Initial 5G networks are being deployed in non-standalone mode (NSA) with operators using an upgraded 4G core network and the new 5G radio (5G NR). Simultaneously, many operators have begun deploying their cloud-native 5G core (5GC) to deliver more advanced 5G services in standalone (SA) mode. A significant promise of 5G is the improvement in the customersí experience. As a result, the end-to-end service quality and customer experience will be of supreme importance to operators. With 5G, the experience is everything and the foundation for new business use cases and critical revenue streams.
Managing the complexity of cloud-native networks
Implementing a cloud-native 5G network brings many benefits to the operator in operational flexibility and scalability while laying down the foundations for the next generation of exciting, dynamic customer and business services. However, there are many challenges involved. The underlying architecture is more complicated than previous iterations of networks with hundreds of virtualized network functions deployed from the RAN to the network core.
Up until recently, these functions were proprietary hardware solutions supported by Network Equipment Providers (NEPs) and known and deployed by network engineers for years. In the 5G core functions are virtual, dynamic, can be launched on-demand with certain functions running alongside other functions on the same hardware, and therefore east-west and north-south traffic need to be monitored. With 5G bringing faster data rates and the promise of blistering performance for early use cases like enhanced mobile broadband and fixed wireless access, operators must provide a seamless customer experience to launch and optimize these new services successfully.
The cornerstone to achieving in-depth subscriber analysis
For 5G, operators must gain an in-depth, service-level awareness and understanding of the end-to-end customer experience through their subscribersí eyes. For example, is the subscriber trying to watch streaming video on a device that recently had its firmware updated and is now suffering from repeated buffering? In this case, monitoring the resource and network layer is not enough. To understand why the video is not streaming adequately, we need to see the end-to-end service layer.
Operators can do this by integrating a probe layer into their assurance strategy that allows them to understand the end-to-end service quality, includes real-time subscriber analytics, and provides advanced troubleshooting tools. End-to-end, containerized probe-based assurance enables the operator to;
- Enrich network analytics with real-time subscriber analytics to understand the end-to-end service quality and troubleshoot network degradations
- Integrate service assurance with network orchestration to drive closed-loop automation
- Deploy automated assurance that is containerized and controlled by Kubernetes to deploy and scale as part of the service lifecycle
With this strategy in place, operators will deliver a superior customer experience that will build brand loyalty, provide an edge over competitors, and enable operators to manage the complexity of a cloud-native 5G core.
Probe-based assurance advantages
Probe-based assurance is key to gaining real-time subscriber and service analysis that provides an understanding of the customer experience, gives insights into the end-to-end service quality and is essential for troubleshooting new services.
When measuring the detail of a customerís end-to-end service performance, probe-based assurance is the most effective way to gain real-time subscriber analytics and service performance insights. A smart probe-layer enables real-time and historical end-to-end call tracing from the user device to the core network. End-to-end tracing provides a detailed analysis of subscriber activity, such as calls, data sessions, and protocol messages. Network engineers use this information to understand how traffic flows through the network, where there are degradations, and where to troubleshoot.
In essence, probes watch all the traffic that flows through the network and correlates the data into subscriber sessions to understand the overall service performance and enable end-to-end network troubleshooting. This granular data allows operators to determine the service quality at a per-service (QoS) and per-user (QoE) level across multiple network domains. Operators can also create alarms for the different QoS and QoE parameters so that if the quality goes below a certain threshold, they are notified and can proactively assure the customer experience.
This real-time subscriber and service analysis provides a different dimension to the network-focused data. Network counters donít look at the customer experience and donít give the end-to-end picture, and there is no correlation. Therefore, the operator canít use this data to understand the end-to-end service quality. They donít have the raw trace that includes checking real-time and historical data per user at the packet level troubleshoot. Probes capture all signaling and user data events in the networks and integrate it into the operatorsí assurance solution.
