Over the past few years, most of the conversations I’ve had with customers regarding user plans have focused on a few topics: how different features are used to support new use cases and high-level schemas. availability to secure service and maximize competitive price capacity per Gbit/s. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is also a constant theme for CSPs, they want to keep TCO low to secure revenue and investment, especially when it comes to attracting enterprise customers.

Although service and integration costs are a recurring element in every telecommunications deployment, they become a central demand as CSPs attempt to grow their enterprise edge portfolio. We need a solution that’s easy to deploy and manage, to shorten the time-to-live from the time the contract is signed to the first device carrying traffic. This will help reduce TCO in this growing segment.

The flexibility vs simplicity dilemma

Most future use cases will increase the level of complexity and customization per application. For example, time-critical communications with low latency redundancy, or a more consumer type broadband application, require very specific types of configurations and integration. At the same time, the market demands and aspires to a type of one-click deployment concepts, where simplicity and low service costs are a must. I see the need to combine these two in principle opposing requirements to evolve towards the 5G edge.

All-in-One: Why Less is More in the Edge Utilization Plan

The cloud-native 5G core allows CSPs to precisely design and scale how their networks should operate and be delivered. The level of flexibility is high, allowing vendors to choose the hardware that fits their needs, the most appropriate networking solution, the container-as-a-service (CaaS) system, as well as the combinations of features that the 3GPP offers and most telecom providers can offer. This level of choice is a big upgrade, but usually comes with increased complexity and higher costs. Typically, in a public macro network for the consumer segment, CSPs can work with providers to combine a high level of requirements with moderate cost to service and complexity. But edge deployments can’t afford the same customization and complexity with a competitive offering.

I see a more plausible scenario where customers who demand simplicity have their needs met by vendors who offer a complete, end-to-end solution, or a product that limits complexity and makes other types of deployments affordable. Major telecom vendors will need to have a ready-to-deploy product in which they will choose the main variables, i.e. hardware and infrastructure as well as networking solution. Certain principles must continue to be taken into consideration, such as the cloud-native principle, the latest generation of chips and hardware, to have a competitive capacity. As a telecommunications provider, Ericsson proactively evaluates these choices, producing optimized and pre-integrated products. As we have moved from appliance to virtual and cloud native in the macro network, the appliance concept is once again becoming relevant in the new 5G edge segment.

Lifecycle management: industrialization of edge deployments

An interesting aspect of the 5G edge user plane is the high volume of deployment and level of distribution it is meant to achieve. By combining both virtual private and on-premises hybrid private scenarios, the number of distributed user planes could be on the order of 100 on each 5G core network. This breadth of deployed units requires a centralized system to manage the integration, assurance, and lifecycle of peripheral systems.

The traditional concept of telecom core lifecycle management needs to be expanded in this segment. The ability to quickly and remotely integrate a new distributed user plane into the edge will become critical. This integration will tend to occur in more remote locations, such as being locally localized or on-site for corporate clients. Imagine the CSP or vendors dedicating resources to performing onsite installations at this scale – the cost could be unbearable.

An industrialized system, where the installer only has to connect the peripheral user plane to the network and the rest of the process is controlled and automated from the network operation center of the CSP (as depicted in Figure 1), must be part of the integral solutions provided by the supplier. The process of deploying a highly distributed user plane should be fast, automated, and standardized.

Figure 1 – Integrated lifecycle management for deployment with minimal onsite intervention

Raising the bar and taking a step forward in 5G hybrid private network security

5G edge deployments will transform the network topology by directly connecting the enterprise and carrier network in the hybrid scenario. The possibilities and future use cases that the 5G architecture can enable are enormous. It also leads to security issues and a whole new level of potential threats. A common question from our customers regarding the 5G edge hybrid model is, “How can I ensure that my core core network is protected and isolated from the outside world?” In addition, they must also ensure that they meet the strict data privacy requirements of their corporate clients. In the initial phases of this transformation, I believe CSPs will begin to work with trusted companies to maintain control over configuration and security. In the coming years, the expansion of hybrid private 5G networks to hundreds of enterprises will make it extremely complex for CSPs to control all deployments connected to their public core. This will be one of the challenges of expanding 5G to the edge of the premises. Related products should also include solutions, such as firewall capabilities, network address translation, tunneling, traffic isolation, and encryption, that allow both CSPs to protect their infrastructure and companies to protect their premises and their data.

Summary

The new ecosystems brought by the 5G edge will transform both network topology and business models between enterprises, carriers and telecommunications providers. The user plane is a crucial piece of the puzzle, enabling the higher levels of distribution needed to meet new use cases and business requirements. For a successful journey into the 5G edge user plane, new products must be quick to deploy and manage, enable automation, and have an added degree of security and privacy.

Ericsson Local Packet Gateway is built and designed according to the principles described above.

Learn more in the solution brief.