IP networking for the 5G era
IP networks play a critical role in delivering on the 5G promise. After all, the Internet Protocol is the common bearer for all 5G services, which makes the IP network the load-bearing foundation for your future 5G success. 5G requires mobile transport capabilities that go well beyond those needed for 4G/LTE. Your IP network must have the stamina to carry you through its entire deployment cycle without forklift upgrades — is it ready for 5G?
Figure 1 IP networking for the 5G era
The IP network must perform several key roles in delivering on the 5G promise (See Figure 1):
- IP anyhaul transport to connect the 5G Radio Access Network with a multi-access edge.
- Integrated IP network support capabilities to automate and secure network operations.
- Cloud interconnect to unleash the full potential of a distributed 5G service architecture.
This is the first blog in a three-part series where I will discuss the key points to help you prepare your IP network for 5G.
Connect 5G with IP Anyhaul
5G introduces an ultra-dense and massively scalable RAN architecture with new deployment options to split and distribute network functions to optimally cover different geographies and population densities. To minimize cost, risk and time to market, most 5G deployments will initially deploy a classical distributed RAN architecture in a “non-stand alone” mode because this allows sharing of 4G/LTE network assets including spectrum, towers, radio huts, mobile backhaul and packet core infrastructure. Centralized and cloud RAN architectures are more suitable for covering higher density geographies in mass market deployment stages and require reliable and secure fronthaul and midhaul transport with imperceptible latency in the single-digit millisecond range.
Although fronthaul and midhaul are typically introduced later in the 5G deployment cycle, their deployment should be anticipated early to assure they can become a seamless and integral part of your end-to-end IP transport network. Fronthaul equipment must also be hardened for outdoor deployment and tailored to fit in cell tower enclosures and radio huts.
IP Anyhaul transport should meet the following 5G evolution requirements:
- Any generation — support of 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE in addition to 5G will let you leverage and consolidate existing network assets for a smooth and economic transition to 5G
- Any topology — concurrent support of distributed, centralized and cloud RAN models will allow you optimize cost and coverage for different demographics and densities
- Any service — transport slicing with deterministic SLAs on bandwidth, availability and latency will expand your 5G offering from consumers to enterprises and industries
- Any access — converging fixed wireline and wireless access are a key enabler for deploying a multi-access edge and unified 5G service core.
Figure 1. IP Anyhaul for 5G
Converge 5G with a multi-access edge
A distributed edge is a strategic location for hosting cloud compute and storage resources. Its proximity to end users reduces the delivery cost of high bandwidth content and minimizes round trip delays for low latency applications. By making the edge cloud accessible for both fixed wireline and wireless access technologies, you can efficiently share these premium compute and storage resources among a larger set of users to maximize economies of scale. A multi-access edge also allows you to combine fixed wireline and wireless access media to support ultra-reliable, physically separate access for mission-critical services.
The 5G access gateway function (AGW) defined by the Broadband Forum is a strategic enabler for interworking fixed wireline access with a 5G core. It will enable you to evolve your broadband network gateway (BNG) to a multi-access edge gateway for converged fixed wireline and wireless access. By also decoupling the BNG user plane and introducing a common session management function (SMF) you can then deliver any service over any access and benefit from the superior agility of a cloud-native 5G service architecture.
IP network solutions for the 5G era
The 5G race is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. The 5G technology cycle will easily last a decade and many moving parts must come together to build a 5G network that fits your needs today and tomorrow. The IP network must perform several roles in delivering on the 5G promise:
- IP anyhaul transport to connect and scale out the 5G Radio Access Network
- Multi-access edge to converge fixed wireline and wireless access on a unified 5G Core
- Cloud interconnect to unleash the full potential of a distributed 5G service architecture
- Open and machine-programmable interfaces to automate and scale network operations
- Enhanced packet inspection and control capabilities to secure 5G against DDoS attacks.
I’ve discussed the first two roles in this post. In future blog posts, I will address the other three roles. Hopefully, these posts will help you to make the right investments in your IP network now, so you get a head start and are set for a strong race!
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