Deutsche Telekom demos end to end network slicing; plans ‘multivendor’ open RAN launch in 2023

DT and Ericsson recently demonstrated an impressive proof of concept implementation: they established connectivity with guaranteed quality of service (QoS) between Germany and Poland via 5G end-to-end network slicing. With an SD-WAN solution from Deutsche Telekom, the data connection can be flexibly controlled and managed via a customer portal. The solution ensures that different service parameters in the network can be operated across country borders. At the same time, network resources are flexibly allocated. This approach is being presented for the first time worldwide. It is particularly advantageous for global companies that operate latency-critical applications at different, international locations.

End-to-end network slicing, which requires a 5G SA core network, is a key enabler for unlocking 5G opportunities. It’s been highly touted to drive business model innovation and new use cases across various industry segments. 5G slicing will enable use cases that require specific resources and QoS levels. Globally operating enterprise are more and more seeing the need for uniform connectivity characteristics to serve their applications in different markets. Some of the latency-critical business applications that demand consistent international connectivity performance are related to broadcasting, logistics, and automotive telematics.

In this trial, the QoS connectivity was extended from Germany to Poland using a 5G slicing setup that is based on commercial grade Ericsson 5G Standalone (SA) radio and core network infrastructure and a Deutsche Telekom commercial SD-WAN solution. The home operator-controlled User Plane Function (UPF) is placed in Poland as the visited country and the entire setup is managed by an Ericsson orchestrator integrated with a Deutsche Telekom business support system via open TM Forum APIs. Combining 5G slicing and SD-WAN technology allows flexible connectivity establishment and control, while traffic breakout close to the application server in visited countries enables low latency.

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According to Light Reading, Deutsche Telekom (DT) has already issued a request for quotation (RFQ) to Open RAN vendors and is currently selecting partners for a commercial rollout next year.  NEC – a Japanese vendor of radio units (among other things)- and Mavenir -a U.S. developer of baseband software-were mentioned as Open RAN Town participants (and likely DT RFQ respondents). “It is a multivendor setup,” said DT’s Claudia Nemat.

However, there are obstacles that Open RAN must overcome to be widely deployed. In particular, energy efficiency. Deutsche Telekom, along with most other big operators, is determined to reduce its carbon footprint and slash energy bills. Open RAN “is less energy efficient than today’s RAN technology,” Ms. Nemat said.  The use of x86 general-purpose microprocessors in virtualized, open RAN deployments seems to be responsible for this inefficiency.

“If you have an ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] for baseband processing, it is always cheaper than using a general-purpose microprocessor like an Intel processor,” said Alex Choi, Deutsche Telekom’s head of strategy and technology innovation, two years ago.

One option is to use ASICs and other chips as hardware accelerators for more efficient baseband processing. Companies including Marvell, Nvidia and Qualcomm all have products in development for sale as merchant silicon in open RAN deployments. Nemat, noted a breakthroughs with Intel.

“We achieved a reduction of electricity consumption of around minus 30%.  For us, that is a big step forward for commercial deployment.”

Light Reading’s Iain Morris, provided this assessment:

Even so, a commercial open RAN deployment involving companies like NEC and Mavenir is hard to imagine. Any widespread rollout of their technologies would mean swapping out equipment recently supplied by Ericsson or Huawei (DT’s current 5G network equipment vendors), unless Deutsche Telekom plans to run two parallel networks. Either option would be costly.

Far likelier is that a 2023 deployment will be very limited. Other operators including the UK’s BT and France’s Orange have talked about using open RAN initially for small cells – designed to provide a coverage boost in specific locations.

A private network for a factory is one possible example. Outside Germany, of course, there may be a bigger short-term opportunity in Deutsche Telekom markets where 5G has not been as widely deployed.

In late June 2021, Deutsche Telekom switched on its ‘O-RAN Town’ deployment in Neubrandenburg, Germany. O-RAN Town is a multi-vendor open RAN network that will deliver open RAN based 4G and 5G services across up to 25 sites. The first sites are now deployed and integrated into the live network of Telekom Germany. This includes Europe’s first integration of massive MIMO (mMIMO) radio units using O-RAN open fronthaul interfaces to connect to the virtualized RAN software.

Ms. Nemat said at the time, “Open RAN is about increasing flexibility, choice and reinvigorating our industry to bring in innovation for the benefit our customers. Switching on our O-RAN Town including massive MIMO is a pivotal moment on our journey to drive the development of open RAN as a competitive solution for macro deployment at scale. This is just the start. We will expand O-RAN Town over time with a diverse set of supplier partners to further develop our operational experience of high-performance multi-vendor open RAN.”

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In November 2021, Deutsche Telekom announced it was taking the lead in a new Open lab to accelerate network disaggregation and Open RAN. The German Federal Ministry for Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) is financing the Lab with 17 million Euros and that’s to be matched by approximately a 17 million Euro investment from a consortium under the leadership of Deutsche Telekom (DT).

The lab will furthermore be supported by and working closely with OCP (Open Compute Project), ONF (Open Networking Foundation), ONAP (Open Network Automation Platform), the O-RAN Alliance and the TIP (Telecom Infra Project). Partners and supporters together form the user forum, which is open for participation by other interested companies, especially SMEs, working on applications as well as equipment and development. As an open lab it is built for collaboration within the wider telecommunications community. The i14y Lab Berlin will be the central location and core node of satellite locations such as Düsseldorf and Munich.  Other highlights:

  • Testing and integrating components of disaggregated networks in the lab to accelerate time to market of open network technology for the multi-vendor network of the future.
  • The lab has already started operations at DT Innovation Campus Winterfeldtstraße
  • Important foundation for building a European and German ecosystem of vendors and system integrators

A recent Research Nester report predicts a market size of $21 billion for O-RAN in 2028.

[Source: https://www.researchnester.com/reports/open-radio-access-network-market/2781].

