SK Telecom Selects Ericsson 5G Packet Core (3GPP Release 16- 5GC)

SK Telecom has selected Ericsson to deliver a Cloud Packet Core for its 5G network. Ericsson says its Cloud Packet Core (part of the company’s Cloud Core portfolio) helps service providers to smoothly migrate to 5G Core (5GC) stand-alone architecture.

Author’s Note:

Please see below for more information on 3GPP 5GC which is part of Release 16 and as yet has not been submitted to either ITU-R or ITU-T for IMT 2020 mobile packet core.  There seems to be no independent work on a 5G mobile packet core within ITU, which is evidently waiting anxiously for 3GPP Release 16 to be completed and forwarded to various ITU-R WPs and ITU-T Study Groups.


Ericsson’s Cloud Packet Core is at the business end of mobile broadband and IoT networks. It creates value, visibility and control of traffic and applications by determining the optimal quality of a service, then enforcing it through appropriate policy.

Jung Chang-kwan, Vice President and Head of Infra Engineering Group, SK Telecom, says: “By utilizing Ericsson’s Cloud Packet Core network solution, which realizes simplified network operations, we will unleash the full potential of new 5G-enabled use cases with greater efficiency.”

Jan Karlsson, Senior Vice President and Head of Digital Services, Ericsson, says: “This deal, and the opportunity to work with SK Telecom’s Network Functions Virtualization Infrastructure (NFVI), has put us in the ideal position to further strengthen their 5G network. Delivering our Cloud Packet Core solution will positively impact SK Telecom’s network operations and will reinforce Ericsson’s position as a leader in 5G core.”

SK Telecom switched on its commercial 5G network in December 2018 after selecting Ericsson as one of its primary 5G vendors. Previously, Ericsson provided radio access network (RAN) products, including mid-band Massive MIMO.


3GPP 5GC (the only specification for a 5G mobile packet core):

The 5GC (5G packet Core), specified in 3GPP TS 23.501: System architecture for the 5G System (5GS); Stage 2, will be part of 3GPP Release 16, which won’t be completed till June 2020 at the earliest.

3GPP’s 5G System architecture is defined to support data connectivity and services enabling deployments to use techniques such as e.g. Network Function Virtualization and Software Defined Networking. The 5G System architecture shall leverage service-based interactions between Control Plane (CP) Network Functions where identified. Some key principles and concept are to:

–     Separate the User Plane (UP) functions from the Control Plane (CP) functions, allowing independent scalability, evolution and flexible deployments e.g. centralized location or distributed (remote) location.

–     Modularize the function design, e.g. to enable flexible and efficient network slicing.

–     Wherever applicable, define procedures (i.e. the set of interactions between network functions) as services, so that their re-use is possible.

–     Enable each Network Function and its Network Function Services to interact with other NF and its Network Function Services directly or indirectly via a Service Communication Proxy if required. The architecture does not preclude the use of another intermediate function to help route Control Plane messages (e.g. like a DRA).

–     Minimize dependencies between the Access Network (AN) and the Core Network (CN). The architecture is defined with a converged core network with a common AN – CN interface which integrates different Access Types e.g. 3GPP access and non-3GPP access.

–     Support a unified authentication framework.

–     Support “stateless” NFs, where the “compute” resource is decoupled from the “storage” resource.

–     Support capability exposure.

–     Support concurrent access to local and centralized services. To support low latency services and access to local data networks, UP functions can be deployed close to the Access Network.

–     Support roaming with both Home routed traffic as well as Local breakout traffic in the visited PLMN.

The 5G architecture is defined as service-based and the interaction between network functions is represented in the following two ways:

–     A service-based representation, where network functions (e.g. AMF) within the Control Plane enables other authorized network functions to access their services. This representation also includes point-to-point reference points where necessary.

–     A reference point representation, shows the interaction exist between the NF services in the network functions described by point-to-point reference point (e.g. N11) between any two network functions (e.g. AMF and SMF).


GSMA’s Position on 5GC:

The network evolution from 4G-LTE mobile packet core (EPC) to 5G Core (5GC) plays a central role in creating a powerful network platform that is capable of being exposed and automated for service providers.

5GC has been designed from its inception to be “cloud native,” inheriting many of the technology solutions used in cloud computing and with virtualization at its core.  Virtualization of network functions enables  5GC to be redesigned and become open and flexible enough to meet the diversity of service and business requirement in 5G era.

5GC will also offer superior network slicing and QoS features. Another important characteristic is the separation of the control plane and user plane that besides adding flexibility in connecting the users also allows an easier way to support a multitude of access technologies, better support for network slicing and edge computing.

5GC proposes a service based architecture  (SBA), which provides unprecedented efficiency and flexibility for the network.  SBA is an architectural for building system based on fine-grained, interaction of loosely coupled and autonomous components called services. This architecture model is chosen to take full advantage of the latest virtualization and software technologies.

