Monday 15 July 2024

Disaggregation of 5G Core (5GC) Network

When talking about mobile networks, we generally talk about disaggregation and virtualization of the RAN rather than the core. The 5G Core Network was also designed with disaggregation in mind, supporting service-based architecture (SBA) where Network Functions (NFs) are modular and can be deployed as microservices.

The 5G Core (5GC) is the foundation for Standalone 5G (5G SA) networks where the end users can experience the power of 'real' 5G. A newly published forecast report by Dell’Oro Group pointed out that the Mobile Core Network (MCN) market 5-year cumulative revenue forecast is expected to decline 10 percent (2024-2028). The reduction in the forecast is caused by severe economic headwinds, primarily the high inflation rates, and the slow adoption of 5G SA networks by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs).

While most people think of 5G Core Network as a single entity, in reality it contains many different network functions that can be supplied by different vendors. One way to select the vendors is based on grouping of NFs based on functionality as shown in the picture above. Here we have categorised them into User Plane & Mobility, Subscriber Data Management, Routing & Selection, and Policy & Charging. 

An example of of this disaggregation can be seen in the image above where Telenor worked with partners to build a truly multi-vendor, 5G core environment running on a vendor-neutral platform. According to their announcement

“The main component of 5G-SA is the 5G mobile core, the ‘brain’ of the 5G system. Unfortunately, most 5G core deployments are still single vendor dependent, with strong dependencies on that vendor’s underlying proprietary architecture. This single-vendor dependency can be a killer for innovation. It restricts open collaboration from the broader 5G ecosystem of companies developing new technology, use cases, and services that the market expects,” explains Patrick Waldemar, Vice President and Head of Technology in Telenor Research.

As an industry first, Telenor, along with partners, have established to build a truly multi-vendor, 5G core environment running on a vendor-neutral platform. The multi-vendor environment consists of best of breed Network Functions from Oracle, Casa-Systems, Enea and Kaloom, all running on Red Hat Openshift, the industry’s leading enterprise Kubernetes platform.

“To protect the 5G infrastructure from cyber threats, we deployed Palo Alto Networks Prisma Cloud Compute, and their Next Generation Firewall is also securing Internet connectivity for mobile devices. Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is being used as a scalable automation system, while Emblasoft is providing automated network testing capabilities. The 5G New Radio (NR) is from Huawei,” says Waldemar.

In their whitepaper on "How to build the best 5G core", Oracle does a very similar grouping of the NFs like the way I have shown at the top and highlights what they supply and which partner NFs they use.

When the mobile operator Orange announced the selection of suppliers for their 5G SA networks in Europe, the press release said the following:

Orange has chosen the following industrial partners:

  • Ericsson’s 5G SA core network for Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Poland
  • Nokia’s 5G SA core network for France and Slovakia 
  • Nokia’s Subscriber Data Management for all countries
  • Oracle Communications for 5G core signaling and routing in all countries

I was unable to find out exactly which NFs would be supplied by which vendor but you get an idea.

Finally, I have depicted four scenarios for deployment and which Cloud Native Environment (CNE) would be used. In a single vendor core, the CNE, even though from a third party, could belong to either the vendor themselves (scenario 1) or may be suggested by the operator (scenario 2). 

In case of a multi-vendor deployment, it is very likely that each vendor would use their own CNE (scenario 4) rather than one suggested by the operator or belonging to the lead vendor (scenario 3).

If you have been involved in trial/test/deployment of a multi-vendor 5G Core, would love to hear your feedback on that as well as this post.

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Thursday 27 June 2024

Short Tutorial on Mission Critical Services in LTE and 5G

Over the years we have looked at the standards development, infrastructure development and even country specific mission critical solutions development in various blog posts. In this post we are sharing this short new tutorial by Mpirical on mission critical services in LTE and 5G. The video is embedded below:

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Friday 7 June 2024

Attack Surfaces for Different Generations of Mobile Technologies

At DEF CON 31 last year, Tracy Mosley, Vulnerability Researcher at Trenchant presented a talk titled "Nothin’ but a G Thang - The Evolution of Cellular Networks" (background of title). The abstract of the talk says:

In this talk we will walk through each step of cellular evolution, starting at 2G and ending at 5G. The never-ending attack and defend paradigm will be clearly laid out. In order to understand the attack surface, I’ll cover network topology and protocol. For each cellular generation, I will explain known vulnerabilities and some interesting attacks. In response to those vulnerabilities, mitigations for the subsequent cellular generation are put in place. But as we all know, new mitigations mean new opportunities for attackers to get creative. While I will explain most cellular-specific terminology, a familiarity with security concepts will help to better understand this talk. Basic foundations of communications systems, information theory or RF definitely make this talk more enjoyable, but are absolutely not necessary. It’s a dense topic that is highly applicable to those working on anything that touches the cellular network!

The talk is embedded below:

The presentation can be downloaded from here.

