The next decade will see continuing challenges in the area of core network evolution with significant changes coming down the line as core networks evolve towards next-generation architectures and platforms, says Richard Liu, President of Huawei’s Cloud Core Network Product Line.
Liu was speaking at MWC2023 in Barcelona where Huawei senior company representatives detailed recent advances in the company’s key product lines and technology areas, as part of the company’s GUIDE initiative (Gigabit everywhere, Ultra-automation, Intelligent multi-cloud connection, Differentiated Experience, and Environmental Harmony) which promises to bridge between 5G and 5.5G, and towards 6G.
The migration to a cloud core network architecture and adoption of a cloud-native model by many operators have been key features of the first decade since 5G implementation began, said Liu, and he believes that core networks will lead the drive to achieve full service support in the era of 5G Advanced.
But in electing to prioritize the network core in the first phase of migration to 5G the industry had perhaps underestimated the complexity of the core network, meaning continuous innovation would be critical to the creation of a new generation infrastructure, he added.
During what Liu termed the “VNF era”, large scale core network deployments had already been achieved across the world mostly based on virtual machines, and these are now supporting as many as 100 million users in some regions of China, said Liu. Following the release of new ETSI standards for containerization in 2020 the next generation of core networks would be based on containers. But though the basic demands on the networks will not change, this journey over the next decade will not be as straightforward as core network migration to the new cloud architectures had been during this initial phase.
In order to achieve full services support for 5G and 5.5G, Liu announced two critical innovations in Huawei’s core network portfolio – a new platform called Dual-Engine Container solution that supports the migration from NFV to containers, and a service enablement platform for VoLTE called New Calling.
In the move to containerization, maintaining carrier-grade levels of functionality in key areas such as performance (low latency and high utilization) reliability and O&M support for existing software on the new hardware platform, will be critical, as will managing costs and protecting carriers’ existing investments. For this reason and because of cost factors, Liu says operators have tended to only implement core network upgrades every two years.
Huawei’s dual-engine container solution allows operators greater flexibility by continuing to boost support for carrier-grade capabilities based on their cloud native infrastructure, while at the same time promising continued support for all network elements.
For example, in what Liu believes to be the key area of O&M support for migration and upgrading of the network, the dual-engine container solution supports a multi-OS approach that allows carriers to selectively upgrade nationwide OS support without impacting other services such as inventory. By converging the virtual machine and container management layer, Huawei’s solution also allows platforms from different families such as OpenStack or Kubernetes to be converged without disruption to existing services.
“Even with huge traffic you can make a smooth migration to containers. We can also guarantee that we can re-use network resources and storage resources,” said Liu.
Unlocking the benefits of VoLTE
Huawei’s achievements in promoting the proliferation of VoLTE have helped contribute to rapidly increasing global penetration.
The New Calling service enabling platform builds on the establishment of VoLTE as a basic voice network, but one whose benefits still need to be unlocked through the development of new offerings such as content-based services.
New Calling is added to the IMS network and consists of control plane and a media plane elements to support various partner-provided application scenarios such as visualized voice calling and real-time translation, as well as innovative applications such as video and image processing. The new platform is currently being trialed by Huawei at multiple China Mobile sites, such as Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Guangdong provinces.
Services for B2C 5G users such as visualized voice calling, real-time translation, and fun calling can help operators to create differentiation, helping retain stickiness in the profitable native call environment, says Liu. For example, visualized voice calling allows users to define their personal avatar to convey emotions and display their personalities. Language translation and large font can help the elderly and hard-of-hearing to break down communication barriers.
Using the VoLTE data channel interactive communications, such as remote sharing, AR annotation, and file transfer can also be added. Huawei expects that DC-capable terminals will be launched in 2023.
“This is very exciting and really changing the business model globally,” said Liu.