Service-based architectures have been in use in the software industry to improve the modularity of products. A software product can be broken down into communicating services. With this approach, the developers can mix and match services from different vendors into a single product.

Compared to the previous generation reference point architecture as EPC, the elements of service based architecture are defined to be the NF (network functions), which interconnect with the rest network functions across a single API calling interface and provide the authorized services to them. Network repository functions (NRF) allows every network function to discover the services offered by other network functions. A service is an atomized capability in a 5G network, with the characteristics of high-cohesion, loose-coupling, and independent management from other services. This allows individual services to be updated independently with minimal impact to other services and deployed on demand. A service is managed based on the service framework including service registration, service authorization, and service discovery. It provides a comprehensive and highly automated management mechanism implemented by NRF, which greatly reduces the complexity of network maintenance. A service will interact with other services in a light-weight manner, e.g. API invocation.

Virtualization and cloud computing have resulted in lowering the cost of computing by pooling resources in shared data centers.

  • 5G core networks can be shrunk in size by using virtualization. Varies components of the core network can be run as communicating virtual machines.
  • Moving the control plane of the 5G core network to a cloud provider lowers the deployment cost.

The 5G core is a mesh of interconnected services as shown in the figure below:


Ericsson Addendum:

According to Ericsson’s latest Mobility Reportpublished earlier this week, global 5G subscriptions will exceed 2.6bn within the next six years and by that time Ericsson predicts that 5G will cover 65 percent of the world. It also believes that total mobile subscriptions, including to previous generation networks, will reach 8.9bn from 8bn over the next six years. More than quarter of the global subscriptions will be 5G by 2025 and will account for around 45 percent of worldwide mobile data traffic.

Additionally, Ericsson has also announced its partnership with NVIDIA in order to develop technologies that will enable communication service providers to build virtualized 5G radio access networks, which will boost the introduction of new AI and IoT-based services. The ultimate focus will be to commercialize virtualized RAN technologies to offer radio networks with flexibility and ability to enter the market in a shorter time for new services like VR, AR and gaming.



6 thoughts on “SK Telecom Selects Ericsson 5G Packet Core (3GPP Release 16- 5GC)

  1. From a Cisco Whitepaper:

    Packet core

    ● Introduction of new cloud-native network functions

    ● 5G CN integration with legacy packet core, 5G RAN, and other 3GPP elements

    ● Disaggregation of core nodes

    Additionally, OSS/BSS integration and SDN/NFV capabilities in each network domain are implicit for cost optimization, enhanced user experience, and agile service lifecycle management. Next, key design principles will be addressed that deserve careful planning for the successful implementation of 5G networks.

  2. In my research for this IEEE Techblog post I discovered that there is no standard yet for the 5G mobile packet core in ITU and that there is no ongoing work on that subject. 3GPP is the sole organization progressing a 5G packet core spec (5GC) in 3GPP TS 23.501: 5G Systems Architecture, which will be part of 3GPP Release 16 (scheduled to be completed June 2020). The latest draft is Sept 2019.

    GSMA says the network evolution from EPC to 5G core plays a central role in creating a powerful network platform that is capable of being exposed and automated for service providers.

    So all the talk about 5G Stand Alone deployments in 2020 from U.S. network operators is not based on any approved standard. Rather, it is based on network vendor proprietary 5G packet core implementations that presumably track 5GC in 3GPP. It remains to be seen how 3GPP member companies will contribute TS 23.501 5G Core to ITU-T and ITU-R (for reference) along with other 3GPP Rel 16 functions like ultra low latency/ultra high reliability, 5G control plane, etc.

    It is critical to understand that 5G stand alone requires not only a 5G packet core but also: IMT 2020 (5G) signaling/control plane, network management and orchestration rather than 4G LTE equivalent functions. Those functions are not yet standardized either within ITU.


    The closest you get to 5G softwardization functions like virtualization, network slicing, capability exposure, etc is ITU-T SG 13 Question 20 and 21.

    You can see several new ITU-T recommendations on network slicing at,1,3,7&details=0&field=acdefghijo
    Enhanced SDN, Architecture and other IMT 2020 related software based recommendations are at

  3. from Ericsson’s Hannes Ekström, Head of Product Line 5G RAN

    5G use cases requiring ultra-low latency and much higher capacity will only be feasible with the SA 5G NR and the 3GPP core network architecture for 5G Core (5GC).

    This means that there are service providers who prefer to go straight from 4G to standalone 5G, which offers greater possibilities to tap new 5G use cases, especially for enterprises. Together with industry peers who have already deployed NSA 5G, they can start to benefit from the advantages of standalone 5G, which is the eventual architecture of all 5G radio networks.

    Considered as the ultimate 5G, Standalone NR – coupled with cloud-native 5G Core – will provide better support for all use cases and unlock the power of the next-generation mobile technology. Thanks to network evolution we’re entering a new era of ultra-fast connectivity, the most rapid response times ever, and a whole host of opportunities for new solutions and services.

