Monday, 29 March 2021

5G RAN Functional Splits


I have been meaning to write a post on RAN functional splits and even make a video. Recently I came across multiple of these things so I am taking a shortcut by posting them here. 

The first is this basic introductory video from Parallel Wireless where they explain why you need RAN splits providing examples of various functional splits for 4G and 5G mobile networks. It is embedded below:

The next one is slightly detailed video from the book "5G Radio Access Network Architecture: The Dark Side of 5G" by Sasha Sirotkin (Editor). I wrote a review of the book here and Sasha kindly made a video for our channel which is embedded below:

Finally, RCR Wireless published an article looking at the 5G functional splits in detail, by Ankur Sharma, Associate Vice President, Product Management and Strategy, Radisys. The article 'Exploring functional splits in 5G RAN: Tradeoffs and use cases' is available here.

Feel free to suggest other videos, articles, etc. in comments.

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Sunday, 21 March 2021

The Status of 5G Standalone (5G SA) Networks - March 2021


I wonder if you have seen as many adverts talking about the 5G revolution as I have. In fact I have collected many of them here. The problem is that most of these promised 5G awesomeness can only be delivered when 5G Standalone networks are launched. 

Before going further, if you don't know what 5G standalone (SA) and non-standalone (NSA) networks are, then you may want to check one of my tutorials/video. For beginners here and slightly advanced version here. If you just want to learn about the 5G core, tutorial here.

I believe that the 5G Non-standalone networks are a hack that were designed mainly to show just the 5G icon and in some cases it also provided enhanced speeds. Some operators have realised this and are thinking about the 5G NSA sunset. There are some potential issues with 5G SA speeds that need sorting out though.

GSA recently held a webinar looking at the status of 5G Standalone networks. The video of the webinar is embedded at the end of the post. The webinar summarised the stats as following:

  • By mid-March 2021, 428 operators in 132 countries/territories were investing in 5G
  • 176 operators in 76 countries/territories had announced they had deployed 3GPP compliant 5G technology in their live networks
  • Of those, a total of 153 operators in 64 countries/territories had launched one or more 3GPP-compliant 5G services
    • 145 operators in 60 countries/territories had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G mobile services
    • 51 operators in 29 countries/territories had launched 3GPP-compliant 5G FWA or home broadband services
  • For comparison, there are 807 public LTE networks worldwide
  • GSA has identified 68 operators in 38 countries/territories that are investing in 5G standalone for public mobile networks
  • Of those, a total of 7 operators in 5 countries/territories had launched 5G SA networks
    • Operators in China have deployed/upgraded hundreds of thousands of base stations 
    • T-Mobile has a nationwide network
    • Plus China Mobile HK, Rain (South Africa) and DirecTV (Colombia)
  • Also ITC KSA (soft launch), STC KSA deployed, Telstra 5G core deployed, plus various contracts for 5G core systems

Private Networks, Non-public networks (NPN) and Industrial 5G Networks are also expected to make use of standalone 5G networks. As 5G networks get virtualized and open, we will see a lot more of these.

The webinar also highlighted the progress of 5G devices:

  • There has been rapid growth in the numbers and types of 5G devices being announced and launched
  • As of end February:
    • 628 5G devices announced
    • 404 commercially available (up from 303 at the end of November)
    • 104 vendors
    • 21 announced form factors
    • Majority are phones (306 announced, 274 commercial)
  • 5G SA devices are also appearing
    • 298 devices announced with 5G SA support
    • 204 commercial devices state support for 5G SA
      • Software upgrades likely to be required
    • Steadily climbing up as % of all 5G devices
      • Now >47% of announced
      • >50% of commercial

Here is the webinar:

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Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Initiative to Remove Non-inclusive terms from 3GPP Specifications

3GPP just published 2nd issue of 3GPP highlights here. (Issue 1 is here). The contents of the newsletter includes:

  • TECHNICAL HIGHLIGHTS
    • A Release 17 update
    • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in NG-RAN: New Study in RAN3
    • 3GPP Multimedia Codecs, Systems and Services
    • Is healthcare the next big thing for 5G?
    • From IMT-2020 to beyond
  • PARTNER FOCUS
    • PCSE - Enabling Operational Mobility for European Public Safety Responders
    • WBA - One Global Network with OpenRoaming(TM)
    • ESOA - Fulfilling the promise of Anytime, from anywhere and on any device & networks (ATAWAD)
    • TCCA - Trusted standards mean trusted communications
    • GSA - mmWave bands for 5G
    • NGMN - Global alignment for the benefit of end users as new focus areas emerge
    • 5GAA - Study of Spectrum Needs for Safety Related Intelligent Transportation Systems – Day 1 and Advanced Use Cases
  • A LOOK INSIDE
    • Ensuring device compliance to standards
    • Release 17 timeline agreed
    • Initiative to remove non-inclusive terms in specifications
    • New Members listing
    • The 3GPP group structure
  • CALENDAR
    • Calendar of 3GPP meetings
  • NEWS IN BRIEF

