“We designed, developed, tested and validated an innovative architectural approach that blends the long-term evolution and network function virtualisation (NFV) worlds,” says Ioannis Chochliouros, coordinator of the EU-funded 5G ESSENCE project. This approach allows new stakeholders to dynamically enter the network value chain and offers on-demand access to evolved small-cell (SC) platforms with enhanced mobile edge computing capabilities to SC operators, network operators and other players. “The innovation will dramatically lower network management operating expenses through automation, while increasing overall level of user satisfaction and security.”
Ecosystem sustains network infrastructure openness
As part of the proposed architecture, project partners developed and adapted a multi-tenant cloud-enabled small-cell (CESC) platform, together with virtualisation infrastructure and centralisation of software-defined radio resource management. At the network’s edge, each CESC can host one or more service virtualised network functions (VNFs) that directly apply to users of a specific operator accessing the platform. The CESCs are devices that include both the processing power platform and the SC unit. They can be deployed at low- and medium-scale venues and support multiple network operators. Furthermore, CESCs can support network services and applications at the edge of the network. The light data centre (DC) implements different functional splits of the SCs and supports end - users’ mobile edge applications. In addition, researchers developed SC management functions as VNFs that ‘run’ in the main DC and coordinate a fixed pool of shared radio resources. These VNFs can be instantiated inside the main DC and become part of a service function chaining procedure. The CESC manager (CESCM) coordinates and supervises the use, performance and delivery of both radio resources and services. It controls the interactions between infrastructure – CESCs and edge DC – and network operators. Furthermore, it handles related service-level agreements. As part of the proposed architectural approach, the CESCM also encompasses telemetry and analytics as fundamental tools for efficiently managing the overall network. The virtualised infrastructure manager controls the NFV infrastructure that includes the computing, storage and network resources of the edge DC.
Immediate 5G applicability in various sectors
The 5G ESSENCE team successfully validated the system in three real-life use cases involving the entertainment, emergency management and commercial aviation industries. For these sectors, the deployment of a fully featured 5G infrastructure can generate new revenue streams. Market analysis shows that all the solutions and business models developed for each use case can be successfully launched in the market. “One of 5G ESSENCE’s major innovations is the use of end-to-end network slicing mechanisms to share the infrastructure amongst multiple market players like network operators, service providers and vertical industries,” concludes Chochliouros. The proposed solution enables several network operators to provide services to their users through a set of CESCs deployed, owned and managed by a third party. “In this way, operators can extend the capacity of their own 5G radio access network in areas where deployment of their own infrastructure could be expensive and/or inefficient.”
5G ESSENCE, network, 5G, CESC, network operator, radio resource, VNF, NFV, small-cell, edge computing