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Wednesday 22 May 2024

Real-world Deployment of Digital Twin and Private Cellular at St Pancras Railway Station

PAULEY are a dynamic UK-based SME at the forefront of the exciting emerging market in big data and interactive tools for business. Pioneers in Spatial Computing, our specialist team are working with clients operating in key industries and sectors including transport, safety critical industries and the education and training sector, to embed innovative digital technology into their business processes.

At Athonet's Uptime 2022 conference, Phil Pauley, CEO at Pauley Interactive, spoke about real-life deployment of Digital Twin and Private Cellular at St Pancras railway station. His talk is embedded below:

There is another playlist shared on PAULEY's YouTube channel that us embedded below:

You can read more about their work with HS2 here.

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Monday 6 May 2024

6G and Other 3GPP Logos

The Project Coordination Group (PCG) of 3GPP recently approved a new logo for use on specifications for 6G, during their 52nd PCG meeting, hosted by ATIS in Reston, Virginia. As with previous logos, surely people in general will use them not just for 3GPP 6G compliant products, but for all kinds of things.

Over the years many people have reached out to me to ask for 3GPP logos, even though they are available publicly. All 3GPP logos, from 3G to 6G is available in the Marcoms directory here. In addition to the logo, each directory also lists guidance for use of the logos. For example, 3GPP does not allow the use of the logo as shown on the left in the image on top of the post while the one on the right is okay.

Surely there isn't an issue for general use but for anyone wishing to use the logos for their products, equipment, documentation or books, they will have to strictly comply with the rules.

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Friday 5 April 2024

A Different Approach for Mobile Network Densification

I am fascinated by and have previously written blog posts about transparent antennas. Back in 2019 NTT Docomo announced that they have been working with glass manufacturer AGC to create a new transparent antenna that can work with a base station to become an antenna. Then in 2021, NTT Docomo and AGC announced that they have developed a prototype technology that efficiently guides 28-GHz 5G radio signals received from outdoors to specific locations indoors using a film-like metasurface lens that attaches to window surfaces. Transparent antennas/lens are one of the pillars of Docomo’s 6G vision as can be seen here.

Every year at Mobile World Congress I look for a wow product/demo. While there were some that impressed me, the suite of products from Wave by AGC (WAVEANTENNA, WAVETHRU and WAVETRAP) blew me away. Let’s look at each of them briefly:

WAVEANTENNA is the transparent glass antenna which is generally installed indoors, on a window or a glass pane. It can be used to receive signals from outdoors (as in case of FWA) or can be used to broadcast signal outdoors (for densification based on inside-out coverage). In the newer buildings that has thermal insulation films on the glass, the radio signals are highly attenuated in either direction, so this solution could work well in that scenario in conjunction with WAVETHRU.

The WAVETHRU process applies a unique laser pattern to the glazing with 30 ┬Ám laser engraved lines that are nearly invisible to the naked eye. Treatment is so gentle, it does not affect the physical properties of the glazing, which remain the same. This radio-friendly laser treatment improves the indoor radio signal by around 25 dB, to achieve almost the same level of performance as the street signal. Just 20% to 30% of the window and floors 0 to 4 need to be treated to improve the indoor signal on all frequency ranges under 6GHz.

In case of coverage densification by providing inside-out radio signals, WAVETRAP can be used for EM wave shielding by stopping back-lobes within the building. 

This video from WAVE by AGC explains the whole densification solution:

 

Now the question is, why was I impressed with this solution? Regular readers of this and the Telecoms Infrastructure Blog will have noticed the various solutions I have been writing about for mobile network densification in downtown areas and historic cities with listed buildings where limited space for infrastructure deployment presents several challenges. 

In brief, we can categorise these challenges as follows:

  • Physical Space Constraints like lack of space or strict regulations as in case of listed buildings and heritage sites. 
  • Aesthetics and Visual Impact could be an important consideration in certain historic city centres. Deploying large antennae or towers can clash with the architectural character and heritage of the area and may require concealing antennae within existing structures like chimneys, bus shelters, phone boxes & lampposts, or using disguised designs like fake trees to minimize visual impact.
  • Technical Challenges can arise in dense urban environments due to interference from neighbouring cells, unreliable backhaul connectivity, interruptions in the power supply due to siphoning, etc.
  • Community Engagement and Perception is another important area to consider. There is no shortage of NIMBY (Not in my back yard) activists that may oppose new infrastructure due to health concerns, aesthetics, or fear of property devaluation. Engaging with the community, providing accurate information about EMF exposure, and addressing misconceptions are crucial.
  • Regulatory and Permitting Hurdles that may arise due to many cities and councils imposing zoning and permits requirements. Obtaining permits for infrastructure deployment involves navigating local regulations, zoning laws, and historic preservation boards. There may also be height restrictions that may hinder optimal antenna placement.
  • Finally, Cost and ROI are important consideration factors as all of the above increases the costs as well as the time required. Customized designs, site acquisition, and compliance with regulations are one of the major factors that not only increase costs but also delays infrastructure rollouts. Operators often weigh the benefits of improved coverage and capacity against all the expenses and headaches of infrastructure deployment and then decide on what to deploy and where.

A solution like WAVEANTENNA in conjunction with WAVETHRU and WAVETRAP can significantly reduce the hurdles and improve coverage significantly. 

