Telecommunication companies in New Zealand are currently implementing ‘non-standalone’ 5G – while networks have been updated to 5G, data centres and network cores are still running on legacy, non-5G systems, which are dependent on 4G infrastructure.
To achieve standalone 5G, data centres and core mobile networks need to be upgraded and deployed on a cloud-native platform. Existing mobile networks run out of a centralised data centre have relatively static use-cases and are complex to customize.
A 5G standalone network is ‘cloud native’, meaning that it is fully virtualized, can run on any cloud service, is designed with a microservices approach and architected to address evolving customer needs in a scalable way, while also offering inherent resilience. This creates flexibility in an end-to-end 5G solution and allows users of the network to realise the full range of benefits of a standalone 5G network – including low latency, and advanced capabilities such as 5G network slicing, 5G security, 5G private networks, and multi access edge computing (MEC).
Spark’s 5G SA PoC Trials:
Spark New Zealand this week shared details of two 5G SA proof-of-concepts (PoCs) it carried out, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) was heavily involved in both of them. Spark deployed a 5G SA cloud-native core solution on AWS Snowball Edge, Amazon’s rugged, briefcase-sized edge cloud. It enabled the incumbent to create a portable storage and compute solution that can be deployed right at the edge of its 5G network, offering high throughput and low latency when and where it is needed.
The PoC also marked the first deployment of Mavenir’s 5G SA core network solution on Snowball Edge. Using this set-up, Spark tested a video analytics tool, recording a 70 percent reduction in latency compared to its 5G non-standalone network.
Spark’s other PoC used the same Mavenir 5G SA core software on AWS Outposts, a managed service that extends AWS infrastructure, APIs and tools to customer premises. It means a customer can work within the same development environment as the AWS public cloud, but use local storage a compute resources, resulting in lower latency. Spark said it wanted to see how this architecture might improve the performance of its 5G fixed wireless access (FWA) service. By deploying cloud-native core network software on AWS Outposts, the telco said it achieved faster download speeds and reduced latency compared to non-standalone FWA.
“These proof-of-concepts create line of sight for us to deliver the enhanced benefits of standalone 5G – both to New Zealand businesses looking to innovate using 5G connectivity and multi access edge compute (MEC), and to New Zealanders accessing a network that supports applications such as instant video streaming, cloud hosted gaming and the reaction times required for driverless vehicles,” said Josh Bahlman, Spark’s lead for telco cloud, in a statement.
“The 5G standalone network opens the door on capacity and low latency to help accelerate IoT trends, such as connected cars, smart cities and IoT in the home and office,” he added.
Amazon’s heavy involvement with these PoCs suggests Spark might be seriously considering a public cloud deployment for its 5G SA network. AT&T is doing exactly that with Microsoft Azure while Dish Network is using AWS public cloud. However, that 5G SA core network has yet to be deployed.
However, the overwhelming majority of telcos that have either deployed or committed to deploying 5G SA have also committed to rolling it out on their own telco cloud. Dell’Oro research director Dave Bolan recently wrote, “We found that 27 5G SA networks have been commercially deployed and only one MNO is running its 5G workloads in the public cloud. The balance chose to run their own telco clouds.”
Spark didn’t categorically state that its commercial 5G SA network will use AWS architecture, it might still go for an in-house option. At this stage, it doesn’t appear to have ruled anything in or out.
“The solutions offered by AWS and Mavenir provide an opportunity to test and learn by leveraging cloud-native solutions and multi access edge compute services optimised for 5G. Testing the technology in this way allows us to identify the optimal combination of vendors and solutions to deliver the benefits we want to achieve,” Bahlman said. “We have further proof-of-concepts underway as we work to bring relevant use cases specific to New Zealand’s local requirements.”
This is Mavenir’s first global edge deployment on Snowball Edge, and using such a device “allowed Spark to create a highly portable edge solution that could literally fit into a suitcase – to process and store data close to where it’s generated, enabling low latency and real time responsiveness”, said Spark.
The company said: “This is the first New Zealand mobile network deployment on AWS Outposts. Testing a wireless broadband service on this proof of concept showed faster download speeds and reduced latency when compared to pre-deployment results, providing a better experience for Spark’s wireless broadband customers.”
Mavenir’s president of core networks, Ashok Khuntia, said: “Our cloud-based network solution offers flexibility and advanced capabilities such as network slicing to enable efficiencies in overall service design and deployment times to accelerate trials and service rollouts.”