Starting your journey to 5G core: insights from Asia-Pacific

11 April 2022

Before rolling out 5G, every service provider needs a clear network evolution strategy that takes their business objectives and market conditions into account.

Ludvig Landgren, head of digital services, market area southeast Asia, Oceania and India, explains how customers in Asia-Pacific region began their journey to 5G and how individual objectives shaped their path

A t Ericsson, we have already deployed 94 live 5G networks across the world, with predictions indicating that there will be more than half a billion 5G subscriptions by the end of 2021. This means on average one million subscriptions are added every day.

It’s clear the next generation of networks has arrived. 5G Core (5GC) architecture and 5G radio will open up a new universe of possibilities for communications service providers (CSPs). Yet, the journey from Evolved Packet Core (EPC) to a cloud-native 5G Core will most probably begin from a 4G standpoint.

One of the key advantages of transitioning early to dual-mode 5G core technology is the flexibility for CSPs to achieve their 5G ambitions without disrupting their existing 4G services. 5G and LTE services can then coexist within the same core platform, achieving optimal total cost of ownership (TCO) without the need to run different platforms for multiple technologies.

I previously spoke about how co-creating with our customers is bringing us closer to a 5G future. Having worked closely with two early-adopters in market area southeast Asia, Oceania and India, I will now share valuable insights about the different ways you can start your journey towards dual-mode 5G Core and how that path can vary depending on your objectives and market maturity levels.

The 5G first mover
For CSPs who are yet to secure 5G spectrum, one way is to focus on the transition to cloud native: infrastructure, applications and operations.

My first example is from a tier one service provider in southeast Asia who needed to improve the operational efficiency of their network. Their existing 4G mobility management entity (MME) deployment was quite brittle and couldn’t easily be expanded to meet the demands of their dynamic market. Making all of the preparations so that they could handle both 4G and 5G traffic efficiently and reducing capital expenditure (CAPEX) was a key priority for this customer.

They decided to initiate the modernization of their core network by implementing a cloud native MME that is part of Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core solution. While introducing the required agility in their 4G network, they were taking their first step in their journey to a cloud-native implementation of 5G core. The dual-mode 5G core deployment will now allow them to smoothly migrate their 4G traffic to 5G functions once the spectrum becomes available in their market.

The established 5G market leader
For CSPs who’ve secured 5G spectrum, one option is to future-proof their networks by leveraging the inherent benefits of a 5G core implementation.

My second example comes from Australia where Telstra, the country’s leading operator, is continuing to push the boundaries of technology. By simplifying its network architecture Telstra is ensuring future competitiveness and reinforcing their market position. Their recent decision to successfully deploy the industry’s first live cloud-native container-based Evolved Packet Core for 4G and 5G services is a significant milestone in network orchestration and automation.

Telstra’s took up the challenge to build a 5G Core network without duplicating the cost of a separate network while their customers are making the transition from 4G to 5G. In addition, they wanted to offer 5G standalone functionality that would enable them “to create innovative new services and solutions and deliver these much quicker than in the past”, according to Nikos Katinakis, Telstra’s group executive networks & IT. Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core solution met these needs by leveraging the duality of the cloud-native network functions during implementation. This enables faster time to market and agile lifecycle management, allowing Telstra to drive new use cases for the enterprise and dynamic consumer market in Australia. Telstra’s recent announcement of a world first record 5G-download-speed highlights their ability to execute on their 5G strategy.

As you can see, even though the different paths to dual-mode 5G Core may vary, there is no doubt about its deployment benefits. Built on cloud native principles in open source and operating across multiple data centres, 5G Core is a fundamental piece of the 5G network that will open up a multitude of opportunities for mobile users and industries.

While an early start will help CSPs ease into a seamless transition, there remains to be flexibility in the implementation of dual-mode 5G Core. It is therefore crucial for CSPs to address their own set of challenges in order to reap the full benefits, which include an increase in operational efficiency with advanced network functionalities as well as a faster time to market for new end-user services.

I hope these journeys that I’ve shared have inspired you to develop your own unique path to cloud-native 5G Core.