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Fantastic Four for Next-Generation Network

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. Role of Billing, Charging, PCRF and AAA in Implementing Robust Next Generation Networks.
  2. Inference Drawn From the Dailogue.

In addition to these topics, we shall also be answering the following FAQs:

Q1. What is a 5G NR?
Q2. What is WiFi?

What is the Role of Billing, Charging, PCRF and AAA in Implementing Robust Next-Generation Networks?

It was just another day at NextGen Network street. The day was bright and shiny. The mobile broadband tunnel looked brisk with hundreds of applications driving their way to reach smartphones and tablets. Certainly, it was a pleasant spectacle as quite a few rich media apps like social media, video streaming portals, online music sites, email services, etc were gossiping around, having a friendly fight over who’s the most favorite among subscribers and which devices are their best friends and so on.

While some were boasting of how popular they have grown over the open evolved network systems, on the other hand, a few were touting how they have become the most sought-after value-added services in tiered plans.

Unaware of this, the fantastic four – Billing, Charging, PCRF and AAA were up to their routine chores. The four were discussing their role in enabling networks, although in a pompous manner!

Billing: You guys really think I am just a cashier? Folks, it’s a lot more than smelling only the dollar bills. Do you think these CDRs are just cute chicks? I loved the dumb pipes so much, there wasn’t much fuss about them. And look what they have done to me today. Now they want me to do more than just revenue management. I am asked to manage a bewildering array of IP-based value-added services. As if it wasn’t enough, now they are being friends with over-the-top providers, adding new KRAs like never before. And holy shit! Did I tell you about this Cloud platform and M2M things that I heard about at the recently held Mobile World Congress?

I am… Charging barges in the conversation and interrupts Billing halfway! Charging: Dear Bill, don’t be so rude. You know things have changed for everyone, so stop complaining pal. You ought to realize before making that smart- comment since the real smart work starts with me. It’s me who collects information for all billable events; I correlate and then process this data so that you can do your job better. I will still stay humble and admit that it’s our partnership that does the job for operators. I too have felt a great change and got a big job to do ever since 3GPP proposed IP as the future for next-generation networks. Now I also play an important role with you to enable operators to converge their prepaid and postpaid customers onto a single platform.

This gives them a slicker network and allows offering more innovative bundled deals and effective marketing campaigns for new services. What’s more, it’s me who enables real-time charging based on device, location, time of day policy rules, etc. And when my job is linked with PCRF, together we two enable a great business investigation for service providers. Our teamwork lets them figure out if they have the absolute customer relationship, or whether they are charging adequately for all their services.

You whacko! Don’t you get what’s underway? Dude, it’s all about teamwork, between us, that’s gonna set these operators and service providers really free. Service differentiation is emerging as an imperative for many, and as the convergence of services and networks accelerates, the key will lie in launching new services faster, introducing innovative business models together with improved service accessibility. We both are gonna remain crucial in this service delivery chain to help them achieve service differentiation.

AAA: Well, well. Looks like someone missed mentioning me. Get some life both of you. It all starts with me. It’s me who tells the who, what, where, when, why in the network. And I have come a long way. I have seen a lot of evolution between RADIUS and DIAMETER. I am just too versatile and everyone needs me. I am everywhere. Today’s next-generation networks are full of multiple access technologies, all working hard together to provide a gamut of new-age services to subscribers. Obviously, I have a big role. I am no longer just an authentication guy; well I am, but also much more beyond that. Now I deal with QoS as well, and bandwidth management too, also policies. It ain’t just Billing and OSS for me now; everyone including soft switches, HLR/ HSS, application servers, policies, etc, I am with all of them everywhere.

“Enough”, shouts the PCRF, PCRF: If you guys are done with your campaign, I would like to offer some reality check. Do you think I got those six packs abs just like that? My job is far greater and more important than you guys can imagine. QoS, that’s the buzzword, and I own it, for I deliver it. Subscribers ain’t give a dime about what goes in billing, charging, or AAA, all they care for and all they need is seamless service and smooth connectivity for their smart toys. And it’s me who give them desired QoE and it’s again me who enables true personalization for them. Folks, these subscribers have also evolved alongside changes in networks.

Everyone thought they are gonna laugh all the way to the bank and sweep these subscribers off their feet. And they started making smartphones, laptops, netbooks, and wireless dongles, etc. On top of that, they wooed them with all-you-can-eat plans. And one fine morning all these device makers and service providers woke up to their worst nightmare, for actually their subscribers & customers got even. Poor guys had to face up new dynamics in the value chain, like the impact of the internet and digital services. Now they are all joining hands in desperation to maximize revenues and create sustainable value-chain linkages.