In this post we are looking at the Initiative to remove non-inclusive terms in specifications. Quoting from the newsletter:

3GPP groups have started the process of replacing terminology in our specifications that is non-inclusive. The entire leadership proposed jointly a change request (CR) to the specification drafting rules (TR21.801), following an initiative led by several individual members.

In their joint proposal to the TSG SA#90-e meeting, the leaders wrote: “While there are potentially numerous language issues that could be considered offensive, there are two that are most acknowledged and focused on in the industry and applicable to the 3GPP Specifications. These terminologies are “Master / Slave” and “Whitelist / Blacklist” that are often used in 3GPP and other telecommunications technical documents.” 

What next? - Change requests will now follow on any Release 17 reports and specifications that need their content brought in line with this policy.

Further reading:

  • SP-201042: Tdoc from the leadership - Inclusive Language in 3GPP Specifications
  • SP-201142: Change Request to Specification drafting rules.
  • SP-201143: Liaison Statement on: Use of Inclusive Language in 3GPP.
  • TR21.801: 3GPP Specification drafting rules

The main page for 3GPP highlights is here.

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Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Everything you need to know about 5G Security


5G & Security are both big topics on this blog as well as on 3G4G website. We reached out to 3GPP 5G security by experts from wenovator, Dr. Anand R. Prasad & Hans Christian Rudolph to help out audience understand the mysteries of 5G security. Embedded below is video and slides from a webinar they recorded for us.

You can ask any security questions you may have on the video on YouTube

The slides could be downloaded from SlideShare.

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Friday, 5 March 2021

How to Identify Network Slices in NG RAN

In my last post I described how NG RAN resources can be divided into network slices. 

Now I would like to show how these network slices and the traffic they carry can be identified. 

The key to this is a parameter from the NG Application Protocol (NGAP) called the Single Network Slice Selection Assistance Information (S-NSSAI). When configuring virtual network functions in NG RAN there are lists of S-NSSAI exchanged, e.g. between gNB-CU CP and AMF during NGAP Setup procedure, to negotiate which network slices have to be supported in general. 

When it comes to connection establishment starting with NGAP Initial Context Setup for each PDU session that is established its individual S-NSSAI is signaled. 

The S-NSSAI - as show in the figure below - consists of two parameters, the Slice/Service Type (SST - 8 bit) and the optional Slice Differentiator (SD - 24 bit). The exact format and numbering ranges are defined in 3GPP 23.003.

3GPP 23.501 defines a set of default values for SST as listed in the following table:

Slice/Service type

SST value

Characteristics

eMBB

 

1

Slice suitable for the handling of 5G enhanced Mobile Broadband.

URLLC

2

Slice suitable for the handling of ultra- reliable low latency communications.

MIoT

3

Slice suitable for the handling of massive IoT.

V2X

4

Slice suitable for the handling of V2X services.

So when looking back at the figure it emerges that for each subscriber represented by an IMSI the SST allows to identify which services are running. 

On the other hand allows to see if in which virtual network the subscriber is active. In my example I have defined that the resources are shared among a Public MNO that I consider the owner of the network hardware and two different private (campus) networks. While IMSI 1 and IMSI 2 are not allowed to use any other network slice the IMSI 3 is allowed to "roam" betweent the public slice and the two private network slices. This explains why a slice-specific authentication functionality as defined in Rel. 16 is necessary. 

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Thursday, 4 March 2021

The Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G)


Back in Feb 2020, ETSI announced the launch of a new group dedicated to specifying the fifth generation of Fixed Network (ETSI ISG F5G). The press release said:

We are entering an exciting new era of communications, and fixed networks play an essential role in that evolution alongside and in cooperation with mobile networks. Building on previous generations of fixed networks, the 5th generation will address three main use cases, a full-fiber connection, enhanced fixed broadband and a guaranteed reliable experience.