References:

https://www.lightreading.com/open-ran/dt-preps-multivendor-open-ran-rollout-starting-in-2023/d/d-id/775446

https://www.telekom.com/en/media/media-information/archive/telekom-at-mwc-barcelona-2022-647894

https://www.telekom.com/en/media/media-information/archive/global-5g-network-slicing-648218

https://www.telekom.com/en/media/media-information/archive/consortium-establishes-open-lab-i14y-640186

https://www.telekom.com/en/media/media-information/archive/telekom-switches-on-o-ran-town-in-neubrandenburg-630566

5G Security explained: 3GPP 5G core network SBA and Security Mechanisms

by Akash Tripathi with Alan J Weissberger

Introduction:

5G networks were deployed in increasing numbers this past year. As of December 2021, GSA had identified 481 operators in 144 countries or territories that were investing in 5G, up from 412 operators at the end of 2020. Of those, a total of 189 operators in 74 countries/territories had launched one or more 3GPP-compliant 5G services, up by 40% from 135 from one year ago.

Despite 5G’s much advertised potential, there are significant security risks, especially with a “cloud native” service based architecture, which we explain in this article.

New 5G services, functions and features have posed new challenges for 5G network operators.  For example, bad actors could set up “secure” wireless channels with previously issued 5G security keys.

Therefore, it’s imperative for 5G operators to address end-to-end cyber security, using an array of novel techniques and mechanisms, which have been defined by 3GPP and (to a much lesser extent) by GSMA. 

5G Security Requires 5G SA Core Network:

It’s important to distinguish between 5G NSA network security (which use 4G security mechanisms and 4G core network/EPC) vs. 5G SA network security (which uses 5G core network serviced base architecture and new 5G security mechanisms as defined by 3GPP).  

Samsung states in a whitepaper:

▪ With the launch of 5G Stand Alone (SA) networks, 3GPP mitigates some long-standing 4G vulnerabilities to enable much stronger security.

▪ At the same time, the way the Service Based Architecture ‘explodes’ the new 5G Core opens up potentially major new vulnerabilities. This requires a fundamentally new approach to securing the 5G Core, including comprehensive API security.

▪ Operators can communicate 5G SA’s new security features to some business users. Communication to consumers is more challenging because the benefit of new security enhancements will only come into effect incrementally over many years.

▪ Mobile network security cannot depend on 3GPP alone. Operators must apply robust cyber security hygiene and operational best practice throughout their operations. 

In addition, the 5G network infrastructure must meet certain critical security requirements, such as the key exchange protocol briefly described below. 

There are many other risks and challenges, such as the rising shortage of well-trained cyber security and cyber defense specialists. We will address these in this article.  But first, a backgrounder….

5G Core Network Service Based Architecture (SBA):

To understand 5G security specifications, one has to first the 3GPP defined 5G SA/core network architecture.

5G has brought about a paradigm shift in the architecture of mobile networks, from the classical model with point-to-point interfaces between network function to service-based interfaces (SBIs)

The 5G core network (defined by 3GPP) is a Service-Based Architecture (SBA), whereby the control plane functionality and common data repositories of a 5G network are delivered by way of a set of interconnected Network Functions (NFs), each with authorization to access each other’s services.

Network Functions are self-contained, independent and reusable. Each Network Function service exposes its functionality through a Service Based Interface (SBI), which employs a well-defined REST interface using HTTP/2. To mitigate issues around TCP head-of-line (HOL) blocking, the Quick UDP Internet Connections (QUIC) protocol may be used in the future.

Here’s an illustration of 5G core network SBA:

The 5G core network architecture (but not implementation details) is specified by 3GPP in the following Technical Specifications:

TS 23.501 System architecture for the 5G System (5GS)
TS 23.502 Procedures for the 5G System (5GS)
TS 23.503 Policy and charging control framework for the 5G System (5GS); Stage 2

The 5G network consists of nine network functions (NFs) responsible for registering subscribers, managing sessions and subscriber profiles, storing subscriber data, and connecting user equipment to the Internet using a base station.  These technologies create a liability for attackers to carry out man-in-the-middle and DoS attacks against subscribers.

Overview of 3GPP 5G Security Technical Specifications:

The 5G security specification work are done by a 3GPP Working Group named SA3. For the 5G system security mechanisms are specified by SA3 in TS 33.501.  You can see all versions of that spec here.

3GPP’s 5G security architecture is designed to integrate 4G equivalent security. In addition, the reassessment of other security threats such as attacks on radio interfaces, signaling plane, user plane, masquerading, privacy, replay, bidding down, man-in-the-middle and inter-operator security issues have also been taken in to account for 5G and will lead to further security enhancements.

Another important 3GPP Security spec is TS 33.51 Security Assurance Specification (SCAS) for the next generation Node B (gNodeB) network product class, which is part of Release 16.

It’s critically important to note that ALL 3GPP security spec features and functions are required to be supported by vendors, but the are ALL OPTIONAL for 5G service providers.   That has led to inconsistent implementations of 5G security in deployed and planned 5G networks as per this chart, courtesy of Heavy Reading:

Scott Poretsky, Ericsson’s Head of Security, wrote in an email to Alan:

“The reason for the inconsistent implementation of the 5G security requirements is the language in the 3GPP specs that make it mandatory for vendor support of the security features and optional for the operator to decide to use the feature.  The requirements are defined in this manner because some countries did not want these security features implemented by their national telecoms due to these security features also providing privacy.  The U.S. was not one of those countries.”

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Overview of Risks and Potential Threats to 5G Networks:

A few of the threats that 5G networks are likely to be susceptible to might include those passed over from previous generations of mobile networks, such as older and outdated protocols.

  1. Interoperability with 2G-4G Networks

For inter-operability with previous versions of software or backward compatibility, 5G must still extend interoperability options with mobile gadgets adhering to the previous generation of cellular standards.

This inter-operability necessity ensures that vulnerabilities detected in the outmoded Diameter Signaling and the SS7 Interworking functions followed by 2G-4G networks can still be a cause of concern for the next-generation 5G network.

  1. Issues related to data protection and privacy

There is a likely possibility of a cyber security attack such as Man-in-the-Middle (MITM) attack in a 5G network where a perpetrator can access personal data through the deployment of the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI)-catchers or cellular rogue base stations masquerading as genuine mobile network operator equipment.

  1. Possibility of rerouting of sensitive data

The 5G core network SBA itself could make the 5G network vulnerable to  Internet Protocol (IP) attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). Similarly, network hijacking, which involves redirecting confidential data through an intruder’s network, could be another form of attack.

  1. Collision of Politics and Technology

Government entities can impact 5G security when it comes to the production of hardware for cellular networks. For instance, various countries have new regulations that ban the use of 5G infrastructure equipment that are procured from Chinese companies (Huawei and ZTE) citing concerns over possible surveillance by the Chinese government.

