The Path to 5G SA Automated Assurance

Contributed by Matthew Twomey, Head of Product Marketing, Anritsu Service Assurance

5G SA is here. CSPs (communication service providers) around the world are planning, trialling, and deploying 5G SA Technology in their networks. The GSA (Global Mobile Suppliers Association) identified* 79 operators in 42 countries worldwide that are investing in public 5G SA networks (in the form of trials, planned or actual deployments). There are 12 CSPs who have launched 5G SA services to customers around the world. In addition, there are currently 311 organizations deploying 5G SA for private networks.

To ensure robust 5G SA services for subscribers and businesses, CSPs are investing large sums in their 5G networks, business and operational support systems. The key investments are in spectrum, cloud resources, and domain expertise. The potential for new business models in private networks, network slicing, AR/VR, fixed wireless access, cloud gaming, smart cities, and more means this is not business as usual. These new services will drive additional revenue streams and hence each of these services will need to be monitored and assured (from a performance & quality perspective) for speed, latency, and device density.

To back the investments, you must be able to manage and control your 5G SA network. The key is Visibility. Visibility is required into the different logical layers in 5G SA, the newly separated control and user plane, the high dynamicity of the cloud network topology and network functions, and the services available in a service mesh architecture. The ability to decrypt the 5G SA Core encrypted control plane is also required to enable visibility. With the increased levels of complexity and real-time changes in the network, Visibility in Real-Time is a MUST in the 5G SA service assurance fabric.

Given those 5G SA visibility challenges, a CSP ought to understand the characteristics required of a 5G SA service assurance solution. For example,

  • The service assurance solution must be cloud-native and support cloud-native infrastructure.
  • The solution needs visibility and understanding of the full stack, from the cloud infrastructure layer to the containers of the network functions and must include the interfaces between those network functions.
  •  It needs to be highly adaptive to process the frequent changes in the cloudified network.
  • An automation-first approach is essential with a real-time anomaly detection application driving closed-loop network corrective actions.

Network functions are in containers in 5G SA. They come from multiple software vendors, work according to interpretations of GSMA specifications, and so the internal workings of each network function will differ. Edge cases will arise around functionality, capacity, and latency and these will drive issues. Here are a few examples

‒      When there is a service affecting issue with a network function, will that network function prioritise addressing the issue, and will it report the issue.

‒      When the network function fails to whom does it report or to whom must it report?

There is an escalating chance of service-affecting issues and perhaps a cascade of failures between containers. The massive investment, in cloudified networks, compels CSPs to monitor and assure interfaces, infrastructure, services, and customers in the 5G SA services assurance fabric.

Domain expertise in Service Assurance matters and it matters more in 5G SA with the network based on cloud, disaggregated, dynamic with escalating complexity, escalating data volumes, and internal east/west traffic. The Anritsu Service Assurance fabric captures data, in context, to create structures of intelligence aimed at providing value and use cases. Developed over 20 years of telecoms service assurance domain expertise, our goal is to use data in a smart way. With 5G SA, our assurance strategy is about leveraging AI/ML-based Real-Time Anomaly Detection first and complement it with details and insights that are typically needed for Network & Service operational teams. Our solution portfolio of performance analytics, troubleshooting, and customer experience solutions work together seamlessly in 5G SA and with legacy technologies.

The Anritsu path to 5G SA service assurance has been in the making with years of strategic investment in virtualization, 5G domain capabilities, and a company-wide digital transformation. Based on the commercial contracts awarded we have started deploying the Anritsu 5G SA service assurance solution for two world-renowned Tier-1 Operators. This is an immense endorsement of our strategy, our investments, and the trust earned as a long-term partner for cloudified future. Anritsu looks forward to working with its current customers, new customers, and partners to expand the Service Assurance possibilities of 5G SA, cloudification, and digital transformation.

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*GSA: 5G Stand Alone Global Market Status: Executive Summary June 2021

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