Ericsson is gearing up for 5G with the debut of a 5G-ready platform that includes the 5G new radio (NR), 5G core, a digital support system, and network security. The company says the 5G core will make network slicing possible. Network slicing means that operators can dedicate a “slice” of their network to a certain functionality or make it available to a particular customer.
The 5G-ready platform is software upgradeable to 5G, which is important because a 5G standard (as determined by the 3GPP standards body) doesn’t currently exist and will likely not be available until late this year to mid-2018.
Ericsson said that its 5G-ready platform includes radios for the 28 GHz spectrum (which is the spectrum that North American operators are pinpointing for 5G) and will be available by year-end.
The 5G platform also will come with policy control and user data that will ensure that customers get the right quality of service. In addition, the platform features a distributed cloud capability that moves applications and workloads closer to the edge of the network, therefore reducing latency.
During a media briefing, Arun Bansal, head of business unit network products at Ericsson, said he believes operators will continue to trial 5G this year with limited deployments starting in 2018. He also believes the first 5G phone will launch in 2019, which is when 5G moves from trial to commercial availability.
Federated Network Slicing
Melih Tufan, head of 5G core, business unit, IT, and cloud products at Ericsson, said that the network slicing capability exists in some form in today’s networks, but the 5G platform that Ericsson is announcing today will make it possible for network slicing to be available across other operators’ footprints. This intercontinental 5G capability was tested by Deutsche Telekom and SK Telecom in which the two operators made network slices available on the other operator’s footprint. Tufan said this will make it possible for enterprises to offer global services and still maintain consistent network reliability and quality of service.
“Using cloud infrastructure, this capability lets workloads from DT be on SK’s cloud so the DT user in Korea gets DT service, but it’s a local experience,” Tufan said. “The key element is that you can do this in a dynamic fashion.”
SDN and NFV
Ericsson also said there has been some lag in the deployment of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) among mobile operators but it’s primarily due to the lag in business cases for the technologies.
Thomas Noren, senior advisor of business unit network products at Ericsson, said operators are struggling with their operational model and the fact that the majority of their traffic is still running on the “native” network and not on the virtualized network. “It’s about how much risk they [the operator] are willing to take,” Noren said.
However, he added that every operator is working on SDN, but even those that are most aggressive with the transition are using the virtualized network for new services and not yet migrating old services.