Ericsson fired its latest shot in the 5G vendor wars with the announcement of a new 5G platform yesterday (15 February 2017). The platform comprises the 5G core, radio and transport portfolios, together with digital support systems, transformation services and security.
Ericsson said it has introduced this 5G platform to meet the needs of the first movers in 5G. A number of operators such as Verizon, Korea Telecom, SK Telecom and NTT DoCoMo have pressed for an early release of the 5G standard and 3GPP has responded by committing to a partial early Phase 1 release of the specifications (which will not be the complete 5G package) in 2018. The full Phase 2 specifications are due for release by 2020.
Presumably Ericsson’s portfolio is designed to support this first release which is essentially designed to support enhanced mobile broadband services requiring faster throughput speeds and more capacity. These include data-heavy applications like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality everywhere.
Ericsson said it expects that in 2026, there will be a US$582 billion market opportunity globally as telecom operators leverage 5G technology for industry digitalisation. For operators, this represents potential to add 34% growth in revenues in 2026.
In a forthcoming study, Ericsson finds that for operators the manufacturing and energy/utilities sectors represent the biggest opportunity for revenues created or enhanced by 5G.
“With this launch, we introduce our 5G platform to support the beginning of a huge change in network capabilities, allowing our customers to offer more advanced use cases and new business models to their customers. It is an important milestone enabling operators to continue their evolution journey to 5G,” said Arun Bansal, Head of Business Unit Network Products at Ericsson.
“We are pleased with the progress Ericsson is making in advancing 5G technology commercially,” said Roger Gurnani, CTO, Verizon. “Our customer trials with 5G technology in 11 cities across US is an important step in accelerating the path to next generation of wireless services.”
5G will require not just a new air interface but a new core architecture. As part of its new portfolio Ericsson has launched its first 5G Core System capable of 5G use cases based on network slices. Network slicing allows an operator to provide dedicated virtual networks with functionality specific to the service or customer over a common network.
This enables some early 5G use cases today for telecom operators to capture growth opportunities. Thus, Ericsson is now introducing additions into a number of areas of its 5G core system and applications:
• Federated network slices for 5G roaming extends this concept to a visited network. This technology will make it possible for an operator to provide a network service globally, ensuring enterprises do not need individual agreements with different operators for a global service experience.
• Network slice management to automate the set-up of service connections and to secure service quality, to save costs and to gain fast time to service.
• 5G policy and user data for network slices to ensure users get the right service quality and have data integrity.
• Distributed cloud to facilitate short latency applications, such as real-time face recognition, by moving applications and workloads closer to the access. In addition, the 5G-enabled packet core will allow full separation of control and user data, as well as unprecedented capacity and user data rates.
• 5G transformation services to ensure the migration of the network and operation from legacy to 5G core, virtualised and based on an automated operational model.
One proof point has been successfully demonstrated by Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson and SK Telecom. The three have jointly built and demonstrated the world's first intercontinental 5G trial network where network slices were made available in the other operator's footprint – see full story here.
New additions build on the foundation where the journey to 5G has already started, with virtualisation, where hardware-based functions are put on cloud infrastructure platforms as data centers.
Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN), will be used for networking and programmability, bringing ultra-scalability, programmability and automation to the networks. And, Ericsson’s current portfolio of User Data Management, Evolved Packet Core and IP Multimedia Subsystem, is put in the cloud to support new use cases.
Dimitris Mavrakis, Research Director, ABI Research, said: “Ericsson’s new product launch is a firm demonstration of its technical expertise in 5G and NFV, adding significant value on top of its existing core functionality. It indicates technology maturity for NFV and 5G core and federated network slicing is a radical forward-looking concept, opening up for new business models opportunities.”
Market-first global 5G access and transport portfolio
In radio and transport, Ericsson has added mid-band and high-band frequencies to the 5G New Radio (NR), which the company launched last year. Having radios available for all frequency ranges will bring benefits of 5G communications globally. The 5G radio portfolio will be the first to support the new standardised 5G fronthaul interface (called eCPRI).
The support of these new business opportunities and new applications will require delivering terabyte of data throughout the network. To ensure the needed network transport capabilities, Ericsson also introduces optimised transport solutions. It delivers a MINI-LINK enabling speed of 10Gbps and new rail-mounted fronthaul and router products, enabling zero footprint.
Ericsson will also be delivering new innovations on the road to 5G via the LTE networks, and 1 Gbps LTE solutions. New products complement the Ericsson Radio System and will increase the energy and spectrum efficiency of 4G networks and app coverage improvements. In addition, new radios will create fast 1Gbps LTE networks.
First 5G Network end-to-end demonstration by Ericsson
In further news, Ericsson said it has implemented the first end-to-end 5G trial system as the common infrastructure for future 5G services. The successful live demonstration based on joint development with SK Telecom Korea was made on 21 December 2016, in Ericsson's lab in Kista, Sweden. It used Cloud Core, virtual RAN and over-the-air NR/LTE interworking. A similar demonstration was made with Telefonica on 22 December 2016 involving Cloud RAN.
In the live demonstration, end-to-end data rates of more than 1Gbps and roundtrip latencies of about 4 milliseconds to a gateway outside of the core were achieved. The 5G New Radio (NR) used 800MHz bandwidth, running on 15GHz.
At the 5G World Summit in London in June 2016, Ericsson demonstrated dynamic network slicing with full management and orchestration of the network. This is the next step where the company demonstrates 5G end-to-end, including an implementation of virtual RAN with a common 4G and 5G radio interworking as part of the demonstration.