  1. Network Slicing and Cyberattacks

Network slicing is a 5G SA core network function (defined by 3GPP) that can logically separate network resources. The facility empowers a cellular network operator to create multiple independent and logical (virtual) networks on a single shared access. However, despite the benefits, concerns are being raised about security risks in the form of how a perpetrator could compromise a network slice to monopolize resources for compute-intensive activities.

3GPP Public Key based Encryption Schemes:

3GPP has introduced more robust encryption algorithms. It has defined the Subscription Permanent Identifier (SUPI) and the Subscription Concealed Identifier (SUCI).

  • A SUPI is a 5G globally unique Subscription Permanent Identifier (SUPI) allocated to each subscriber and defined in 3GPP specification TS 23.501.
  • SUCI is a privacy preserving identifier containing the concealed SUPI.

The User Equipment (UE) generates a SUCI using a Elliptic Curve Integrated Encryption Scheme (ECIES)-based protection scheme with the public key of the Home Network that was securely provisioned to the Universal Subscriber Identity Module (USIM) during the USIM registration.

Through the implementation of SUCI, the chance of meta-data exploits that rely on the user’s identity are significantly reduced.

Zero Trust architecture:

As 5G will support a massive number of devices, Zero Trust can help private companies to authenticate and identify all connected devices and keep an eye on all the activities of those devices for any suspected transgression within the network. While it has been successfully tested for private enterprise networks, its capability for a public network like open-sourced 5G remains to be gauged.

Private 5G Networks:

A private 5G network will be a preferred mode for organizational entities that require the highest levels of security taking into account national interests, economic competitiveness, or public safety. A fully private 5G network extends an organization with absolute control over the network hardware as well as software set-up.  All of those mechanisms can be proprietary as the 5G private network deployment is only within one company’s facilities (campus, building, factory floor, etc).

Future of 5G Security:

The next-generation 5G-based wireless cellular network has put the spotlight on new opportunities, challenges, and risks, which are mandatorily required as the 5G technology makes great strides. 

The 5G security mechanisms will continue to evolve in 3GPP (with Release 17 and above).  Many of them will be transposed to become (“rubber stamped”) ETSI standards. 

Note that 3GPP has not submitted its 5G core network architecture or 5G security specifications to ITU-T which is responsible for all 5G (IMT 2020) non-radio standards.

Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), applicable as of May 25th, 2018 in all EU member states, harmonizes data privacy laws across Europe. It could serve as a model for network security and data protection initiatives outside the European Union.

Conclusions:

The 5G network has the possibility to enhance network and service security. While 5G comes with many built-in security controls by design, developed to enhance the protection of both individual subscribers and wireless cellular networks, there is a constant need to remain vigilant and a step ahead in terms of technological innovation to thwart possible new cyber-attacks.

An end-to-end security framework across all layers and all domains would be essential. Introducing best practices and policies around security and resilience will remain imperative to future-proof 5G networks.

References:

Strong Growth Forecast for 5G Security Market; Market Differentiator for Carriers

Report Linker: 5G Security Market to experience rapid growth through 2026

 

AT&T Exec: 5G Private Networks are coming soon + 5G Security Conundrum?

https://portal.3gpp.org/desktopmodules/Specifications/SpecificationDetails.aspx?specificationId=3169

5G Security Vulnerabilities detailed by Positive Technologies; ITU-T and 3GPP 5G Security specs

Author Bio:

Akash Tripathi is a Content Marketing strategist at Top Mobile Tech. He has 10+ years of experience in blogging and digital marketing. At Top Mobile Tech, he covers various how-to and tips & tricks related to iPhone and more related to technologies.  For more about Akash, please refer to:

https://twitter.com/akashtripathi8

https://www.linkedin.com/in/akash-tripathi-42315959/

https://www.facebook.com/akash.tripathi.562

https://www.instagram.com/akashtripathi8/

 

Is 5G network slicing dead before arrival? Replaced by private 5G?

The telecom industry has been hyping 5G network slicing for several years now, asserting that carriers will be able to make money by selling “slices” of their networks to different enterprises for their exclusive use.  Effectively, creating wireless virtual private networks.

Network slicing is a very complicated technology that must work across a 5G SA core, RAN, edge and transport networks. There are no standards for network slicing, which is defined in several 3GPP Technical Specifications.

From 3GPP TS 28.530:

Network slicing is a paradigm where logical networks/partitions are created, with appropriate isolation, resources and optimized topology to serve a purpose or service category (e.g. use case/traffic category, or for MNO internal reasons) or customers (logical system created “on demand”).

  • network slice: Defined in 3GPP TS 23.501 v1.4.0
  • network slice instance: Defined in 3GPP TS 23.501 V1.4.0
  • network slice subnet: a representation of the management aspects of a set of Managed Functions and the required resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources).
  • network slice subnet instance: an instance of Network Slice Subnet representing the management aspects of a set of Managed Function instances and the used resources (e.g. compute, storage and networking resources).
  • Service Level Specification: a set of service level requirements associated with a Service Level Agreement to be satisfied by a network slice instance.

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An IEEE Techblog tutorial on network slicing is here.

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Yet despite all the pomp and circumstance, there are few if any instances of commercially available 5G SA core networks that support network slicing.  Perhaps that’s because with the lack of standards there won’t be any interoperability or roaming from one 5G SA core network to another.

Meanwhile, private 5G is coming on strong, especially with Amazon’s announcement which we covered in this post:

“There’s nothing like it;” AWS CEO announces Private 5G at AWS re-Invent 2021; Dish Network’s endorsement

Benefits of Private 5G Networks:

A private 5G network, also known as a local or non-public 5G network, is a local area network that provides dedicated bandwidth using 5G technology. Although the telecommunication industry is currently building the needed infrastructure and network gear to support 5G, there has not yet been a widespread rollout.

“5G deployment is still in its infancy, and we use movement from standardization bodies implementing models for Industry 4.0 or smart buildings as an indicator that the 5G private network is a foundational component for their future,” says Jon Abbott, EMEA technology director of Vertiv.

Many companies are working with service providers to use these developing networks, but some prefer the advantages that come with building their own private 5G systems.

