When discussing 5G, we often highlight its speed, performance, and flexibility attributed to its core and service-based architecture. This architectural approach sets it apart from previous generations of wireless telecommunications networks. Unlike its predecessors, 5G relies on software-driven and cloud-based networks. Since the release of 3GPP's version 15 and the announcement of 5G specifications in December 2017, there has been remarkable progress in transforming the 5G core and implementing Service-Based Architecture (SBA) on extensive networks. It is essential to recognize that 5G represents a transformation of its core into software-driven functions, followed by the Radio Access Network (RAN).
This blog will delve into the fundamentals of 5G core service-based architecture, which serves as the foundation for 5G and future generations of telecommunications networks that will enable innovative use cases such as IoT, autonomous cars, remote healthcare, and more.
5G Core Service-Based Architecture
The 5G core is the foundation of the 5G network, and it is responsible for a wide range of functions, including:
Routing traffic: The 5G core routes traffic between different network parts, including the radio access network (RAN) and the internet.
Providing services: The 5G core provides various services to users, such as voice, data, and messaging.
Managing the network: The 5G core manages the network, including tasks such as authentication, authorization, and accounting
The components of the 5G core network, also known as the 5G Core (5GC), include:
Access and Mobility Management Function (AMF): AMF handles the access and mobility management functions in the 5G core network. It is responsible for tasks such as authentication, authorization, and session management for user devices.
Session Management Function (SMF): SMF controls and manages the user sessions in the 5G core network. It handles tasks such as IP address allocation, Quality of service (QoS)enforcement, and policy control for user sessions.
User Plane Function (UPF): UPF is responsible for user plane processing in the 5G core network. It handles data forwarding, traffic routing, and packet processing functions for user data.
Policy Control Function (PCF): PCF manages the policy enforcement and control in the 5G core network. It is responsible for enforcing service-level policies, QoS policies, and network resource allocation policies.
Authentication Server Function (AUSF): AUSF performs the authentication and security-related functions in the 5G core network. It authenticates and authorizes user devices, ensuring secure access to the network.
Network Slice Selection Function (NSSF): NSSF selects the appropriate network slice for a user session based on service requirements, network conditions, and policy rules. It ensures the allocation of user sessions to the most suitable network slices.
Unified Data Management (UDM): UDM manages the user-related data in the 5G core network. It stores and provides access to subscriber profiles, authentication credentials, and user-related information.
Network Exposure Function (NEF): NEF enables secure and controlled access to 5G network services and capabilities by external applications and third-party systems. It provides APIs and interfaces for developers to build applications and services on top of the 5G core network.
Application Function (AF): AF represents the applications and services that utilize the 5G core network. It could include a wide range of services such as voice over IP (VoIP), video streaming, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR) applications.
These components collectively form the 5G core network, the backbone for delivering advanced 5G services and applications. They work together to enable high-speed data transfer, low latency, network slicing, and efficient management of user sessions and network resources.
Cloud Native 5G Core
Achieve flexibility, performance, and scalability for the 5G core through the cloud-native deployment of network functions, as described in the above section. When proposing the 5G core SBA, the hosting of 5GC functions occurred on the cloud-native VNFs. As this movement progressed, they are now termed cloud-native network functions, i.e., CNFs. These CNFs can be disaggregated software components deployed on a private or public cloud infrastructure, scheduled on demand by a central orchestrator, and scaled in or scaled out whenever required.
Advantages of Innovation in 5G Core
Innovation in the 5G core is essential for 5G networks because it can help improve the network’s performance, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness.
- Various methods can be employed to enhance network performance. For instance, leveraging new technologies enables optimized traffic routing, reducing latency and improving throughput. Moreover, developing new services caters to emerging use cases, including ultra-reliable low-latency communication (URLLC) and massive machine-type communication (mMTC).
- To improve the flexibility of the network. For instance, new technologies enable scalability enhancements, allowing the network to adapt and meet evolving demands. Additionally, new services that are more adaptable to different use cases can be developed.
- New technologies can be employed to enhance efficiency and lower the network's operating costs, resulting in reduced energy consumption. Furthermore, the development of cost-effective services can contribute to overall operational savings.
The innovation in the 5G core is crucial for 5G networks to deliver enhanced performance, support diverse use cases, provide scalability and flexibility, enable network slicing and customization, facilitate edge computing, and ensure future proofing. By driving innovation in the 5G core, service providers can unlock the full potential of 5G networks and deliver transformative experiences to users and industries alike.