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5G Standalone and the Cloud-native Telco are Taking Off



As 5G Standalone network and spectrum are solidified, it’s time for cloud-native and use case monetization. The complexities are putting a spotlight on the importance of automation and continuous testing.

According to the Global Mobile Supplier’s Association, 5G Standalone (SA) networks are publicly available in 27 countries from 46 operators as of January 2024.

Now, service providers adopting SA’s cloud-native architectures are tasked with transitioning processes and workforce to an IT-like software world. This is no easy task, and with 5G SA deployments expected to increase in the next 12-24 month, the burden will only grow greater.

The reward? Cloud-native core networks that provide agility and automation to enable new revenue-producing use cases.

To discuss the state of SA and what it takes to go cloud-native, Sean Kinney, Editor in Chief at RCR Wireless News, invited industry experts to “The Move to 5G Standalone & Creating a Cloud-Native Telco” webinar.

Tantra Analyst Founder and Principal, Prakash Sangam, assessed the market trends while Spirent’s VP Product Management, Anil Kollipara, delved into the drivers and complexities of cloud-native 5G. Steve Douglas, Spirent Head of Market Strategy, reflected on the outlook for 2024 and beyond.

A companion RCR Wireless News report delves into more detail on these topics.

Following are highlights of the webinar and report.

Real transitions to 5G Standalone

5G Standalone opens the door to new monetization opportunities that require dynamic flexibility, efficient cellular connectivity, low latency, and high bandwidth. It supports network slices, makes inroads on sustainability goals, and reduces operational complexity using automation.

One front where early success has been achieved is on leveraging these networks to support network slices and RedCap (5G New Radio Light), with plans to expand services:

  • Vodafone UK created a dedicated slice for the Wimbledon Tennis Championships television broadcast and King Charles III’s coronation.

  • Singtel used RedCap to provide cost-efficient, simple integration with IoT devices.

  • Orange deployed a network slice in several markets that cut 3-hour-plus deployments, upgrades, and tests to 15 minutes or less.

  • Verizon provided network slices for law enforcement cameras and dedicated video streaming at the F1 Las Vegas Grand Prix.

All roads lead to cloud-native

Cloud-native software realizes the full benefits of the 5G Standalone core platform. It provides dynamic scalability, microservices, and automation so service providers can react quickly to monetizing opportunities.

The agility of cloud-native comes from breaking tasks into small pieces. Network functions that used to have four elements, might now have up to a hundred.

Telco-Cloud-Operational Efficiency

The building blocks of a cloud-native 5G network function (5G CNF) are:

  • Microservices, whichbreak the CNF into small function-specific workloads that can be independently developed, deployed, and maintained.

  • Containerization, whichenables the CNF to turn on and off quickly, as needed for scaling and network resiliency.

  • Orchestration, such as Kubernetes, which manages the container’s lifecycle and automates the entire process.

Essential aspects of a cloud-native environment are automatic scaling of resources to meet demand and save energy, and resilient applications that automatically recover from cloud failures without impacting performance.

Early cloud-native adopters are dealing with weekly software updates to many dependent moving parts. That makes automation and testing critical before deployment in the live network.

Continuous testing of cloud-native 5G SA

Automated, proactive, and continuous testing that’s integrated into a continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) pipeline unlocks the operational efficiencies, monetization, and energy efficiencies of the 5G SA cloud-native network.

Telco-Cloud-Continuous Testing Benefits

Proactive testing evaluates how the system will react to unexpected change. It identifies vulnerabilities, improves fault tolerance, and determines whether auto-scaling optimizes resource consumption.

Comprehensive testing ensures the reliability and resiliency of cloud-native applications, determines the impact of failures on subscriber traffic, and ensures that applications with service-level agreements are not impacted.

Automation of the test process itself gains operational efficiencies.

A view of the future

As a test company, Spirent also sees momentum building for 5G SA and expects growth to continue into 2025.

Last year the focus was on testing core and related services. Now, the use cases driving demand include enterprise private networks, gaming and extended reality, and government/military applications.

Network slicing is a dominant theme. There’s testing around secure access slices for enterprise SD-WAN and SASE to provide end-to-end security. Dedicated throughput and latency slices for mobile gaming apps are now migrating from Asia to western Europe.

Already, 20 percent of early adopters have implemented automated CI/CD pipelines, and we will see more in 2024. There is also interest in consolidating and streamlining labs and data centers to improve efficiency and reduce energy consumption.

Verizon has said that 2024 will be a “big year” for 5G SA. The webinar panel was also optimistic, believing the industry is at a tipping point. Those who have deployed SA will start seeing real monetization and ARPU this year. Those who haven’t may be left behind.

View the RCR Wireless News webinar, “The Move to 5G Standalone & Creating a Cloud-Native Telco” and read the companion editorial report for more details.

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Anil Kollipara
Anil Kollipara

Vice President, Product Management

Anil Kollipara is a Vice President of Product Management in Spirent’s Lifecycle Service Assurance Business Unit, where he owns the strategy and execution of their 5G and Open RAN test and assurance portfolio. He has an extensive background in the wireless and telecommunications industry and has a successful track record of building industry-leading products in lab testing, service assurance, and network planning. Areas of expertise include test and measurement, service assurance, and predictive and prescriptive analytics in wireless networks (3G, LTE, 5G, Open RAN, VoLTE, VoWi-Fi). Before joining Spirent, Anil worked for industry-leading companies like Netscout, Danaher, Dell, and Cerion. He holds a BE from the University of Mumbai, an MSEE from the University of Texas at Arlington, and an MBA from the University of Chicago, Booth School of Business. Anil holds four patents related to characterizing and measuring subscriber experience in telecommunications networks.