Nokia unveils programmable 5G multi-service architecture

Nokia Networks (NYSE:NOK) doesn't have any software defined networking (SDN) deals to announce with U.S. carriers, but it wants the world to know that is ready to deliver on the multi-vendor approach that operators around the world are asking for.

Although 5G standardization has not yet started, Nokia already has demonstrated several proof of concepts related to SDN. Meanwhile, the vendor says it is taking a holistic approach to operators' future 5G architecture needs. Its programmable 5G architecture overcomes the "rigidity of legacy networks," the company says. "Operators will be able to offer network functions to any kind of industry under a Network-as-a-Service business model."

The company outlined five key architecture functionalities it is delivering, including: network slicing, dynamic experience management (DEM), service-determined connectivity, fast traffic forwarding and mobility on demand.

Peter Merz, head of Radio Systems for Nokia Networks' Technology & Innovations group, points out that 5G is not just about the radio -- it's about the architecture and all the other things, including transport, where SDN comes into play. "This is part of our overall holistic approach" to 5G, he told FierceWirelessTech.

U.S. operators may be particularly interested in the DEM, where automatic Quality of Experience (QoE) optimization of each application session provides "superior customer experience" even under high network load using up to 30 percent fewer resources. DEM can be deployed already in today's networks.

Network slicing is also expected to play a prominent role in U.S. operators' networks. It's where multiple independent and dedicated virtual sub-networks are created within the same infrastructure to run services that have completely different requirements on latency, reliability, throughput and mobility. 

Different use cases may have different requirements, Merz noted. With vehicle-to-vehicle implementations, the network will require extremely low latency paired with mobility. However, for some smart metering applications, you don't need mobility but you have a large number of devices that deliver a small payload every day, so "you only need to have a small user plane, but possibly you need to have a good signaling control plane to serve all those use cases," he said.

In the U.S., AT&T (NYSE: T) has been particularly aggressive about its plan to deploy SDN and lower the company's networking costs. Last month, John Donovan, senior EVP of AT&T's technology and operations, said the first software-defined networking move the carrier made was the mobile packet core, and it's starting to move large amounts of traffic in its mobile network onto a software-defined architecture.

Nokia says that an important part of its network slicing concept is a fully self-aware software defined transport network that automatically adapts itself to changing service requirements and the needs of different slices and customer experience needs.

That's achieved using a self-organizing network (SON) for transport solution in combination with a multivendor SDN fabric control that acts across SDN domains. The network control doesn't need to talk to every SDN controller because a single Rest Application Programming Interface (API) is used.

Nokia also is introducing programmable APIs to the virtual core network elements in order to adapt core network behavior in run time. "This is a clear step forward as today's elements require hours or even days to be re-configured," Nokia said in its release. "As a result, the core network can adapt to dynamically changing needs such as the creation of new network slices or mobility profiles either immediately or on demand."

For more:
- see this press release

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