According to a January 2020 Dell ‘Oro report, over 50 percent of core network functions will be virtualized this year, and the majority of those are running on standards-based platforms powered by Intel architecture. We have been deeply involved in the definition, trials, and deployment of network function virtualization (NFV) over the past decade with leading industry partners and are now moving into the next phase of this journey, namely into the transition to cloud-native techniques to advance service-based network architectures (SBA) of the 5G Core. In this article, I will highlight some key technology advancements Intel and our partners are driving that will help ensure 5G SA core networks perform to their very best capabilities.
Pioneering 5G Core Hardware Platform Reference Architectures
CommSPs are quickening the pace with which they are moving from 5G Non-Stand Alone (NSA) to 5G SA cores as part of overall infrastructure redesign. Across each company, executives are evaluating technologies to support a wide array of new enterprise and consumer services. Connectivity technology is an important part of Intel’s unmatched portfolio for 5G infrastructure because it greatly affects the data throughput and latency achieved in the SA core.
Dynamic Device Personalization (DDP) is one example of connectivity capability built into Intel® Ethernet 700 & 800 Series Network Adapters. This technology offers operators increased performance and more efficient operation because it supports dynamic reconfiguration of the packet processing pipeline to meet specific use case needs by adding new configuration profiles to a network adapter. When SK Telecom and Intel recently collaborated to develop a low-latency 5G Core user plane function (UPF) reference architecture, DDP was a key component that reduced the CPU workload by classifying and distributing 5G data packets at the NIC-level.
In a recent R&D whitepaper, SK Telecom and Intel validated the performance of a 5G SA UPF capability based on 2nd generation Intel Xeon® Scalable processors and Intel Ethernet 800 Series Network Adapters. SK Telecom was able to reduce the round-trip-time latency of the UPF system up to 78 percent and Jitter up to 88 percent depending on packet size. This translates into nearly jitter-free customer experiences while browsing, streaming video, playing games, and using many other kinds of services. So, SK Telecom has already begun developing the low-latency UPF with Samsung, expecting trial by this year, and expecting to be commercial-ready by next year.
Much like the SK Telecom validation, ZTE also incorporates DDP to further offload processing requirements from the CPU in its 5G core network UPF products. We worked with ZTE to demonstrate 173 Gbps and 252 Gbps of overall performance without any hardware acceleration devices. For example, Intel Speed Select Technology (Intel SST) improves performance and optimizes configuration costs through improved control over CPU performance. I encourage you to read more about the ZTE 5G Common Core project.
Leading Performance Drives Global 5G Infrastructure Deployments
Our collaboration across the entire network value chain is critical to the development of innovative technology and enables faster testing, trials, and deployments of commercial solutions. In addition to SK Telecom and ZTE, there are a few standout collaborations in the mobile core network that I would like to highlight:
- Australian communications service provider Telstra has successfully deployed cloud-native, container-based Evolved Packet Core for 4G and 5G services based on Intel architecture.
- UK telco BT deployed a cloud-native, container-based Packet Core, which will be used for both 4G, 5G NSA, and 5G SA services based on Intel architecture.
- Working with Supermicro and ASTRI, Intel recently demonstrated 5G core performance of 1.3TB in a dense 4U rack of commercial servers.
- China Mobile 5G OpenUPF is a new initiative focused on building open, intelligent 5G UPF and N4 interfaces to help 5G more effectively serve the unique needs of different vertical industries. Intel is one of the early supporters of this initiative with our key ecosystem partners.
Scaling 5G SA Core Beyond 2020
It’s clear that some regions will evolve faster than others with different consumer and business market requirements. That is why Intel works globally across the industry to ensure 5G deployments support a wide variety of new services at a low total cost of ownership. We continue to work with leaders across communications, cloud, IoT, and enterprise to define 5G solutions, open-source software, and standards-based technologies to help deliver on 5G promises.
To learn more about Intel’s efforts and momentum in the 5G core network listen to this podcast in which I discuss the new requirements imposed on network infrastructure by 5G, and how Intel is working with customers and enterprises to define and deliver an unmatched solution portfolio for 5G network infrastructure. Follow me on Twitter at @quachalexander and get more resources at intel.com/5G.