements, and consider how each technology helps or hinders the drive to meet those requirements, and then to consider what that enables in practical terms.

The session was titled ‘5G – beyond the hype’ so in the first three slides I cut straight to the technology that is being brought in to 5G.  Building from the Air Interface enhancements, then the changes in topology in the RAN and then looking at the ‘softwarisation’ on the Core Network.  This last group of technologies sets up the friction in the network between the desire to change the CapEx model of network build by placing functions in a Cloud (both C-RAN and an NFV-based Core, as well as the virtualisation of transport network functions) and the need to push functions to the network edge by employing MEC to reduce latency.  You end up with every function existing everywhere, data breaking out of the network at many different points and some really hard management issues.

On slide 5 I then look at how these technologies line up to meeting 5G requirements.  It becomes clear that the RAN innovations are all about performance enhancement, but the core changes are about enabling new business models from flexibility in topology and network slicing.  There is also a hidden part of the equation that I call out, which is that while technology enables the central five requirements to be met, they also require massive investment by the Operator.  For example you won’t reach 100% coverage if you don’t build a network that has total coverage, so you need to put base stations in all the places that they don’t exist today.

On the next slide I look at how network slicing will be sold.  There are three ways in which a network might be sliced – by SLA or topology, by enterprise customer and by MVNO.  The SLA or topology option is key to allowing the co-existence of MEC and Cloud based CN.  The enterprise or sector based option is important for operators to address large vertical industry players, but each enterprise may want a range of SLA’s for different applications and devices, so you end up with an enterprise slice being made up of sub-slices of differing SLA and topology.  Then, an MVNO may take a slice of the network, but will have it’s own enterprise customers that will take a sub-slice of the MVNO slice, which may in turn be made of sub-sub-slices of differing SLAs.  Somewhere all of this has be stitched back together, so my suggestion is that ‘Network Splicing’ will be as important as network slicing.

Slide illustrates all of this again and notes that there will also be other networks that have been sliced as well, be that 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi, fixed, LPWA or anything else.  There is also going to be an overarching orchestration requirement both within a network and in the Enterprise customer (or more likely in System Integrator networks who take on the ‘Splicing’ role).  The red flags are showing that Orchestration is both really difficult and expensive, but the challenge for the MNO will also exist in the RAN.  The RRC will be a pinch point that has to sort out all of these device sitting in disparate network topologies with varying demands on the sliced RAN.

Then, in the next four slides I look at the business model around this.  Operators will need to deal with the realities of B2B or B2B2C business models, where they are the first B. The first ‘B’s price is the second ‘B’s cost, so the operator should expect considerable pressure on what it charges, and to be held contractually accountable for the performance of the network.  If 5G is going to claim 100% coverage, 5 9’s reliability, 50Mbps everywhere and be sold to enterprise customers on that basis, it is going to have to deliver it else there will be penalties to pay.  On the flip side to this, if all operators do meet the 5G targets, then they will become very much the same so the only true differentiation option will be on price.  With the focus on large scale B2B contracts, this has all the hallmarks of a race downwards and commoditisation of connectivity, which will also lead to disintermediation of operators from the value chain on applications.

So to conclude I pondered on what the real 5G justification is.  Maybe operators shouldn’t be promising everything, since there will be healthy competition on speed, coverage and reliability while those remain as differentiators.  Equally, it could just be that operators will fight out the consumer market share on 5G, but then that doesn’t offer any real uplift in market size, certainly not in mature developed world markets.  The one thing that is sure is that there is a lot of money to be spent getting there."



Let me know what do you think?

Thursday, 20 April 2017

5G: Architecture, QoS, gNB, Specifications - April 2017 Update


The 5G NR (New Radio) plan was finalised in March (3GPP press release) and as a result Non-StandAlone (NSA) 5G NR will be finalised by March 2018. The final 3GPP Release-15 will nevertheless include NR StandAlone (SA) mode as well.

NSA is based on Option 3 (proposed by DT). If you dont know much about this, then I suggest listening to Andy Sutton's lecture here.


3GPP TR 38.804: Technical Specification Group Radio Access Network; Study on New Radio Access Technology; Radio Interface Protocol Aspects provides the overall architecture as shown above

Compared to LTE the big differences are:

  • Core network control plane split into AMF and SMF nodes (Access and Session Management Functions). A given device is assigned a single AMF to handle mobility and AAA roles but can then have multiple SMF each dedicated to a given network slice
  • Core network user plane handled by single node UPF (User Plane Function) with support for multiple UPF serving the same device and hence we avoid need for a common SGW used in LTE. UPF nodes may be daisy chained to offer local breakout and may have parallel nodes serving the same APN to assist seamless mobility.

Hat tip Alistair Urie.
Notice that like eNodeB (eNB) in case of LTE, the new radio access network is called gNodeB (gNB). Martin Sauter points out in his excellent blog that 'g' stands for next generation.