Although network equipment providers (NEPs) can sometimes provide raw packets for specific users from network events/counters, it is presented in PCAP format and not a GUI. This limitation means engineers will need to use external tools such as Wireshark to troubleshoot. Such solutions are also limited to single-user access and not integrated into a cloud-based solution and the broader assurance solution.
By utilizing probes as part of the assurance solution, operators can position real-time subscriber analysis at the center of their assurance strategy from top management to technical teams. Giving operators the capacity to:
- Analyze real-world network traffic and obtain reliable insight into the subscriber experience
- Analyze the performance and behavior of network components in a dynamic environment via KPIs and KQIs
- Troubleshoot any issue on the network and identify its root cause by generating XDRs (eXtended Detail Records) per session per subscriber
Troubleshooting a customer-affecting incident can be performed via a drill-down from the KPI layer right through to an individual network packet. Furthermore, user plane capture can be performed on-demand with access to all deployed probes and specific filters to capture the relevant data. This is then integrated into a BI database for further analysis or delivered as real-time streaming analytics fed into the operatorsí BSS/OSS or network orchestration.
Probe-based data empowers the operator to perform comprehensive root cause analysis and troubleshooting tools at both a macro and micro level, with drill-down capabilities to the packet or subscriber level. As many new technologies, functions, and network architectural changes are delivered, both high-level and low-level tools in a container-based solution will be critical for operators transitioning to the cloud for NFV and 5G. However, for 5G, operators will need to deploy a probe-based solution comprised of cloud-native functions.
Fully containerized probe-based assurance
Cloud-native functions (CNFs) are built using a containerized, microservices-based architecture, which provides the operator with many benefits when running its cloud network. Their microservices architecture means that each CNF comprises small independent processes or elements that all communicate and enable a modular approach to system building. A microservices architecture means the CNF is built-in parts, almost a Lego-like structure, removing and adding pieces as needed, keeping it lightweight and agile.
When a probing layer is deployed as a software-controlled function, it seamlessly integrates into the operatorsí network as a built-in solution for a cloud-native architecture implemented on public, private, or hybrid clouds. Designed to monitor and troubleshoot CNFs and provide data streams for analytics, hosted in a container, and deployed as close as possible to the monitored traffic (sidecar deployment). Allowing efficient data movement and processing, as data capture and filtering occurs at the source NF, resulting in significant traffic reduction within the infrastructure.
By deploying containerized probes, operators can deploy and integrate probes into their cloud-native network. Using Kubernetes (K8s) can automatically control the containerized components lifecycle starting from the initial day-0 instantiation and scaling in or out to improve network resource utilization and throughout the platform lifecycle, providing a probing solution that is dynamic and offers the operational agility needed for advanced 5G services.
An advanced probe-based assurance solution is key to gaining real-time subscriber and service analysis for 5G. It provides operators with an understanding of the 5G customer experience, gives insights into the end-to-end 5G service quality, and is essential for troubleshooting these new 5G network architectures.
Probes are network vendor-agnostic and show a measurement that is consistent across all the network elements. This provides operators with an independent auditor of their network to paint a vendor-agnostic picture of the 5G service quality and customer experience. They are offering operators the most effective way to gain real-time subscriber analytics and service performance insights.
By deploying a probe-layer as part of the service assurance solution, the operator gains an end-to-end view of the service that prioritizes network issues according to their service and customer impact. By understanding the impact on the subscriber, operators can troubleshoot issues faster and improve customer experience. They are essential for assuring the customer experience in todayís competitive market, watching all the traffic that flows through the 5G network, and correlating the data into individual customer sessions and should be the cornerstone to every operatorsí 5G migration.
RADCOM is the leading provider of probe-based, containerized, and automated service assurance solutions for 5G. RADCOM ACE provides operators with Automated, Containerized, and End-to-End assurance for 5G.
— Michal Fridman,VP Marketing and Business Development, RADCOM
A senior marketing and business leader with over 20 years of experience in the communications industry, Michal has held managerial marketing, product and presales positions in companies ranging from start-ups to large scale. Michal holds an Industrial Engineering and Management degree from the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.
This content is sponsored by RADCOM.