But networking enthusiasts like us will be keeping a close eye on the world’s first-ever, 5G pilot services from South Korean telecommunications companies. A short time before fully-commercialized 5G services are expected to rollout, the 2018 Winter Olympics will be giving us a glimpse of the potential and Quality of Experience (QoE) of 5G technology.
High mobile video consumption meets high quality expectations
Besides the exciting competitions, we’re interested in seeing how well the 5G network handles spikes in video demand, triggered perhaps by two rival nations facing off for gold or a new event catching fire. Who knows, curling may suddenly become the new hot winter sport in Korea that just has to be watched on the latest set of smartphones and tablets. Will sudden surges in subscriber demand put a strain on bandwidth, latency and jitter and therefore impact QoE?
To address such issues, the telecom industry has been working together to build greater agility and robustness into 5G infrastructure. We like to describe this as network transformation, largely attributed to concepts put forward by network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). This transformation enables communications service providers (CoSPs) to run their workloads on high-volume, industry-standard servers; automate provisioning; and operate the network more efficiently, all leading to improved TCO.
So how can NFV and SDN concepts help 5G network operators satisfy diverse service level agreements (SLAs) amidst unpredictable traffic load and service mix? Let’s look at a couple examples of how these concepts can help deliver higher levels of QoE to high value network services:
- Network slicing: NFV and SDN are at the heart of the network to advance 5G by way of network slicing. Network slicing makes it possible to partition a physical network into multiple virtual networks, each configured to support specific customer requirements for latency and bandwidth. This flexibility will help CoSPs pursue new 5G business opportunities and create tiered pricing models with various cost- service performance points.
- Flexible radio access network (FlexRAN): One of the ways to relieve network bottlenecks to reduce the traffic flow between the core and the edge is to add intelligence at the edge. This can be done with a flexible configuration of a virtual radio access network (RAN) with mobile edge computing, which we call “FlexRAN”. Based on NFV and SDN, FlexRAN allows CoSPs to cache popular content, like popular Olympic event videos, and run network services at the edge rather than saturating the whole network with large amounts of data.
If CoSPs are to charge more for higher levels of service, whether through network slicing or concepts like FlexRAN, they need to prove they’re meeting their SLAs. One way to do this is with a network of automatically orchestrated virtual probes (vProbe) that measure the performance of virtual network functions (VNF) that enable streaming video from the Olympics. An orchestrator assigns a vProbe to a virtual machine (VM) at the same time it deploys the associated VNF in another VM.
How does this work? Suppose a very large number of subscribers start streaming the Olympics, demanding more than the available network bandwidth and causing frames to drop. Collected by the vProbe, this information is sent to the operations support system (OSS), which requests the orchestrator to increase capacity by, for example, scaling up or scaling out the VNFs.
In general, CoSPs can use vProbes to better manage the dynamic nature and changes in networks, especially when they are sliced to meet the different SLA requirements, such as for latency, packet loss, and jitter. With the ability to improve service quality in real time, a CoSP can reduce the number of complaint calls and subsequently cash cost per user (CCPU).
5G is expected to serve all kinds of business opportunities, from autonomous cars to billions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, prompting a huge range of service and pricing models. To meet the associated SLAs without over- or under-provisioning network resources, CoSPs will need an automated way to measure performance using vProbes. Not requiring new hardware, vProbes will be used for all types of applications, including video game streaming, like Twitch*, or VoIP over fixed wireless services over 5G.
To validate service quality, CoSPs need a virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) such as OpenStack and a NFV orchestrator (NFV-O) to fully automatically orchestrate and monitor virtualized testing solutions for both pre- and post-deployment. However, a pervasive challenge in the NFV ecosystem is developing common information models for orchestrating network functions, like vProbes, across different slices of 5G networks, especially in cross-domain deployments.
To address this challenge, Intel, VMware* and Gigaspaces* are running the first VNF On-Boarding Hackathon at MWC 2017 to create Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) blueprints for popular network functions such as virtual probes to make them easily consumable in the next generation of 5G networks everywhere.
Visit us at Mobile World Congress
Come to the Intel booth to see how network transformation will bring new capabilities to 5G networks, especially around network slicing and FlexRAN. 5G will be here soon, so let’s talk about how Intel can help accelerate your path to 5G with superior Quality of Experience in every network slice and service.
Also, stop by the Rift.io booth in Hall 6, Booth 6J8 to see the Intel, Telenor,* Arctos Labs,* Netrounds,* and RIFT.io* proof of concept (PoC) demonstration that showcases how to orchestrate vProbes in a DevOps manner for 5G networks. For those of you looking to learn with other coders, register for the VNF on-boarding hackathon here.
For more information about Intel solutions for network infrastructure, go here.
Follow John Healy on Twitter @HealyJohnV.
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