3GPP TS 23.501: Technical Specification Group Services and System Aspects; System Architecture for the 5G System; Stage 2 provides architecture model and concepts including roaming and non-roaming architecture. I will probably have to revisit as its got so much information. The QoS table is shown above. You will notice the terms QFI (QoS Flow Identity) & 5QI (5G QoS Indicator). I have a feeling that there will be a lot of new additions, especially due to URLLC.

Finally, here are the specifications (hat tip Eiko Seidel for his excellent Linkedin posts - references below):
5G NR will use 38 series (like 25 series for 3G & 36 series for 4G).

RAN3 TR 38.801 v2.0.0 on Study on New Radio Access Technology; Radio Access Architecture and Interfaces

RAN1 TR 38.802 v2.0.0 on Study on New Radio (NR) Access Technology; Physical Layer Aspects

RAN4 TR 38.803 v2.0.0 on Study on New Radio Access Technology: RF and co-existence aspects

RAN2 TR 38.804 v1.0.0 on Study on New Radio Access Technology; Radio Interface Protocol Aspects

38.201 TS Physical layer; General description
38.211 TS Physical channels and modulation
38.212 TS Multiplexing and channel coding
38.213 TS Physical layer procedures
38.214 TS Physical layer measurements
38.21X TS Physical layer services provided to upper layer
38.300 TS Overall description; Stage-2
38.304 TS User Equipment (UE) procedures in idle mode
38.306 TS User Equipment (UE) radio access capabilities
38.321 TS Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol specification
38.322 TS Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol specification
38.323 TS Packet Data Convergence Protocol (PDCP) specification
38.331 TS Radio Resource Control (RRC); Protocol specification
37.3XX TS [TBD for new QoS]
37.3XX TS Multi-Connectivity; Overall description; Stage-2
38.401 TS Architecture description
38.410 TS NG general aspects and principles
38.411 TS NG layer 1
38.412 TS NG signalling transport
38.413 TS NG Application Protocol (NGAP)
38.414 TS NG data transport
38.420 TS Xn general aspects and principles
38.421 TS Xn layer 1
38.422 TS Xn signalling transport
38.423 TS Xn Application Protocol (XnAP)
38.424 TS Xn data transport
38.425 TS Xn interface user plane protocol
38.101 TS User Equipment (UE) radio transmission and reception
38.133 TS Requirements for support of radio resource management
38.104 TS Base Station (BS) radio transmission and reception
38.307 TS Requirements on User Equipments (UEs) supporting a release-independent frequency band
38.113 TS Base Station (BS) and repeater ElectroMagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
38.124 TS Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) requirements for mobile terminals and ancillary equipment
38.101 TS User Equipment (UE) radio transmission and reception
38.133 TS Requirements for support of radio resource management
38.104 TS Base Station (BS) radio transmission and reception
38.141 TS Base Station (BS) conformance testing

Note that all specifications are not in place yet. Use this link to navigate 3GPP specs: http://www.3gpp.org/ftp/Specs/archive/38_series/

Further reading:



Saturday, 15 April 2017

Self-backhauling: Integrated access and backhaul links for 5G


One of the items that was proposed during the 3GPP RAN Plenary #75 held in Dubrovnik, Croatia, was Study on Integrated Access and Backhaul for NR (NR = New Radio). RP-17148 provides more details as follows:

One of the potential technologies targeted to enable future cellular network deployment scenarios and applications is the support for wireless backhaul and relay links enabling flexible and very dense deployment of NR cells without the need for densifying the transport network proportionately. 

Due to the expected larger bandwidth available for NR compared to LTE (e.g. mmWave spectrum) along with the native deployment of massive MIMO or multi-beam systems in NR creates an opportunity to develop and deploy integrated access and backhaul links. This may allow easier deployment of a dense network of self-backhauled NR cells in a more integrated manner by building upon many of the control and data channels/procedures defined for providing access to UEs. An example illustration of a network with such integrated access and backhaul links is shown in Figure 1, where relay nodes (rTRPs) can multiplex access and backhaul links in time, frequency, or space (e.g. beam-based operation).

The operation of the different links may be on the same or different frequencies (also termed ‘in-band’ and ‘out-band’ relays). While efficient support of out-band relays is important for some NR deployment scenarios, it is critically important to understand the requirements of in-band operation which imply tighter interworking with the access links operating on the same frequency to accommodate duplex constraints and avoid/mitigate interference. 

In addition, operating NR systems in mmWave spectrum presents some unique challenges including experiencing severe short-term blocking that cannot be readily mitigated by present RRC-based handover mechanisms due to the larger time-scales required for completion of the procedures compared to short-term blocking. Overcoming short-term blocking in mmWave systems may require fast L2-based switching between rTRPs, much like dynamic point selection, or modified L3-based solutions. The above described need to mitigate short-term blocking for NR operation in mmWave spectrum along with the desire for easier deployment of self-backhauled NR cells creates a need for the development of an integrated framework that allows fast switching of access and backhaul links. Over-the-air (OTA) coordination between rTRPs can also be considered to mitigate interference and support end-to-end route selection and optimization.

The benefits of integrated access and backhaul (IAB) are crucial during network rollout and the initial network growth phase. To leverage these benefits, IAB needs to be available when NR rollout occurs. Consequently, postponing IAB-related work to a later stage may have adverse impact on the timely deployment of NR access.


