5G standards are becoming more established and spectrum is being released in different countries around the world. Commercial 5G deployment is just around the corner. The industry has great expectations for 5G. It will provide differentiated, customizable network capabilities for enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), ultra-reliable low-latency communications (URLLC), and massive machine-type communications (mMTC). 5G will be deeply integrated into all sorts of industries, giving rise to countless new, heretofore unimaginable applications and innovative new business models. However, a vision this ambitious cannot be made real in a single day. The road to the 5G target network we desire may be long and tortuous. Carriers deploying 5G networks will have to face many challenges.
5G Deployment Challenges
Currently we are still in the early stages of 5G. So far we have only seen deployment of eMBB services. Other applications, mMTC and URLLC will have to wait until a later stage. It takes time to cultivate innovative new applications and new business models. During 5G evolution, there are many challenges facing the construction targets, but carriers are feeling a lot of pressure to invest in 5G. Carriers are under tremendous pressure to reduce the costs and the risks involved with these investments.
Challenges facing 5G deployment include:
During 5G evolution, most carriers use non-standalone (NSA) architecture to quickly deploy a 5G network based on the live network EPC. NSA deployment makes it possible to meet the demand for eMBB. 5G uses high frequency spectrum, but high frequency spectrum provides poor coverage so it is not easy to provide comprehensive coverage in the short term. We will need to continue using 4G networks for some time, but with 5G technology used to enhance them. 4G and 5G technologies will be used in tandem to provide a better user experience than ever before. The next stage will be do deploy standalone (SA) 5G networks, which will support a wider range of applications. New services and new requirements are constantly developing. Tomorrow's networks need to support flexible upgrades and optimizations to adapt to a constantly shifting landscape of new services and new business models.
The upgrade and evolution of these networks is expensive. The cost of network evolution keeps rising. The pressure from this rising CAPEX is enormous.
2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G networks will all have to exist together along with both cloud and traditional networks. The network architecture will be more complex than ever. 5G deployment will also accelerate traffic growth, increase the number of NEs, and increase the costs of network O&M personnel.
If 4G was more about delivering higher bandwith, 5G will be more about the applications and the user experience. 5G networks cannot provide comprehensive coverage in the short term. Subscriber will be frequently handed over between different RATs. During handovers, call and data services may be interrupted, a severe blow to user experience. 5G networks will be unable to deliver on their promise to deliver the ultimate user experience.
As data becomes cheaper, it becomes more difficult to increase revenue just by generating more traffic. 5G will generate a new business model: business to business to consumer (B2B2C). The vast numbers of new services created by B2B services will ultimately create value for consumers. The three main categories of 5G services (eMBB, mMTC, and URLLC) have very different requirements; and new services are always being brought online and updated, increasing operating expense (OPEX). Finding the next killer app is tough in the short term.
5G network evolution must support coexistence of multiple RATs, ensure user experience even while handing over between different networks, and efficiently support the frequent updates of a large number of new services and business models. Achieving these objectives requires efficient orchestration of many different technical resources. The key to this challenge is in the core network. The Huawei One Core solution simplifies network architecture and O&M through the in-depth convergence of multiple network systems. One Core enables low-cost, flexible network evolution through the microservice-based architecture. It ensures a smooth user experience during handovers between 4G and 5G networks, and automatic tools are provided to help carriers make their operations more agile and their O&M more efficient.
One Core: The Only Network You Need for 5G Evolution
The Huawei One Core solution is the industry's first core network that is designed with Cloud Native and a microservice architecture, and is ready for commercial deployment. It decouples network functions of multiple RATs and simplifies network structure. One Core lets different RATs work together by combining common functional modules. The microservice architecture gives One Core the following special advantages:
The One Core solution uses a control plane that integrates multiple RATs, integrates 2G/3G/4G/5G/Wi-Fi and fixed networks, simplifies network interoperation, and reduces signaling load. Network systems use a unified O&M system, which keeps O&M simple. It is estimated that in-depth convergence of each RAT can reduce the amount of hardware required by about 40% and reduce the O&M workload by 65%. User traffic has been increasing exponentially, and a tremendous amount of user plane equipment will need to be distributed across 5G networks. The O&M will require more people and will be more expensive. The One Core supports user plane plug-and-play devices. They are easy to deploy and maintenance-free as configuration and maintenance can generally be performed on the control plane. This sort of distributed user plane lets you add sites without adding personnel.
The One Core is designed for microservices. When evolving an existing network to 5G, you can reuse the original infrastructure. All you need to do is add or replace a few microservice software modules. A core network is constructed to support various new standards and features in the future by upgrading microservices. Even as the business model changes, you can still take advantage of legacy investments.
Also, the independent upgrade of microservices shortens the TTM of new services by nearly 80%, and as different modes still share the same subscription database, subscribers can upgrade to 5G without having to change their SIM cards.
Taking advantage of Cloud Native stateless design, the One Core solution shares the user session data on the 4G and 5G user planes. This means that when users hand over between 4G and 5G, they will not lose their connections. The experience will be seamless.
One Core leverages cloud-native microservice architecture to provide a set of automated O&M tools. One Core O&M tools automate network design, one-click deployment, automated acceptance testing, microservice scaling, microservice upgrade, fault detection, self-healing, load balancing, and more. These O&M tools allow for more efficient service delivery and more efficient O&M.
The microservice architecture has allowed the One Core solution to achieve a number of firsts in the industry: The industry's first plug-and-play core network to integrate 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, fixed network, and Wi-Fi networks. The industry's first core network to support flexible evolution to 5G and without users needed to get new phone numbers. The industry's first core network to support a seamless experience across 4G and 5G.
These advantages also help carriers reduce OPEX. By reusing the hardware infrastructure and sharing common modules among multiple RATs, it is estimated that One Core can reduce equipment costs by 70%. One Core can save about 50% on upgrade and cutover costs through independent microservice upgrades, automatic acceptance testing, and KPI monitoring and self-healing based on AI self-learning algorithms. With the independent release of microservices, continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD), and automatic network design and deployment tools, One Core can shorten the TTM for new services by nearly 80% and save about 50% on new service integration.
To simplify the network and reduce the OPEX, carriers urgently need to build new applications based on industry requirements, develop new 5G ecosystems with upstream and downstream partners, and accelerate development of new B2B2C business models. These goals cannot be achieved without 5G network slicing. Multiple virtual networks must be created using a single physical network. These virtual networks can have different bandwidths and latency, custom designed to meet specific industry requirements. They will share a common infrastructure, but while still being isolated from each other as they support different types or services. In this way, carriers can use the infrastructure of a single network to obtain multiple sources of revenue. The One Core microservice architecture lets operators create custom networks on demand. By assembling different types of microservices, the One Core can quickly create a network with a wide range of specific features and use automated tools to deploy the networks fast. Huawei has already verified the services of multiple network slices. We have verified the smart grid with China State Grid, joint VR live with Vodafone, and remote driving service with China Mobile and SAIC, and VR gaming services with Telefonica. Huawei's network slicing solution won the "Best Telecom Service Innovation" award at the 5G Asia Summit held in Singapore in 2018.
5G will bring unprecedented changes to many business models, which may be a huge opportunity for carriers to transform, but carriers will also face many new challenges. Huawei One Core solution uses a single, converged core network designed for microservices. One Core simplifies network evolution and helps carriers reduce the investment required for 5G evolution, and keeps down the cost of O&M throughout the process while flexibly deploying new services along the way. Huawei will continue to work with our partners around the world to promote the healthy development of the 5G industry and achieve the best vision ever for 5G.