A large component in the growth of private 5G networks is the release of an unlicensed spectrum for industry verticals. It gives businesses the option to deploy a private 5G network without having to work with an operator.

Because a private network can be designed for protection and human safety, sensor control, and security, the improved bandwidth is ideal for various use cases in multiple industries.

Benefits of a private network include:

  • Reducing the company’s dependence on providers, thereby allowing full control over operating methods
  • Separate data processing and storage
  • Security policies can be designed and controlled within the organization, allowing companies to customize the network the way they want
  • The overall high speeds, low latency, and application support of 5G

Risks of 5G:

Although there are many benefits, faster network do still come with risks. For example, the improved speed and latency can inadvertently create new avenues for cyber-criminals. As more systems go wireless, the more sources cyber criminals can attempt to hack. Furthermore, the growing adoption of 5G is increasing alongside the use of 5G-enabled devices. Because many of these devices are interconnected to various systems through the Internet of Things, the probability of a data leak increases.

Businesses need to take the proper steps to secure their systems in order to ward off cyber criminals as they attempt to take advantage of the fast speeds of 5G. When the implementation of 5G begins, organizations must have security systems, such as firewalls, VPNs, malware software, intrusion detection systems (IDS) and intrusion prevention systems (IPS), in place.

From a Dell’Oro Group report on Private Wireless Networks:

Private Wireless RAN and Core network Configurations:

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to private wireless. We are likely looking at hundreds of deployment options available when we consider all the possible RAN, Core, and MEC technology, architectures, business, and spectrum models. At a high level, there are two main private wireless deployment configurations, Shared (between public and private) and Not Shared:

  • The shared configuration, also known as Public Network Integrated-NPN (PNI-NPN), shares resources between the private and public networks.
  • Not shared, also known as Standalone NPN (SNPN), reflects dedicated on-premises RAN and core resources. No network functions are shared with the Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN).

Not surprisingly, there will be a plethora of deployment options to address the RAN domain. In addition to the shared vs. standalone configuration and LTE vs. 5G NR, private wireless RAN systems can be divided into two high-level RAN configurations: Wide-Area and Local-Area.

Dell’Oro Group continues to believe that it will take some time to realize the full vision with private wireless. Setting aside the more mature public safety market, we expect that some of these more nascent local private opportunities to support both Broadband and Critical IoT will follow Amara’s Law, meaning that there will likely be a disconnect between reality and vision both over the near and the long term.

References:

Network Slicing and 5G: Why it’s important, ITU-T SG 13 work, related IEEE ComSoc paper abstracts/overviews

Private 5G Networks

“There’s nothing like it;” AWS CEO announces Private 5G at AWS re-Invent 2021; Dish Network’s endorsement

 

Microsoft proposes a 5G overlay on their “Azure for Operators” cloud WAN

In a blog post, Microsoft proposes to sell global data transport and routing services to 5G network operators under its new Azure for Operators business. The proposition (described below) is to use a 5G overlay on Microsoft Azure’s cloud WAN.

“Operators spend a lot of money to manage and maintain their networks and peering relationships, but so does Microsoft. The question then is, why are two massive industries doing the same thing? Because both parties move packets around, doesn’t it make more sense for them to collaborate?” wrote Victor Bahl, Microsoft CTO of the company’s new Azure for Operators business, in a blog post to the company’s website. “Here, the well-managed, reliable, and performant Azure network should be thought of as the backbone that operators trust. With this shift in thinking will come all the advantages of innovation that IT companies like Microsoft are rapidly bringing in.”

Azure’s planet-scale WAN

Azure maintains a massive WAN with significant capacity and one that is continuously growing. We have over 175,000 miles of lit fiber optic and undersea cable systems. This connectivity covers close to 200 network points of presence (PoPs) over 60 regions, across 140 countries.

Azure’s network is connected to many thousands of ISPs and other networks with significant peering capacity. Our global network is well-provisioned, with redundant fiber paths that can handle multiple simultaneous failures, it also has massive reserve capacity in unlit dark fiber. These optical fibers are fully owned or leased by Microsoft, and all traffic between and among Azure datacenters within a region or across regions is automatically encrypted at the physical layer.

This combination of redundant capacity to handle failures, dark capacity for significant growth, and research advancements being made in increasing transmission speeds means that we have a massive amount of spare capacity to serve 5G traffic to a broad array of new operators.

Bahl said Microsoft is selling its network services to large, established 5G network operators that already manage their own routing and transport operations, as well as newer telcos that may not have developed such systems. Under Microsoft’s vision, 5G network operators can focus on erecting cell towers and central offices, but can rely on Microsoft’s Internet backbone to carry their customers’ traffic from those locations across the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Making Azure WAN great for 5G traffic

For many years, Microsoft researchers and engineers have been working on a hybrid-global traffic orchestrator for routing network packets across Azure’s WAN. Our orchestrator takes control away from classic Internet protocols and instead moves that control into software that we build and control for 5G traffic. We place the 5G flows that demand high performance on low-latency, high bandwidth paths to and from the Internet. Network flows that are cost-sensitive are instead routed through cheaper paths.

In effect, we have developed a fast-(packet) forwarding mechanism to build a 5G overlay on our existing WAN, thereby supporting a variety of 5G network slices with different wired transport properties, while avoiding interference with the operation of the underlying enterprise cloud network.

We have also extended our state-of-the-art network verification capability to cover complex network topologies by modeling Virtual WAN, Virtual Networks, and other network function virtualizations (NFVs), as well as modeling reachability using formal methods. Using fast solvers, we can verify reachability constraints on customer topologies, at deployment time or when undergoing a config change.

We have applied machine learning to predict the impact of peering link outages and congestion mitigation strategies and use the data to improve the availability of the WAN peering surface area.

Our expertise in optimization algorithms has been shown to ultimately reduce cloud networking spend. Techniques like these will be invaluable in carving out 5G paths on the overlay that are cost-efficient, but still meet the performance needs of every network slice.

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The significant upside for operators

To reiterate, Microsoft is heavily invested in running a well-managed, always-available global network. We have been incorporating multiple groundbreaking technologies, including scalable optimization, formal verification of routing policies, machine learning, and AI. We envision operators to not only be able to use our WAN to transfer 5G packets, with low latency, but also to benefit from multiple network services such as DDoS protection, firewalls, traffic accelerators, connection analytics, load balancers, and rate limiters, many of which we use in running existing Azure network workloads.

