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Written by Said Zantout, Head of Solution Area OSS, Core and Cloud at Ericsson Middle East and Africa

As 5G picks up speed, the new networks will co-exist with the existing 4G ones in the coming years. For Communication Service Providers (CSPs), flexibility in balancing cost-optimized versus performance-optimised network deployment is crucial to maximize profitability and take advantage of the wide range of business opportunities. Basically, it means they need to have the option to migrate to 5G in their own time and in alignment with their business needs.

The journey to 5G Core is not simple, though, and will imply a technology shift with the adoption of a new 3GPP defined network architecture (service-based architecture) and new network functions built on cloud-native technology. With service providers’ needs and concerns in mind, we have developed the dual-mode 5G Core solution.

Dual-mode 5G Core provides that kind of desired control by combining Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and 5G Core network functions into a common cloud-native platform. CSPs can get the most out of cloud-native, microservices, and user plane performance by implementing the dual-mode core solution as the best way for efficient control of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) while smoothly migrating to 5G. As hard as it sounds to achieve challenging business and operational goals while migrating to a 5G Core, with dual-mode it is possible.

If we look at Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Cloud Core solution, it is fully based on cloud-native principles, with software architecture being based on microservice technology. This is to ensure that the underlying infrastructure will have better capacity and elasticity, which in turn will offer high levels of orchestration and automation for operational efficiency.

The dual-mode solution enables CSPs to manage one network instead of two and add programmability to their network. The decomposition of software into microservices facilitates a fast, low-cost method of introducing new services on a small scale. At the same time, it supports easy and effective scaling of services from hundreds of users to millions and this is exactly how CSPs can address new business opportunities or pursue those that have been difficult to address until now.

While no journey to a future core will be alike, what applies to every CSP is the need to have a holistic view of cost. A report by Ericsson titled “Dual-mode 5G Cloud Core: TCO benefits” highlights that substantial saving is possible in various areas of dual-mode cloud-native operations, including:

—    Up to 20 percent of capex in Core network infrastructure

—    Up to 15 percent savings in database infrastructure

—    70 percent OpEx savings in configuration of policies

—    Up to 80 percent cost savings in network integration

—    More than 60 percent reduced OpEx for software upgrades

As 5G evolves, dual-mode core supports both Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and 5G core, combining both functionalities and offering uniform operational maintenance that is able to scale with the speed that 5G use cases demand. Migrating to a 5G NR SA and 5GC network is crucial for our customers’ success, enabling them to unlock key 5G functionalities like faster speeds, ultra-low latency, and advanced network slicing – allowing our customers to support increasingly complex 5G use cases such as automated manufacturing, remote healthcare, and connected vehicles.

This migration will also allow service providers to simplify operations and service agility, enhance user experience with better coverage, and improve network capabilities. To secure new 5G revenue streams while continuing to support existing 4G customer base, service providers can begin by introducing 5G New Radio (NR) non-standalone (NSA) and run both generations side by side supported by the Evolved Packet Core while migrating to 5G NR standalone (SA) and a 5GC network.

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