The content is undoubtedly the king, for it has gone way too deep with these subscribers, becoming a quintessential part of their daily life, a critical source of productivity and a handy friend that entertains, connects and captures memories. While this may sound crazy, it would be fair to say that network operators & service providers aren’t serving just subscribers with smartphones & tablets, they are actually serving mobile cyborgs! This apps-crazy generation uses a plethora of utilities and seeks a unique experience based on the nature of the content.

Networks have to smell this and need to provide the same based on context-awareness. This is where I do a great job and enable desirable network control, taking care of the service data flow detection, throttling, QoS and Fair usage.

And… PCRF receives a call from his new pal, DPI – “We gotta rescue something” DPI: Buddy you gotta roger this. Something ain’t right at 4G Avenue; a bunch of malicious P2P packets seems to be planning a network jam at the behest of some rogue surfers. Apparently, their evil intention is to disrupt the QoS department, block productive traffic and poison the minds of subscribers against their service providers. Copy that, please.

PCRF: Hey I’m there and I am rolling. Just send their goddamn packet headers, source, payload stuff, etc. Our pal Gx is with us. Once I have my hands on this data, I am gonna show these punks. I am gonna throttle their fun and I am gonna deny all their nasty acts. Let’s clean this rogue traffic mess. DPI: Roger that.

What Inference Can be Drawn From the Above Dailogue?

While this whole scene may look rather comic, no service provider/operator can ignore the truth underlying these dialogues. The all-IP-led 4G era is upon us and it’s a super-fast, super-smart world of subscribers, devices and apps. Creating value, service differentiation and retaining that competitive advantage is truly challenging. The answer lies in implementing and enabling self-healing and intelligent next-generation networks, which are flexible & scalable.

In today’s ultra-dynamic service environment, wherein personalization happens in real-time, the combined role of Billing, Charging, AAA and PCRF carry critical magnitude for service providers & network operators in achieving better time-to-market, adaptability, scalability, subscriber understanding and effective marketing for their rich multiplay services.


What is a 5G NR?

5G typically refers to the fifth generation of wireless technology. NR, commonly known as New Radio, is a standard developed by the 3GPP Group (Release 15 being the first version introduced back in 2018) outlining the technology required to harness the newly-available millimeter-wave frequencies. The two frequency bands in which 5GNR operates are Frequency Range 1, i.e., Sub 6GHz band (410 MHz to 7125 MHz), and Frequency Range 2, i.e., millimeter-wave (24.25 to 52.6 GHz). Over 4G LTE, 5G NR provides better spectrum utilization, faster data rates, hardware efficiency, and improved signal processing.

From a deployment standpoint, we have Non-Standalone Mode(NSA), Dynamic Spectrum Sharing(DSS), and Standalone Mode (SA). The initial deployments of 5G NR are based on NSA standards, meaning the existing 4G LTE network will operate on the control plane, and 5G NR will be introduced to the user plane. This particular standard was introduced by 3GPP, keeping in mind the industry’s push to faster 5G services rollout while utilizing the existing 4G LTE infrastructure currently in place. On the other hand, operators are also implementing Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) to accelerate the deployment cycle, reducing costs and improving spectrum utilization. In this standard, the same spectrum is shared between the 5G NR and 4G LTE, multiplexing over time per user demands. Lastly, we have the Standalone Mode (SA), which moves towards a complete 5G based network where both signaling and the information transfer are driven by a 5G cell.

In the future, 5G will enable new services, connect new industries and devices, empower new experiences, and much more, providing mission-critical services, enhanced mobile broadband, and various other things.

a) Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) Applications: High device connectivity, High mobile data rates, and Mobile AR & VR applications
b) Ultra-reliable, low-latency communications (uRLLC)Applications: Autonomous vehicles, Drones, Data monitoring, Smart mfg.
c) Massive machine-type communications (mMTC)Applications: Healthcare, Industry 4.0, Logistics, Environmental monitoring, Smart farming, Smart grids.

What is WiFi?

Put simply, WiFi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless network through which devices like mobile phones, computers, printers, etc., connect to the internet. A wireless router is needed to establish a WiFi hotspot that people in its vicinity may use to access internet services. You’re sure to have encountered such a WiFi hotspot in houses, offices, restaurants, etc.

To get a little more technical, WiFi works by enabling a Wireless Local Area Network or WLAN that allows devices connected to it to exchange signals with the internet via a router. The frequencies of these signals are either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz bandwidths. These frequencies are much higher than those transmitted to or by radios, mobile phones, and televisions since WiFi signals need to carry significantly higher amounts of data. The networking standards are variants of 802.11, of which there are several (802.11a, 802.11b, 801.11g, etc.).

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