At Microsoft, we bring the full power of research and engineering leadership into our networks, rapidly incorporating innovation and new features to provide reliable, low-latency, low-cost service. In turn, this effort will open up the significant potential of next-generation services and applications as envisioned by the community at large. It is no understatement to say that collaboration between operators and Azure is key to unleashing the true power of 5G.

Last year Microsoft acquired telecom software vendors Affirmed Networks and Metaswitch Networks, and subsequently introduced its Azure for Operators to “provide operators with the agility they need to rapidly innovate and experiment with new 5G services on a programmable network.” The company earlier this year doubled down on the opportunity with the purchase of AT&T’s Network Cloud operation, a move that positions AT&T to shift its 5G core network operations into Microsoft’s cloud over the next three years.

More broadly, Microsoft is one of a trio of massive cloud computing companies that are hoping to generate sales among telecom companies, including 5G network operators. Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft are all now selling various products and services into the telecom space.

Several telecom network providers including Canada’s Telus  and  Deutsche Telekom – are jumping at the prospect of partnering with a cloud computing service provider. Of note is Dish Network’s massive deal with AWS, whereby it plans to run all of its network software in the Amazon cloud and AT&T outsourcing its 5G SA Core network to run on Microsoft Azure cloud.

References:

https://azure.microsoft.com/en-gb/blog/unleashing-the-true-potential-of-5g-with-cloud-networks/

https://www.lightreading.com/service-provider-cloud/microsoft-starts-selling-transport-routing-services-to-5g-operators/d/d-id/772821?

 

AT&T 5G SA Core Network to run on Microsoft Azure cloud platform

AT&T Exec: 5G Private Networks are coming soon + 5G Security Conundrum?

Just two weeks after Verizon won a 5G Private Network contract in the UK, AT&T now says that Private 5G Networks are coming soon to your office or campus.  AT&T’s Rita Marty wrote in a blog post that many companies want “5G in a private space.”

“We’ve done exactly that at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. Fans will get experiences like live stats projected over the field on their smartphone camera.”

“Some organizations want a truly private, standalone 5G system. They envision full control of a “local area network” similar to corporate Wi-Fi, but with the performance, reliability and security of cellular.  Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada is testing one flavor: a 5G-powered command-and-control center on a trailer. It will form the hub of a moveable, private cellular network for local personnel in a conflict area.

Ms. Marty alluded to network slicing and edge computing in her blog post.  Those are two ultra hyped technologies that have yet to be deployed at scale by any 5G network operator.

“Other organizations are enhancing their 5G coverage with the ability to control specific local traffic themselves. They can peel off (via network slicing) certain data flows for “edge computing.” This means alarms in a factory, for instance, could be processed right on the premises – and thus much more quickly. MxD, a manufacturing innovation center in Chicago, is showing how fractions of seconds can help solve quality, safety and inventory issues.

Network slicing allows 5G network operators to create different sub-networks (which can be private) networks with different properties. Each sub-network slices the resources from the physical network to create its own independent, no-compromised network for its preferred applications.  It requires a 5G standalone core network, the implementation of which has not been standardized and AT&T has yet to deploy.

Most of AT&T’s activities in mobile edge computing and private 5G networks are in trials and testing.  AT&T is working to bring enhanced capabilities to their edge computing solutions by testing AT&T Network Edge (ANE) with cloud providers.  AT&T says ANE’s potential benefits include:

  • Lower latency: Deliver low-latency connectivity to high performance compute
  • Network routing optimization: Network integration with cloud providers
  • Extended cloud ecosystem: AT&T intends to develop an extended ANE ecosystem, allowing customers to use cloud services like they do today.

Image Credit:  AT&T

Private networks also need careful thought and consultation, Ms. Marty stated. “Considerations include design, spectrum, and who’s going to actually run it. Even a standalone network, and even 5G, must be set up properly to achieve the highest security against cyberattacks,” she added.

5G Security Conundrum:

As leader of AT&T’s 5G security team, Ms. Marty has her work cut out for her.  Especially considering choosing which of the 3GPP 5G SA security specs to support.  Many of them are not complete and targeted for 3GPP Release 17.  Also, European network operators have taken different approaches to 5G security and this will likely be a global phenomenon.

The real work on 5G security is being done by 3GPP with technical specification (TS) 33.501 Security architecture and procedures for 5G system being the foundation 5G security document.  That 3GPP spec was first published in Release 16, but the latest version dated 16 December 2020 is targeted at Release 17.  You can see all versions of that spec here.

3GPP’s 5G security architecture is designed to integrate 4G equivalent security. In addition, the reassessment of other security threats such as attacks on radio interfaces, signaling plane, user plane, masquerading, privacy, replay, bidding down, man-in-the-middle and inter-operator security issues have also been taken in to account for 5G and will lead to further security enhancements.

Another important 3GPP Security spec is TS 33.51 Security Assurance Specification (SCAS) for the next generation Node B (gNodeB) network product class, which is part of Release 16.  The latest version is dated Sept 25, 2020.

Here’s a chart on 3GPP and GSMA specs on 5G Security,  courtesy of Heavy Reading:

Question: When do you plan to implement the following 5G security specifications? (n=105-108) (Source: Heavy Reading)

Scott Poretsky, Ericsson’s Head of Security, wrote in an email:

“The reason for the inconsistent implementation of the 5G security requirements is the language in the 3GPP specs that make it mandatory for vendor support of the security features and optional for the operator to decide to use the feature.  The requirements are defined in this manner because some countries did not want these security features implemented by their national telecoms due to these security features also providing privacy.  The U.S. was not one of those countries.”

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References:

https://about.att.com/innovationblog/2021/private_5G_networks.html

https://www.business.att.com/learn/top-voices/att-continues-development-of-network-edge-compute.html

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2018/05/18/ieee-comsoc-papers-on-network-slicing-and-5g/

5G Security Issues Raise Mission Critical Questions & Issues

 

Evaluating Gaps and Solutions to build Open 5G Core/SA networks

by Saad Sheikh, Vice President and Chief Architect, SouthTel, South Africa

Since the “freezing” of the much awaited 3GPP Release-16 in July 2020, many network equipment vendors have sought to develop 5G core/5G stand alone (5G SA) network capabilities.  Those includee network slicing. massive IoT. uRLLC (ultra reliable, ultra low latency communications), edge network computing, NPN (non public network) and IAB (Integrated Access and Backhaul), etc.

