5G architecture: Frequently asked questions answered
5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks. If you're a technologist at heart, you probably already know what 5G is and how it enables the rapid transmission of enormous amounts of data and expands coverage to remote geographical areas.
You may be familiar with the technology's evolution from 1G to 5G. Although its full capabilities are still being discovered, the scope of its reach is already being harnessed. Did you know that it's helping farmers plan for the future by detecting changes in plant health, soil quality, and moisture so that they can apply the appropriate amount of pesticide, water, or fertilizer? It's also making the world safer, helping 911 operators dispatch police, ambulance, and fire departments to people in need, even in the most remote areas, and creating a more proactive approach to disaster response.
Fatih Nar is a Red Hat engineer who has worked at Google, Verizon, and Ericsson covering both sides of the coin: technology creator and communication services provider. Fatih and his group have been exploring how to build cloud-native 5G solutions and ecosystems (including operational support systems and business support systems) that infrastructure providers can use in private and public clouds. These systems are scalable so that total cost of ownership (TCO) will support return on investment (ROI) targets and leverage common solution elements and open source technologies.
This article addresses frequently asked questions about 5G architecture, including the benefits and challenges of implementing 5G and helping advanced users understand complex use cases.
What is the 5G solution stack?
In general, the 5G solution stack can be broken down into these components:
- Infrastructure provides necessary compute, network, and storage resources to the application platform using private or public clouds.
- The application platform accommodates applications with declarative desired-state consistency and facilities for scaling, healing, and monitoring. Kubernetes has emerged as the standard platform in recent years.
- 5G applications provide the business logic to deliver desired outcomes in a homogeneous and performant way (for example, wider, stronger, faster 5G). They use a combination of virtual network functions (VNF) packaged as virtual machines and cloud-native network functions (CNF) with microservices packaged as containers. Both VNF and CNF are deployed on the same application platform.
- Management and orchestration allow dynamic scaling of end-to-end 5G solutions across multiple locations with automation for day-0/1 and lifecycle management operations for day-N.
You can review a diagram showing the common architectural elements in a 5G solution stack at work in Expanding 5G with the 5G Open HyperCore architecture.
What is the role of hyperscalers in 5G?
Hyperscalers aid telecom, media, and entertainment (TME) organizations avoid unnecessary capital investments and handle temporary service-consumption increases. It achieves this by dynamically scaling to meet demand and other changes based on time, location, cost, and earnings.
By using hyperscalers' economies of scale, 5G introduces new business models supported by required technology capabilities and capacities. These include low-latency-driven mission-critical services and distributed computing infrastructures with mobile edge computing capabilities using 5G local user-plane breakouts.
TME organizations often use the term burst to describe unexpected interest in consumable services and products that existing capabilities and capacities can't handle. TME providers can use hyperscalers to address burst without compromising regulatory compliance, TCO, or end-to-end ownership of the 5G solution.
There are a few key characteristics to consider in a 5G burst architecture:
- Bursts can occur at unpredictable dates or times.
- They have a temporary or ephemeral duration.
- They are usually tied to low ROI against capital expenditures (CAPEX) and operational expenditures (OPEX).
Are you looking to deploy 5G on a new cluster? There are options for bursting 5G: using a hyperscaler to expand the size of the existing platform or adding ephemeral new clusters on a hyperscaler. You can use either approach to build your own solution. For more information check the recommended reference solution architecture to help guide you.
How do you handle observability in 5G environments?
Istio provides observability of service behavior, empowering operators to troubleshoot, maintain, and optimize their applications without imposing additional burdens on service developers. Istio provides visibility into how monitored services interact with other services and other Istio components.
The Open 5G HyperCore solution uses a service mesh for improved observability and the Multus tool for flexible pod networking in Kubernetes. The third installment in the 5G HyperCore series details how Multus Container Network Interface (CNI) broadens the scope and control over how pods and containers communicate within a cluster. The fourth article describes how to use init containers in the Istio CNI. That article also explores how a sidecar container plugs into a pod, making the service mesh platform more capable of multitenancy and hardened with the least privileges needed.
How can I learn more about 5G and the Open 5G HyperCore architecture?
Are you interested in learning more? There are many parts to the Open 5G HyperCore architecture. Take a look at these articles for more insight:
- How to modernize 5G operational and business support systems for the cloud
- How to balance virtual machine traffic with Kubernetes services
- How to measure and use network latency data to improve 5G user experience
- How we designed a 5G/6G-ready business support system for telco operators
- How we optimized ROI for BSS modernization with cloud infrastructure
- Dynamically manage Kubernetes applications to improve network latency
You can find these and future 5G HyperCore articles in this series on Fatih's Red Hat Enable Architect page.
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