From R&D to commercial launch - Integrating critical 5G networks with core services and legacy networks
Huge efforts are underway to prototype and deliver advanced 5G services in captive and test networks. Sooner or later, these will jump to commercial networks, as operators seek to monetise these investments and meet the needs of new stakeholders and customers. There’s lot of work to be done to identify and resolve orchestration, policy and delivery issues in multi-network environment.
Research is focused on new uses cases – but mostly on pure 5G environments
With 5G standalone deployments likely to accelerate this year, there’s considerable excitement regarding new applications that will be optimised to the needs of different vertical sectors. A wide range of use cases have already been identified and a host of research activities around Europe (and elsewhere) are busy researching how such use cases can be realised into deployable services.
Some of these activities are based on multi-country projects, while others are focused on isolated networks, representing private network scenarios. Slicing is also often used, in order to enable the allocation of dedicated virtual networks for specific services.
This is all great stuff and we can expect the results of these trials and PoCs to emerge through the coming year. However, in most cases, attention is focused on application in a purely 5G context. That is, the trial is for a 5G network, whether public or private. They are not, generally speaking concerned with service handover to legacy networks or with service persistence across networks.
Bridging the gap between research and commercial deployment
So, for the purposes of trials, this approach can be just fine – prove that a specific application (or application concept) can be delivered in a 5G context and then move on to the next study. But the real world isn’t so simple. That’s why we’re stepping up our own research involvement, because we have to span the bridge between pure R&D activities (as discussed) and operational activities, where we bring services to commercial launch.
This is a tricky but essential domain. Let’s suppose we have a specific service enabling communication between a specific community, enabled by a dedicated 5G slice. What happens when a user moves beyond the 5G coverage domain? If slicing isn’t enabled on LTE networks, what happens then? What if 3G comes into play? What happens when a service moves from a private network to a public, non-5G network? These are all events that we can expect to happen in the real world.
These are serious issues. They raise questions about:
- Service policies
- Service continuity requirements
- Service orchestration in different networks
- Impact on other users in each network
And so on. To give one specific example, if a user is involved in a multi-party call for a critical comms service with guaranteed performance requirements (as can easily be enabled in a 5G network) and they then move to an LTE network (as will inevitably happen, at some point for mobile applications), does the service for that user get downgraded as a result, or is some orchestration function linked to the 4G network to enable performance with the same QoS parameters, even at the expense of other users?
Gintel’s efforts in ensuring operational success for comms services
It’s essential, then, to test what really happens when you move from trial and research projects to live networks that also support other users – and to determine what continuity and consistency can be enabled, depending on the demands of the service.
This is the business of moving from concept to commercial launch – and it’s essential that stakeholders collaborate to advance research in this area. So, that’s what we’re doing. We’re working with R&D teams, academic research and with operational staff to explore what should be done here – it’s essential, because the next generation of services will be massively differentiated, which creates a huge range of possibilities for how they will actually be delivered..