It is just natural that all of the big telco’s in APAC and globally have started their journey towards 5G Standalone (5G SA) core network. However, most of the commercial deployments are based on vendor E2E stack which is a good way to start the journey and offer services quickly.

Yet there’s a big caveat:  With the type of services and versatility of solution specially on the industry verticals required and expected from both 3GPP Release16 and 5G SA core network it is just a matter of time when network equipment vendors cannot fulfill all the solutions and that is when a dire need to build a Telco grade Cloud platform will become a necessity.

During the last two years we have done a lot of work and progress in both better understanding of what will be the Cloud Native platforms for the real 5G era.  As of now,  the 5G Core container platforms from an open cloud perspective are not fully ready but we are also not too far from making it happen.

2021 is the year that we expect a production ready open 5G native cloud platform avoiding all sorts of vendor lock ins.

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Let’s try to understand top issues enlisted based on 5G SA deployments in Core and Edge network:

  • Vendors are mostly leveraging existing NFVI to evolve to CaaS by using a middle layer shown Caas on Iaas.  The biggest challenge is this interface is not open which means there are many out of box enhancements done by each vendor.  This is one classic case of “When open became the new closed.”

Reference: https://cntt-n.github.io/CNTT/doc/ref_model/chapters/chapter04.html

The most enhancement done on the adaptors for container images are as follows:

  • Provides container orchestration, deployment, and scheduling capabilities.
  • Provides container Telco enhancement capabilities: Huge page memory, shared memory, DPDK, CPU core binding, and isolation
  • Supports container network capabilities, SR-IOV+DPDK, and multiple network planes.
  • Supports the IP SAN storage capability of the VM container.
  • Migration path from Caas on IaaS towards BMCaaS is not smooth and it will involve complete service deployment, it is true with most operators investing heavily in last few years to productionize the NFVi no body is really considering to empty pockets again to build purely CaaS new and stand-alone platform however smooth migration must be considered.
  • We are still in early phase of 5G SA core and eMBB is only use case so still we have not tested the scaling of 5G Core with NFVi based platforms.
  • ETSI Specs for CISM are not as mature as expected and again there are a lot of out of the box. customizations done by each vendor VNFM to cater this.

Now let’s consider where the open platforms are lacking and how that might be fixed.

Experience #1: 5G Outgoing traffic from PoD:

The traditional Kubernetes and CaaS Platforms today handles and scales well with ingress controller however 5G PoD’s and containers outgoing traffic is not well addressed as both N-S and E-W traffic follows same path and it becomes an issue of scaling finally.

We know some vendors like Ericsson who already bring products like ECFE and LB in their architecture to address these requirements.

Experience#2: Support for non-IP protocols:

PoD is natively coming with IP and all external communication to be done by Cluster IP’s it means architecture is not designed for non-IP protocols like VLAN, L2TP, VLAN trunking

Experience#3: High performance workloads:

Today all high data throughputs are supported CNI plugin’s which natively are like SR-IOV means totally passthrough, an Operator framework to enhance real time processing is required something we have done with DPDK in the open stack world

Experience#4: Integration of 5G SBI interfaces:

The newly defined SBI interfaces became more like API compared to horizontal call flows, however today all http2/API integration is based on “Primary interfaces” .

It becomes a clear issue as secondary interfaces for inter functional module is not supported.

Experience#5: Multihoming for SCTP and SI is not supported:

For hybrid node connectivity at least towards egress and external networks still require a SCTP link and/or SIP endpoints which is not well supported

Experience#6: Secondary interfaces for CNF’s:

Secondary interfaces raise concerns for both inter-operability, monitoring and O&M, secondary interfaces is very important concept in K8S and 5G CNF’s as it is needed during

  • For all Telecom protocols e.g BGP
  • Support for Operator frameworks (CRD’s)
  • Performance scenarios like CNI’s for SR-IOV

Today, only viable solution is by NSM i.e. a service mesh that solves both management and monitoring issues.

Experience#7: Platform Networking Issues in 5G:

Today in commercial networks for internal networking most products are using Multus+VLAN while for internal based on Multus+VxLAN it requires separate planning for both underlay and overlay and that becomes an issue for large scale 5G SA Core Network

Similarly, top requirements for service in 5G Networks are the following:

  • Network separation on each logical interface e.g VRF and each physical sub interface
  • Outgoing traffic from PoD
  • NAT and reverse proxy

Experience#8: Service Networking Issues in 5G:

For primary networks we are relying on Calico +IPIP while for secondary network we are relying ion Multus

Experience#9: ETSI specs specially for BM CaaS:

Still I believe the ETSI specs for CNF’s are lacking compared to others like 3GPP and that is enough to make a open solution move to a closed through adaptors and plugin’s something we already experienced during SDN introduction in the cloud networks today a rigorous updates are expected on

  • IFA038 which is container integration in MANO
  • IFA011 which is VNFD with container support
  • Sol-3 specs updated for the CIR (Container image registry) support

Experience#10: Duplication of features on NEF/NRM and Cloud platforms:

In the 5G new API ecosystem operators look at their network as a platform opening it to application developers. API exposure is fundamental to 5G as it is built into the architecture natively where applications can talk back to the network, command the network to provide better experience in applications however the NEF and similarly NRF service registry are also functions available on platforms. Today it looks a way is required to share responsibility for such integrations to avoid duplicates.

Reference Architectures for the Standard Platform:

Sol#1: Solving Data Integration issues

Real AI is the next most important thing for telco’s as they evolve in their automation journey from conditional #automation to partial autonomy . However to make any fully functional use case will require first to solve #Data integration architecture as any real product to be successful with #AI in Telco will require to use Graph Databases and Process mining and both of it will based on assumption that all and valid data is there .

Sol#2: AI profiles for processing in Cloud Infra Hardware profiles

With 5G networks relying more on robust mechanisms to ingest and use data of AI , it is very important to agree on hardware profiles that are powerful enough to deliver AI use cases to deliver complete AI pipe lines all the way from flash base to tensor flow along with analytics .