For home scenarios, emerging services such as Cloud VR (virtual reality) and AR (augmented reality) video streaming or online gaming introduce the necessity for ultra-broadband, extremely low latency and zero packet loss. Business scenarios such as enterprise Cloudification, leased line, or POL (Passive Optical LAN) require high reliability and high security. Other industry sectors have specific requirements on the deployment of fiber infrastructures including environmental conditions such as humidity, temperature or electromagnetic interference.

The ETSI ISG F5G aims at studying the fixed-network evolution required to match and further enhance the benefits that 5G has brought to mobile networks and communications. It will define improvements with respect to previous solutions and the new characteristics of the fifth-generation fixed network. This opens up new opportunities by comprehensively applying fiber technology to various scenarios, turning the Fiber to the Home paradigm into Fiber to Everything Everywhere.

ISG F5G considers a wide range of technologies, and therefore seeks to actively cooperate with a number of relevant standardization groups as well as vertical industrial organizations. ISG F5G will address aspects relating to new ODN technologies (Optical Distribution Network), XG(S)-PON and Wi-Fi 6 enhancements, control plane and user plane separation, smart energy efficiency, end-to-end full-stack slicing, autonomous operation and management, synergy of Transport and Access Networks, and adaptation of the Transport Network, amongst others.

The five work items approved last week deal with:

  • F5G use cases: the use cases include services to consumers and enterprises and will be selected based on their impact in terms of new technical requirements identified.
  • Landscape of F5G technology and standards: this work will study technology requirements for F5G use cases, explore existing technologies, and perform the gap analysis.
  • Definition of fixed network generations: to evaluate the driving forces and the path of fixed network evolution, including transport, access and on-premises networks. It will also identify the principal characteristics demarcating different generations and define them.
  • Architecture of F5G: this will specify the end-to-end network architectures, features and related network devices/elements’ requirements for F5G, including on-premises, Access, IP and Transport Networks.
  • F5G quality of experience: to specify the end-to-end quality of experience (QoE) factors for new broadband services. It will analyze the general factors that impact service performance and identify the relevant QoE dimensions for each service.

Then in May, at Huawei Global Analyst Summit 2020 (#HAS2020), Huawei invited global optical industry leaders to discuss F5G Industry development and ecosystem construction, and launched the F5G global industry joint initiative to draw up a grand blueprint for the F5G era. The press conference video is as follows:

Then in September 2020, ETSI released a whitepaper, "The Fifth Generation Fixed Network: Bringing Fibre to Everywhere and Everything"

Now there are couple of standards available that provides more insights.

ETSI GR F5G 001 - Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G); F5G Generation Definition Release #1:

In the past, the lack of a clear fixed network generation definition has prevented a wider technology standards adoption and prevented the creation and use of global mass markets. The success of the mobile and cable networks deployments, supported by clear specifications related to particular technological generations, has shown how important this generation definition is.

The focus of the 5th generation fixed networks (F5G) specifications is on telecommunication networks which consist fully of optical fibre elements up to the connection serving locations (user, home, office, base station, etc.). That being said, the connection to some terminals can still be assisted with wireless technologies (for instance, Wi-Fi®).

The main assumption behind the present document foresees that, in the near future, all the fixed networks will adopt end-to-end fibre architectures: Fibre to Everywhere.

The present document addresses the history of fixed networks and summarizes their development paths and driving forces. The factors that influence the definition of fixed, cable and mobile network generations will be analysed. Based upon this, the business and technology characteristics of F5G will be considered.

This table comparing the different generations of fixed networks is interesting too


ETSI GR F5G 002 - Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G); F5G Use Cases Release #1:

The present document describes a first set of use cases to be enabled by the Fifth Generation Fixed Network (F5G). These use cases include services to consumers and enterprises as well as functionalities to optimize the management of the Fifth Generation Fixed Network. The use cases will be used as input to a gap analysis and a technology landscape study, aiming to extract technical requirements needed for their implementations. Fourteen use cases are selected based on their impact. The context and description of each use case are presented in the present document.


The use cases as described in the present document are driving the three dimensions of characteristics that are specified in the document on generation definitions [i.1], namely eFBB (enhanced Fixed BroadBand), FFC (Full-Fibre Connection), and GRE (Guaranteed Reliable Experience). Figure 2 shows that:

  • depending on the use case, one or more dimensions are particularly important, and
  • all dimensions of the F5G system architecture are needed to implement the use cases.

I will surely be adding more stuff as and when it is available.

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