5G Core explained
Nokia is committed to delivering technology that allows its customers to evolve in the most intuitive ways. As communications services providers (CSPs) transition to 5G, Nokia is leading the charge once more with its 5G Core. Designed to free network innovation, it’s built on four key pillars:
Allowing customers to consume 5G in a way that meets their needs and to deliver compelling new services.
Extreme automation allows resources to be delivered where and when required to optimize core operations.
Designed with open innovation in mind and platform agnostic for deployment anywhere, from central to edge or far edge, and across private and public clouds, to meet the needs of any service.
Nokia’s history of delivering reliable, high performance core networking capabilities across the globe ensures customer confidence underpins the 5G core.
Before we explore these pillars further, it’s worth going back to basics.
Core network functionality
The core has been the beating heart of the network since the early days of the telephone when it served as the manual switching board, allowing operators to route calls to where they needed to go. When we think of a modern mobile network, that switching functionality remains, but it’s become a lot more complex.
Think how many people are simultaneously accessing their mobile network to watch Netflix, listen to iTunes, book holidays, access banking, play games and more over their smart devices. Now think of the growing number of industrial devices that are interacting with the network.
The core manages all of this. It’s the network intelligence that provides traffic handling, as well as billing, location and security, ensuring that services are only accessed by the people and devices that have permission to do so and that they are accurately billed for what they use.
The core evolution
The GSMA predicts 5G connections globally will account for more than 20 percent of mobile connections by 2025, making it the fastest-growing mobile service when compared to 3G or 4G. That’s an indication of how the core is evolving and the capabilities it will enable in the 5G era. In addition to enhanced mobile broadband features such as faster data rates – 5G delivers speeds that are 1,000 times faster than 2G - the 5G core is more flexible, dynamic and open. It’s doing this to support people as well as machines, including the connectivity of billions of IoT sensors and the real-time processing demands of Industry 4.0 applications.
Because Nokia 5G core is an evolution and not a revolution customers can evolve their service to meet market demands when they need to. It will scale from the smallest private networks to the largest global deployments. Existing 4G/LTE operators can initially choose to deploy a 5G non standalone network which means that as they transition radio networks to 5G they can leverage their existing 4G core to deliver enhanced mobile broadband services.
Later, they can evolve to a standalone 5G network by upgrading their core. Nokia worked with T-Mobile in the USA as the operator launched the world’s first nationwide standalone 5G network.
While incumbent CSPs can evolve this way, Nokia has already shown that its 5G core makes it possible for new players to enter the market. DISH Wireless in the USA worked with Nokia to deploy the world’s first 5G standalone core network over AWS’s public cloud.
The way the Nokia 5G core supports these deployments can be explained using those four key pillars.
Pillar 1: Monetization:
Network Slicing is a key capability. It allows CSPs to monetize services by creating discrete network slices that meet required levels of performance for individual customers and services, for enhanced security and quality of service (QoS) purposes.
For example, one slice could be given to an automotive manufacturer to manage autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), quality control and predictive maintenance on a huge scale. Here, network performance in terms of latency, reliability and capacity, is key. A second slice could be given over to a public safety agency which also requires high QoS and network redundancy. A third could then be allotted to an energy supplier to support the mass data collation from millions of smart meters, a slice that doesn’t require high network availability and QoS.
5G and its cloud-native automation enables this – ensuring one network can be carved up into many and allowing CSPs to deliver resources to meet the exacting needs of their customers and services without impacting others.
New ways to consume the core: Because the 5G core is cloud-based there are opportunities to offer it ‘as a service’ and provide the core’s capabilities to those without specific core expertise, or for those needing networks on demand. This enables faster time to market, easy and fast capacity scaling, and OpEx-based simplicity. Watch this space for more Nokia announcements in this area.
Pillar 2: Simplification
Nokia 5G core is built on microservices, meaning it’s geared to enable extreme automation. Network operations are simplified because resources, such as network capacity, are dynamically scaled to go where and when they are needed to meet the needs of all customers. With manual input limited, errors that impact productivity are reduced.
Pillar 3: Openness
Cloud-native: While 4G core could be deployed on bare metal or the cloud, 5G core is a cloud-native technology. The Nokia 5G core is platform agnostic meaning it can be deployed wherever it needs to go. Nokia customers can deploy it on their own private clouds such as our own Kubernetes platform, VMware Tanzu, Red Hat OpenShift, or public and hybrid clouds provided by AWS and Google.
While CSPs can leverage public cloud deployment to meet many consumer needs, they can choose to deploy some on-demand services at the edge and far edge. The low latency real-time data processing capabilities of the edge cloud will also meet the needs of enterprise business-critical Industry 4.0 use cases such as automated vehicles and robots and predictive maintenance, allowing companies to boost efficiency and productivity and meet safety and security goals.
Network exposure: The network exposure function (NEF) is a standardized 5G network function that enables openness. Nokia has long committed to enabling platform innovation through open APIs and the 5G core continues this tradition. Our NEF allows external developers to access and consume certain standard APIs. This will ensure the creation of new applications to meet the evolving needs of industries and consumers.
Pillar Four: Confidence
In addition to working with T-Mobile and DISH Wireless in the US, Nokia has supported 5G standalone core network deployments across the globe, including for China Unicom, KDDI and SoftBank in Japan, Taiwan Mobile, M1 and StarHub in Singapore, and Telia in Finland. Nokia’s long history of delivering reliable, high-performance core network technology to customers ensures that confidence underpins the Nokia 5G core.
Nokia 5G Core: An evolution not revolution
Today’s 5G core is based on 3GPP Release 16 with Releases 17 and 18 already in production that will further optimize functionality for Industry 4.0 and virtual, augmented and mixed reality services.
Nokia is committed to evolving the 5G core to meet changing demands. As it does so it will continue to free network innovation, enabling customers to grow and develop new compelling service offers.
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