Sol#3: OSS evolution that support data integration pipeline

To evolve to future ENI architecture for use of AI in Telco and ZSM architecture for the closed loop to be based on standard data integration pipeline like proposed in ENI-0017 (Data Integration mechanisms).

Sol#4: Network characteristics

A mature way to handle outgoing traffic and LB need to be included in Telco PaaS.

Sol#5: Telco PaaS

Based on experience with NFV it is clear that IaaS is not the Telco service delivery model and hence use cases like NFVPaaS has been in consideration for the early time of NFV . With CNF introduction that will require a more robust release times it is imperative and not optional to build a stable Telco PaaS that meet Telco requirements. As of today, the direction is to divide platform between general PaaS that will be part of standard cloud platform over release iterations while for specific requirements will be part of Telco PaaS.

The beauty of this architecture is no ensure the multi-vendor component selection between them. The key characteristics to be addressed are discussed below.

Paas#1: Telco PaaS Tools

The agreement on PaaS tools over the complete LCM , there is currently a survey running in the community to agree on this and this is an ongoing study.

Reference: https://wiki.anuket.io/display/HOME/Joint+Anuket+and+XGVELA+PaaS+Survey

Paas#2: Telco PaaS Lawful interception

During recent integrations for NFV and CNF we still rely on Application layer LI characteristics as defined by ETSI and with open cloud layer ensuring the necessary LI requirements are available it is important that PaaS include this part through API’s.

Paas#3: Telco PaaS Charging Characteristics

The resource consumption and reporting of real time resources is very important as with 5G and Edge we will evolve towards the Hybrid cloud.

Paas#4: Telco PaaS Topology management and service discovery

A single API end point to expose both the topology and services towards Application is the key requirement of Telco PaaS

Paas#5: Telco PaaS Security Hardening

With 5G and critical services security hardening has become more and more important, use of tools like Falco and Service mesh is important in this platform

Paas#6: Telco PaaS Tracing and Logging

Although monitoring is quite mature in Kubernetes and its Distros the tracing and logging is still need to be addressed. Today with tools like Jaeger and Kafka /EFK needs to be include in the Telco PaaS

Paas#7: Telco PaaS E2E DevOps

For IT workloads already the DevOps capability is provided by PaaS in a mature manner through both cloud and application tools but with enhancements required by Telco workloads it is important the end-to-end capability of DevOps is ensured. Today tools like Argo need to be considered and it need to be integrated with both the general PaaS and Telco PaaS

Paas#9: Packaging

Standard packages like VNFD which cover both Application and PaaS layer.

Paas#8: Standardization of API’s

API standardization in ETSI fashion is the key requirement of NFV and Telco journey and it needs to be ensured in PaaS layer as well. For Telco PaaS it should cover VES , TMForum,3GPP , ETSI MANO etc . Community has made following workings to standardize this

  • TMF 641/640
  • 3GPP TS28.532 /531/ 541
  • IFA029 containers in NFV
  • ETSI FEAT17 which is Telco DevOps
  • ETSI TST10 /13 for API testing and verification

Based on these features there is an ongoing effort with in the LFN XGVELA community and I hope more and more users, partners and vendors can join to define the Future Open 5G Platform

Reference: https://github.com/XGVela/XGVela/wiki/XGVela-Meeting-Logistics

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Glossary:

Term

Description

NFV

Network Function Virtualization

VNF

Virtual Network Functions

CNF

Containerized Network Functions

UPF

User Plane Function

AMF

Access Management Function

TDF

Traffic Detection Function

PCF

Policy Charging Function

NSSF

Network Slice Subnet Function

UDSF

Unstructured Data Storage Function

A & AI

Active and Available Inventory

CLAMO

Control Loop Automation Management Function

NFVI

Network Function Virtualized Infrastructure

SDN

Software Defined Networks

VLAN

Virtual LAN

L2TP

Layer2 Tunneling Protocol

SBI

Service Based Interface

NRF

Network Repository Function

NEF

Network Exposure Function

NAT

Network Address translation

LB

Load Balance

HA

High Availability

PaaS

Platform as a Service

ENI

Enhanced Network Intelligence

ZSM

Zero touch Service Management

EFK

Elastic search, FLuentd and Kibana

API

Application Programming Interface

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About Saad Sheikh:

Saad Sheikh is an experienced telecommunications professional with more than 18 years of experience for leading and delivering technology solutions . He is currently Vice President and Chief Architect with Southtel, which is the leading System integrator in South Africa.  There he is leading 5G, Cloud, Edge Networking, Open RAN, Networking and Automation units.  He is helping to bring the power of innovative solutions to Africa.

Prior to this he was Chief Architect with STC (Saudi Telecom Company) where he lead the company Cloud Infrastructure Planning and Architecture Design to deliver large scale 5G , NFV , SDN and Cloud projects in Middle East. Previously, he held senior positions with both vendors and operators in Asia, Africa and APAC driving large scale projects in IT and Telecom.

 

Telefonica in 800 Gbps trial and network slicing pilot test

Telefonica and its network suppliers Nokia and Huawei have reached data transmission speeds of up to 800 Gbps in two pilot tests of photonic mesh technology. This trial reached speeds of 400 Gbps between Madrid and Barcelona (a distance of 830 kilometres), rising to 800 Gbps in a trial over shorter distances (47 kilometres) in the Madrid metropolitan area.
In a statement, Telefonica said the photonic mesh layer uses WDM (Wavelength Division Multiplexing) technology to achieve higher capacity, reduced latency and far lower energy consumption compared with traditional optical network transmission.
The high-speed trial used Huawei’s OSN 9800 optical equipment and Nokia’s 1830 Photonic Service Switch and 7950 XRS IP router.
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Separately, Telefonica is coordinating a 5G Network Slicing pilot test with Cisco and the University of Vigo.  The objective is to demonstrate how flexible 5G networks can devote specific capacities to different services and customers.This project consists of implementing a demonstrator on laboratory infrastructure at the facilities of the University of Vigo, where three slices will be deployed in order to offer distinctive services: low latency, high bandwidth and emergencies. This will enable, for example, customers to make use of the 5G network and enjoy ultra high-definition content while guaranteeing the resources of the mobile network in the event of an emergency in the area.

