Nokia Networks has introduced a programmable 5G architecture designed to overcome the rigidity of legacy networks. The architecture automatically and dynamically adapts radio access and core network resources to meet the needs of different services, traffic variations over time and location, and network topology, including transport.
The quality of customer experiences will be substantially higher, according to Nokia, while ‘almost instant response and rock-solid connectivity’ promise to transform the business processes of industry sectors from manufacturing to automotive and healthcare. Operators will be able to offer network functions to any kind of industry under a network-as-a-service business model.
5G will provide more than a new radio system
Nokia argues that building a separate system to meet the future requirements and use cases is not an option. The real opportunity is in developing 5G as a ‘system of systems’ that can meet all requirements and provide a seamless service from the user's perspective.
Nokia's architecture uses a 'system of systems' approach to integrate and align the many different and independent parts of a network to achieve higher performance and more functionality as compared with the way today's networks are designed.
Nearly all network functions will become software-defined, cognitive technologies will automatically orchestrate the network, and content and processing will be distributed across the network close to where they are needed.
Nokia acknowledges that 5G standardisation has not started yet (or even been defined for that matter), but argues that this holistic concept provides a clear view on what the future 5G architecture needs to be. It rightly points out that many of the components are already up and running.
Key architecture functionalities
Network Slicing: Multiple independent and dedicated virtual sub-networks (network instances) are created within the same infrastructure to run services that have completely different requirements on latency, reliability, throughput and mobility.
Dynamic Experience Management (DEM): Automatic Quality of Experience (QoE) optimisation of each application session provides superior customer experience even under high network load using up to 30% fewer resources. DEM can already be deployed in today's networks.
Service-determined connectivity: Conventionally, the network's available connectivity determines what services are possible. In 5G, devices and services are no longer tied to a single point to point IP connection. In fact, the connectivity path can be freely chosen according to actual service demand. By enabling a service to determine the connectivity, the required latency and reliability can be assured by the network.
Fast traffic forwarding: A distributed telco cloud structure, enabled by the Nokia AirFrame Data Center Solution, will support a new generation of critical services in such sectors as automotive and industrial.
Mobility on demand: A wide range of mobility needs can be met, from stationary utility meters to high-speed trains. Typically, only 30% of users are mobile and do not need mobility support, providing an opportunity to use network resources more efficiently.
Nokia’s new 5G architecture concept
Nokia said the viability of the new architecture has been demonstrated through several proof of concepts:
As an important part of Nokia's network slicing concept, a fully self aware software defined transport network automatically adapts itself to changing service requirements and the needs of different slices and customer experience needs.
This is achieved by Self-Organising Networks (SON) for transport solution in combination with a multivendor Software-Defined Networking (SDN) fabric control that acts across SDN domains. The network control does not need to talk to every SDN controller since a single Rest Application Programming Interface (API) is used.
Similarly, Nokia Networks is also introducing programmable APIs to the virtual core network elements to be able to adapt core network behaviour in run time. This is a clear step forward as today's elements require hours or even days to be re-configured. As a result, the core network can adapt to dynamically changing needs such as the creation of new network slices or mobility profiles either immediately or on demand.
Volker Ziegler, chief architect at Nokia Networks, said: "Nokia Networks is leading industry-wide 5G architecture work through various vehicles such as the 5G-Public Private Partnership (5G-PPP) project 5G NORMA (5G Novel Radio Multiservice adaptive network Architecture).
“With our cognitive and cloud-optimised architecture for the 5G era, we have outlined an end-to-end architecture that will allow unprecedented and cognitive customisability to meet stringent performance, security, cost, and energy requirements. It will fuel economic growth through new business models across vertical sectors, such as network-as-a-service for other industries to use network functions as they need them."