The real winners of the 5G era will be the service providers who can transform their core networks to take full advantage of what 5G Standalone (SA) and cloud-native technologies can offer. While many operators will start their 5G journey with 5G non-Standalone, to fulfill the true promise of 5G, a 5G SA is needed. With many different routes to take when transforming, a trusted source of information and direction is vital for operators. Published today, the latest version of Ericsson’s cloud-native 5G Core network guides series holds the collected insights and learnings gained from years of transforming networks, together with the insights from Ericsson customers who have already launched their 5G Core networks for 5G SA services.
Originally released in 2020, this guide series covers network technologies and operational aspects of the cloud-native core network in six strategic domains that Ericsson has found to be crucial for service providers to address in order to reach the full potential of their 5G networks. These are: cloud native infrastructure, 5G Core, 5G voice, automation and orchestration, operations and life cycle management, and network security.
Many things have happened since the series was initially published. Our solutions have evolved and, together with leading 5G service providers, we have switched on and optimized dozens of cloud-native 5G Core networks worldwide. This has allowed us to gain more expertise and experience with these new technologies than any other vendor. With this release 2.0 of our guide series, we have compiled the learnings, insights and recommendations for every step of the transformation journey we want to share with all service providers. Whether they are at the beginning of their journey, or considering how to expand, evolve, or more efficiently operate their new core network, this series is here to help service providers to extract the most value from cloud-native 5G Core and 5G SA technologies.
From those six strategic domains, Ericsson has identified five key insights for service providers:
- Cloud-native transformation is a catalyst for business transformation. Leading service providers make it clear they view the transformation to cloud-native as a driver for the modernization of the rest of their business. The company’s ability to bring new products and solutions to market faster should be regarded as being of equal importance to the network investment.
- Clear strategy and planning for cloud-native transformation is paramount. Each individual service provider’s cloud-native transformation journey is different and should be planned accordingly. The common theme is that the complexity of transforming at this scale needs to be recognized, and must not be underestimated. For maximum short-and-long-term impact tailored, effective migration strategies need to be in place in advance. This ensures that investment and execution in this area forms a valuable element of an overall transformation strategy and plan.
- Frontrunners will establish first-mover advantage. Time should be a key factor in driving the plans and strategies for change. Those who start this journey early will be leading the field when they’re able to deploy new functionalities and services. A common frontrunner approach is to start with a greenfield 5G Core deployment to try out ideas and concepts without disrupting the existing network. Additionally, evolving the network will be a dynamic process, and it is crucial to bring application developers and solution vendors into the ecosystem as early as possible to start seeing faster, smoother innovation.
- Major potential for architecture simplifications. The standardization of 5G Core has been based on architecture and learnings from IT. The telecom stack should be simplified by incorporating cloud native principles into it – for example separating the lifecycle management of the network functions from that of the underlying Kubernetes infrastructure. While any transformation needs to balance both new and legacy technologies, there are clear opportunities to simplify the network and operations further by smart investment decisions in three major areas. These are: simplified core application architecture (through dual-mode 5G Core architecture); simplified cloud-native infrastructure stack (through Kubernetes over bare-metal cloud infrastructure architecture); and Automation stack.
- Readiness to automate, operate and lifecycle manage the new platform must be accelerated. Processes requiring manual intervention will not be sufficient for the levels of service expected of cloud-native 5G Core. Network automation and continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) of software will be crucial to launch services with agility or to add new networks capabilities in line with advancing business needs. Ericsson’s customer project experience repeatedly shows us another important aspect of this area of change, telling us that the evolution to cloud-native is more than a knowledge jump or a technological upgrade – it is also a mindset change. The best platform components will not deliver their full potential if teams are not ready to use them.
Monica Zethzon, Head of Solution Area Core Networks, Ericsson says: “The time is now. Service providers need to get ready for the cloud-native transformation that will enable them to reach the full potential of 5G and drive innovation, shaping the future of industries and society. We are proud to be at the forefront of this transformation together with our leading 5G service providers partners. With this guide series we want to share our knowledge and experiences with every service provider in the world to help them preparing for their successful journeys into 5G.”