    Standalone 5G: the facts (it requires 3GPP Release 16 spec):

    -Target 5G architecture option
    -Simplified RAN and device architecture
    -New cloud-native 5G Core
    -Brings ultra-low latency
    -The only option to provide same 5G coverage for low band as legacy system
    -Supports advanced network-slicing functions
    -Facilitates a wider range of use cases for new devices

    Ericsson’s new SA 5G NR software enables service providers to launch standalone 5G commercially. Combined with our 5G dual-mode Cloud Core solutions, the new 5G NR software, which can be installed on existing Ericsson Radio System hardware, will open up new business opportunities for service providers. With wider deployment options, they can choose the path to 5G that suits them best.

  4. Network Functions in 5GC

    The major difference with 5G Core (5GC) compared to 4G EPC is that 5GC’s control plane (CP) functions interact in a Service-Based Architecture (SBA). A key Network Function (NF) of SBA is the Network Repository Function (NRF), which provides NF service registration and discovery, enabling NFs to identify appropriate services in one another. SBA principles apply to interfaces between CP functions within 5GC only, so interfaces toward Radio Access Network (RAN), user equipment or user plane (UP) functions (N1, N2, N3, N4, N6 and N9) are excluded.

    Another major difference in 5GC’s CP is the structure, because it has different functional separation of Access and Mobility Functions (AMF) and Session Management Functions (SMF). 5GC includes the separation of UP and CP functions of the gateway, which was an evolution of the gateway CP/UP separation (CUPS) introduced in EPC Release 14. Other changes include a separate Authentication Server (AUSF) and several new functions, such as the Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF) and the Network Exposure Function (NEF).

    Ericsson believes service providers should only have to manage one core network, and any device should be able to access that network over any access technology. They should also have a common set of resources that can be used for serving the complete subscriber base. Finally, striving towards making operations as efficient as possible is key, while not forgetting the importance of flexibility to open up new business opportunities without bringing extensive or costly reconfigurations.

  5. Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Cloud Core solution delivers cloud native applications that support both EPC and 5GC 3GPP architectures. It ensures capacity, elasticity and agnosticism to the underlying infrastructure, and high levels of orchestration and automation for operational efficiency.

    Podcast with Lars Frid
    A person who has been working with the 5G architecture for quite some time is Lars Frid, Director of 5G Core Strategic Product Management at Ericsson. Listen to this podcast on his experiences of introducing 2G, 3G, 4G and now also 5G. What is a ‘day in the life in 30 seconds’ for him when working with cloudification and preparing for zero touch networks?
    And what exactly is top of mind for service providers today, approaching commercial 5G?

  6. Reducing 5G’s energy consumption is ‘an industry responsibility’, says Ericsson

    A new report from Ericsson argues that it will be possible to overcome 5G networks “energy curve”
    From 2G to 4G, the increase in energy demand from generation to generation of mobile technology has been steady and predictable. With more data traffic comes higher power consumption, and some operators are predicting that 5G will double their current power usage once fully deployed.

    But it does not have to be this way, suggests a new report from Swedish vendor Ericsson.

    The report outlines a four-point strategy for tackling the issue of power consumption, paraphrased here:

    1) Modernising the network by replacing old, inefficient tech, rather than simply adding to it
    2) Utilising energy saving software to reduce energy demand while retaining network performance
    3) Optimising the 5G network through using new tech to minimise the need for hardware
    4) Capitalising on AI to increase site infrastructure efficiency

    It will come as no surprise that all these points can be facilitated with Ericsson technology. The company’s Energy Infrastructure Operations solution, for example, can offer a decrease of up to 15% in energy-related OpEx and 30% in energy-related outages.

    Nonetheless, it is interesting that the report suggests that new technologies made possible or enhanced by 5G, like AI and machine learning, could play a significant role in reducing power consumption. In a sense, 5G will go some way to solving its own network efficiency problems, but there is still much to be done on the part of the operators.

    “With this new report, we answer the billion-dollar question: is it possible to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption? We believe that it is not only an option, it is an industry responsibility,” said Erik Ekudden, Eriksson’s senior VP, CTO and head of group function technology. “We are now sharing our insights into how the industry can achieve this new reality.”

    With the world in a climate crisis, the telecoms industry is slowly increasing the pace of its environmental projects. Many operators have already pledged to go carbon neutral, but the target dates vary widely. O2, for example, recently announcing its new 2025 target, but rival BT still wants another quarter of a century to reach its target, currently aiming for carbon neutrality in 2045.

    Some operators are doing a much better job – Finnish operator Elisa earlier this week announcing that it was on course to achieve carbon neutrality this year – but for the rest of the industry reducing energy consumption should be a priority when deploying 5G, not an afterthought.

    As operators around the world race to deploy 5G as quickly as possible, energy efficiency should be at the forefront of their mind. An efficient strategy to deploying 5G will not only save them money but could also help save the planet.

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