With this initiative the intention is also to begin building services for customers to be marketed via Telefónica’s 5G network. The project will thus enable Telefónica to obtain key results that will serve to drive the ecosystem and promote the interoperability and standardisation of this technology with a view to its marketing towards the end customer. Some of the sectors that can benefit the most from Network Slicing are the State Security Corps and Forces, media and communication, cars, industry and hotels.

5G Network Slicing Tutorial + Ericsson releases 5G RAN slicing software

5G Network Slicing Tutorial:

While there is no ITU-T recommendation to implement 5G network slicing, 3GPP Network Slicing requirements are included in 3GPP TS 22.261, Service requirements for the 5G system Stage 1, for Release 15 and updated for Release 16.  As defined by 3GPPNetwork slicing allows the  5G network operator to provide customized networks with different QoS capabilities.

A Network Slice is a logical (virtual) network customized to serve a defined business purpose or customer, consisting of an end-to-end composition of all the varied network resources required to satisfy the specific performance and economic needs of that particular service class or customer application. The ideas in play in developing and progressing the ‘slice’ concept draw on a progression of similar but simpler parallels in preceding network architectures including IP/Ethernet networking services (VLANs, IP VPNs, VPLS, etc.), and broaden the scope to include a wide range of access and core network functions from end-to-end and from the top to the bottom of the networking stack. Network slicing offers a conceptual way of viewing and realizing service provider networks by building logical networks on top of a common and shared infrastructure layer. Network slices are created, changed and removed by management and orchestration functions, which must be considerably enhanced to support this level of multi-domain end-to-end virtualization.

Here are a few use cases for 5G network slicing, which will likely to lead to different phases of adoption:

• Network Slicing can be used for operational purposes by a single network operator, to differentiate characteristics and resources for different broad
classes of services
• Network slicing can be used by a service provider seeking to establish a virtual service provider network over the infrastructure of a physical network operator
• Network slicing can allow individual end customers (enterprises) to be able to customize a virtual network for their operations and consume these network resources in a more dynamic way similar to today’s cloud services (i.e. dynamically varying scale, or for temporary needs).
• Network slicing can allow for “traffic splitting” across networks (5G, 4G, and WiFi via hybrid fiber-coax).

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Ericsson launches 5G RAN Slicing to spur 5G business growth:

  • New software solution enables communications service providers to deliver innovative 5G use cases to consumers and enterprises with guaranteed performance
  • Built on Ericsson radio expertise and a scalable and flexible architecture, the new solution supports customized business models and growth requirements of advanced use cases
  • Ericsson 5G RAN Slicing strengthens end-to-end network slicing capabilities needed to deliver different services over a common infrastructure

 Today, Ericsson announced new software for 5G network operators to introduce network slicing. Ericsson 5G RAN Slicing allocates radio resources at 1 millisecond scheduling and supports multi-dimensional service differentiation handling across slices. Operators can use the platform to deliver dedicated high-quality services for various use cases.

Network slicing supports multiple logical networks for different service types over one common infrastructure. It is a key enabler for unlocking 5G revenue opportunities such as enhanced video, in-car connectivity and extended reality, Ericsson said.

Ericsson said what makes its product distinct is that it boosts end-to-end management and orchestration support for fast and efficient service delivery. This gives service providers the differentiation and guaranteed performance needed to monetize 5G investments. Ericsson’s network slicing platform is already in use in the consumer segment and for enterprise applications such as video-assisted remote operations, AR/VR, sports event streaming, cloud gaming, smart city, and applications for Industry 4.0 and public safety. Customers working with the system include KDDI and Swisscom.

An Ericsson report estimates USD 712 billion in an addressable consumer market for service providers by 2030. The addressable market for network slicing alone in the enterprise segment is projected at USD 300 billion by 2025 (GSMA data). As 5G scales up, service providers are looking to maximize returns on their investments by targeting innovative and high revenue-generating use cases such as cloud gaming, smart factories, and smart healthcare.

Toshikazu Yokai, Executive Officer, Chief Director of Mobile Technology, at KDDI, says: “End-to-end slicing is key to monetizing 5G investment and RAN slicing will help make that happen. Across different slices in our mobile networks, RAN slicing will deliver the quality assurance and latency required by our customers.”

Mark Düsener, Head of Mobile and Mass Market Communication at Swisscom, says: “We’re gearing up for the next stage of 5G where we expect to apply end-to-end network slicing, and RAN slicing is key to guaranteed performance. With efficient sharing of network resources across different slices, we will be able to provide communications for diverse 5G applications such as public safety or mobile private networks.”

Sue Rudd, Director, Networks and Service Platforms, Strategy Analytics, says: “Ericsson is the first vendor to offer a fully end-to-end solution with RAN slicing based on dynamic radio resource partitioning in under 1 millisecond using embedded radio control mechanisms to assure Quality of Service, Over the Air, in real time. This truly end-to-end approach integrates radio optimization with policy-controlled network orchestration to deliver inherently secure virtualized private RAN slicing without the loss of the 30 – 40 percent spectrum capacity due to ‘hard slicing’. Ericsson’s real-time dynamic RAN slicing bridges the ‘RAN gap’ to make e2e slicing profitable.”

About Ericsson 5G RAN Slicing:

The Ericsson 5G RAN Slicing solution offers a unique, multi-dimensional service differentiation handling that allows for the effective use of dynamic radio resource partitioning, slice-aware quality of service (QoS) enforcement, and slice orchestration functionality for service-level agreement (SLA) fulfilment. Built on Ericsson radio expertise and a flexible and scalable slicing architecture, the solution dynamically shares radio resources at 1 millisecond scheduling for best spectrum efficiency. This enables service providers to offer a variety of use cases with increased flexibility and versatility. It ensures end-to-end network slice management and orchestration support for fast service delivery and supports business models for virtual, hybrid and dedicated private networks​. The solution can also power use cases for mission-critical and time-critical communication services.

References:

https://transition.fcc.gov/bureaus/oet/tac/tacdocs/reports/2018/5G-Network-Slicing-Whitepaper-Finalv80.pdf

 

 

https://techblog.comsoc.org/2018/05/18/ieee-comsoc-papers-on-network-slicing-and-5g/

https://www.ericsson.com/en/network-slicing

https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2021/1/ericsson-launches-5g-ran-slicing-to-spur-5g-business-growth

https://www.telecompaper.com/news/ericsson-releases-5g-ran-slicing-software–1369987

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