There is also an interesting presentation on this topic from Interdigital on the 5G Crosshaul group here. I found the following points worth noting:

  • This will create a new type of interference (access-backhaul interference) to mitigate and will require sophisticated (complex) scheduling of the channel resources (across two domains, access and backhaul).
  • One of the main drivers is Small cells densification calling for cost-effective and low latency backhauling
  • The goal would be to maximize efficiency through joint optimization/integration of access and backhaul resources
  • The existing approach of Fronthaul using CPRI will not scale for 5G, self-backhaul may be an alternative in the shape of wireless fronthaul

Let me know what you think.

Related Links:



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Latest on 5G Spectrum - March 2017

In an earlier post I mentioned that there will be three different types of spectrum that would be needed for 5G; coverage layer, capacity layer and high throughput layer. There is now a consensus within the industry for this approach.


In a 5G seminar, back in Jan, there were a few speakers who felt that there is an informal agreement about the frequencies that will be used. One such slide from Ofcom could be seen in the picture above. Ofcom has also recently released a report expanding on this further.


Analysys Mason has nicely summarized the bands suggested by Ofcom and possibly available in the UK for 5G in the picture above.

Global mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) has also nicely summarised the bands under investigations and trials as follows:

Coverage Layer600 MHz, 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1.5 GHz, 2.1 GHz, 2.3 GHz and 2.6 GHz

Capacity Layer:

Europe                     3400 – 3800 MHz (awarding trial licenses)

China                       3300 – 3600 MHz (ongoing trial), 4400 – 4500 MHz, 4800 – 4990 MHz

Japan                       3600 – 4200 MHz and 4400-4900 MHz

Korea                       3400 – 3700 MHz

USA                          3100 – 3550 MHz (and 3700 – 4200 MHz)

High Throughput Layer:

USA:      27.5 – 28.35 GHz and 37 – 40 GHz pre-commercial deployments in 2018

Korea:   26.5 – 29.5 GHz trials in 2018 and commercial deployments in 2019

Japan:   27.5 – 28.28 GHz trials planned from 2017 and potentially commercial deployments in 2020

China:    Focusing on 24.25 – 27.5 GHz and 37 – 43.5 GHz studies

Sweden: 26.5 – 27.5 GHz awarding trial licenses for use in 2018 and onwards

EU:        24.25 – 27.5 GHz for commercial deployments from 2020

Finally, as a reminder, list of bands originally approved for IMT-2020 (5G) as follows:


Another potential band, not being mentioned above is the 66-76GHz spectrum. This band is adjacent to the 60 GHz Wi-Fi (57 GHz - 66 GHz). Lessons learned from that band can be applied to the 5G band too.

Related links:



Thursday, 16 March 2017

Satellite Industry is Gearing up for The Next Revolution in Communications

Intelsat graphic
Source: Intelsat
I have been talking about the role of satellites in future communications on my blog and various industry fora. While most of the telecom industry is focused on 5G, it’s good to see that the satellite industry is getting ready for the next revolution.

Source: New York Times
Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank has made it his mission to merge satellite operators Intelsat and OneWeb. While on the surface they may seem as competitors, in reality they complement each other. Intelsat operates geostationary (GEO) satellites while OneWeb is building low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. They both serve overlapping but different purposes and it makes sense for them to work together. LEO satellites which are roughly at 1200km have far lower latency than compared to GEO satellites that are 36,000km away. On the other hand LEO satellites do not appear stationary unlike GEO satellites.

We in CW are already aware of Masayoshi Son’s ambition and vision. Last year Softbank acquired ARM for approximately £24 billion. In a recent keynote delivered at the Mobile World Congress 2017 (#MWC17), Son explained his vision and reasoning for this purchase. In fact he mentioned that he has a 30 year vision which is why he thinks ‘cell towers from space’ are the next step in evolution. While he refers to them as fiber from the space, I wouldn’t go that far in comparison but do admit they have the potential to deliver high speed connectivity anywhere on earth.

The most obvious application of high speed connectivity ubiquitously available anywhere on earth are connected cars. While there is Wi-Fi to provide connectivity and software updates when parked at home, it will be complemented by mobile connectivity within the cities and the major roads. What is missing is anywhere and everywhere connectivity that the satellites can bring.

The big barrier for satellite connectivity in the cars had been the need for satellite dish mounted on the top of a car roof. Kymeta, an innovative company based in Washington, USA has been trying for years to solve this problem. In May, they will start selling  their “lightweight flat-panel antennas, meant to bring fast satellite-transmitted internet connections to cars, trains and boats”.

Source: Seattle Times
Kymeta is partnering with Toyota and Intelsat to bring a complete solution for future connectivity in the cars. They are not the only ones, there are other similar interesting projects ongoing in many different parts of the world.


The telecom industry cannot ignore satellite communications forever. Satellites have already proved themselves beyond doubt in broadcasting, navigation, earth observation, etc. It’s just a matter of time before they prove their while in communications as well.

Originally Posted on CW Blog here.