Unified Service Assurance in the 5G Era

By: Sergio Pessoa

5G technology is expected to enable significant new revenue opportunities from mission-critical applications like smart cities, autonomous vehicles, industrial automation, and smart healthcare, among others.

To enable these new services, 5G is being built on an entirely new architecture. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has provided 5G network architecture specifications that are much more service-oriented than previous generations—and go well beyond offering voice, video, and web browsing to network users. At its foundation are the concepts of virtualization, disaggregation, geographical distribution of functions, and open APIs supported by many vendors.

The architecture enables service customization through network slices. Network slicing leverages network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined network (SDN) capabilities to allow operators to partition the network on demand, creating end-to-end virtual networks that can be used for different types of services.

These dynamic services will come and go, demanding and releasing resources based on real-time needs. Operations and the network must not only react in real-time but also take a customer-facing view to meet service quality expectations and service level agreements (SLAs).

To deliver these services on 5G, fundamental changes must be made to service assurance solutions. Entirely different approaches are required—not just upgrades.

Legacy service assurance for an older era

Historically, network operations center (NOC) teams have focused on managing infrastructure rather than the services that run on the networks.NOCs process a very high number of events daily, usually leveraging siloed, domain-specific fault, performance, topology, and service management tools.

To identify and resolve problems, NOC experts use “swivel chair” management, manually plowing through reams of data to identify a problem’s root cause. They swivel between element management system screens, inventory system screens, and customer databases, all with different user interfaces.

Problem identification, isolation, and resolution may take hours, if not days, causing SLA violations or widespread network outages in the interim. And the manual effort is not effective, scalable, or economical.

Legacy applications are built on old architectures that are not dynamic. They cannot scale to meet the demands of today’s networks, and to overcome this, they filter out and discard data. But trends and anomalies can’t be spotted when part of the information has been deleted, leaving an incomplete view of the data.

The solutions lack flexibility for enhancements, and integration with other systems usually requires long and costly professional services.

Traditional service assurance and operations methodologies are not feasible in a 5G world.

Why 5G is a whole new ballgame

Service assurance is so heavily impacted by 5G because of the new services it enables, as well as its technical innovations.

Operator revenue opportunities that feature high bandwidth, low latency, and real-time service creation have been the stimulus for 5G’s innovative architecture. Customer expectations are high and degraded service quality is not tolerated. Because of this, network and customer quality of service (QoS) KPIs must be actively monitored in real-time to ensure that contracted SLAs are met. Problem identification and resolution can’t wait to be triggered by customer complaints but must be addressed proactively to maintain customer loyalty. Downtime is not an option.

The 5G network is effectively a new network. Its infrastructure is becoming virtualized and cloud-native, essentially integrating the telecom and IT worlds. There is not only a new distributed and disaggregated radio access network (RAN) with distinct control and user (data) planes that can be separated geographically, but the 5G core has also been completely reinvented.


Latest Updates

Subscribe to our YouTube Channel