While I have talked about the solution in general, it can also be applied indoors to Wi-Fi, in addition to 4G/5G. This may be useful in case of Enterprise Networks where appearance is of importance and probably not of much use in case of warehouses or Industrial/Factory Networks. 

Do let me know what you think.

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Friday 22 March 2024

Research Challenges for the Advancement of Vehicular Networking

It's been a while since we covered V2X as a topic on this blog. If you are not well versed with CAVs and V2X, we recommend you to watch our tutorials on the 3G4G page here.

The networking channel hosted a seminar on 'Vehicular networking' last month. Quoting from the webinar preview:

Looking back at the last decade, one can observe enormous progress in the domain of vehicular networking. Many ongoing activities focus on the design of cooperative perception, distributed computing, and novel safety solutions. Many projects have been initiated to validate the theoretic work in field tests and protocols are being standardized. We are now entering an era that might change the game in road traffic management. Many car makers already supply their recent brands with cellular and Wi-Fi modems, also adding C-V2X and ITS-G5 technologies. We now intend to shift the focus from basic networking principles to open challenges in cooperative computing support and even on how to integrate so-called vulnerable road users into the picture. Edge computing is currently becoming one of the core building blocks of cellular networks, including 5G, and it is necessary to study how to integrate ICT components of moving systems. The panellists will discuss from an industrial perspective the main research challenges for the advancement of vehicular networking and the novelties that we can expect to see coming in the short term. Panellists with extensive experience in Internet measurements, networks related to sustainable development goals, and highly-localized earth observation networks will discuss these topics and participate in a Q&A session with the audience.

The presentations were not shared but the video of the panel discussion is as follows:

The following speakers presented the following talks:

  • Vehicular Networking? by Onur Altintas, Toyota North America R&D (0:04:55)
  • Collaborative Perception Sharing for Connected Autonomous Vehicles by Fan Bai, General Motors Global R&D (0:15:00)
  • The future of vehicular networking by Frank Hofmann, Robert Bosch GmbH (0:23:25)
  • The future of vehicular networks and path to 6G by Dr.-Ing. Volker Ziegler, Nokia (0:35:15)
  • Panel Discussion with all speakers and  (0:44:30)

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Friday 9 February 2024

Resilient Timing for Critical National Infrastructure

Critical infrastructure requires precise timing to operate. This reliance makes the infrastructure vulnerable to disruptions in timing that can be either intentional or unintentional. Intentional disruptions can be caused by GNSS jamming or spoofing or network attacks.. Unintentional disruptions are usually caused by equipment failures or acts of nature.

Back in April 2022, Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS) hosted a webinar on this topic, a precursor to the Annual Workshop on Synchronization and Timing Systems (WSTS). The webinar featured top industry experts delivering insight into the latest techniques for adding resilience and robustness to timing infrastructure. It covered the most critical topics in timing resilience, including:

  • Redundancy
  • Holdover
  • Management
  • Monitoring
  • Alternative reference time sources

Examples address networks used for critical industry applications such as:

  • Power grids
  • Telecommunications
  • Finance systems
  • Broadcast/media

The video of the webinar as follows:

Experts participating in the webinar and their presentations are as follows:

Please feel free to share other useful resources on this topic in comments.

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Wednesday 24 January 2024

UE Assistance Information in LTE and 5G

I have been asked about the UE Assistance Information (UAI) RRC message a few times before. Generally I have always pointed people back to the LTE/5G specifications but here is a concise video that the telecoms technology training company Mpirical have shared recently:

If you want to dig further into details then please see the RRC specifications: 36.331 for LTE and 38.331 for 5G. 

Over the years I have added quite a few short tutorials from Mpirical on this blog, do check them out below.

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Tuesday 9 January 2024

Technological Complexification and The Return of Magic

I have been meaning to share this video/presentation by Patrick Scannell for quite some time now. Pat Scannell is a technology and telecom industry consultant who is a world leader on 5G and the co-evolution of technology and cognition, specializing in innovation and commercialization of emerging technologies across a wide range of industries.

At the IEEE International Symposium on Digital Privacy and Social Media 2022, Pat gave a talk titled 'The Return of Magic: Technological Complexification'. The outline of the talk says: 

Today’s tech is characterized by rapidly accelerating complexity, both in the densely layered technology itself but also in the increasingly hyper-specialized people who are needed to build it. But each person who builds it, and certainly most people who use tech, have a diminishing ability to understand how the whole of the techno-ecological niche we have created for ourselves (what I term ‘the return of magic’).

The case for this argument is outlined and then shows that the problems associated with this phenomenon are amplified by an inherent characteristic of a complex system - the lack of ability to know, understand, and predict system outcomes.

Against the broad scope of human history, the result of these forces could represent a reversal of a trend that started in the Enlightenment, but it also has very specific and actionable consequences on the day-to-day work of the tech industry and on Digital Privacy of our customers.

This talk aims to frame the problems, but in a constructive way that allows us to begin to build and adopt better technology, which could scaffold a better human experience.

The talk is embedded below, thanks to IEEE TV:

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