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Softwarization of Core Telecom

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We discuss the following topics in this blog:

  1. Scope of software in the RAN, Transport and Core Network.
  2. Signaling Backbone for 5G
  3. Comparison Between Diameter and HTTP2
  4. HTTP2 Signaling Stack

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

  1. What is WiFi?
  2. What is Cloud Computing?

Evolution of Telecom from Hardware to Software

Telecom has evolved from ancient pure hardware play to previous semi-software/hardware play to current exclusive software solutions to the future cloud-native software platforms.

GSM / 3GPP has evolved from 1G networks tightly bound to hardware to 2G SS7 based IN solutions with ability to manage subscribers using real-time software to 3G Sigtran IP Signalling networks, 4G Pure-play IP networks and 5G Cloud Native CNF based automatic networks.

Service Creation has always been the forte of Telecom Marketing Managers to differentiate their offerings from the competitors. Friends & Family, Homezone used to be the buzzwords in 2G, buckets & bundles in 3G, Unlimited plans in 4G and the new Network Slices in 5G. The complexity of Service Design and Creation has increased tremendously in 5G and industry leaders have formed open source platforms for offering Network Slicing.

The scope of software in the RAN, Transport and Core Network / Service Logic domains has also increased from 2G to 5G. 2G Networks enabled software based controls only in the IN Service Logic domain. Pure-play software based GGSN expanded the scope in 3G Core Domain. Diameter software and SDN enabled end-to-end hardware agnostic 4G Networks. Telco grade internet technologies such as HTTP2 are now enabling Cloud Native 5G Networks.

Having designed products and solutions in CAMEL, USSD, INAP, WIN2 / IS41 (CDMA), MAP, Diameter and GTP, I am excited to integrate Internet Technologies into Telecom Signaling with HTTP2.

What is the Signaling Backbone for 5G?

3GPP started the study of NextGen Architecture in 2015. 3GPP 23.501 Release 15 published Service Based Architecture as the basis for 5G system. 5G Service Based Architecture is defined as combination of Network Function Service and Service Based Interface.

Network Function Service is exposed by Network Function Service Producer to Network Function Service Consumer. Network Function Service supports two primitive operations – a) Request – Response and b) Subscribe – Notify. Network Functions are self-contained microservices and enable auto-scaling and auto-healing management services.

Service Based Architecture enables a) Modularity & Reusability, b) Cloud-nativity (CI/CD & Containerization), c) Extensibility and d) Openness (standard APIs 3rd party integrations).

Service Based Interface forms the signaling backbone for Service Based Architecture. The requirements of Service Based Architecture include a) Support for bi-directional communication, b) Reliable Communication, c) Low Response Time, d) Scalability, e) Ease of Upgrade, f) Quick Deployment, g) Resource efficiency, h) Stateless Operation and i) Security.

With the convergence of key capabilities in virtualization, containerization and Internet Technologies based Open Architecture, we have designed and implemented HTTP/2 Stack to provide seamless Cloud Native Performance and Availability for the Operators.

Comparison Between Diameter and HTTP/2

Diameter has matured for over 10+ years in LTE networks. Diameter enables high-performance, high-reliability and priority-based overload control. Diameter is also widely deployed in 3GPP Operator community enabling reusability.

In spite of the above benefits of Diameter, 3GPP favored HTTP2 over Diameter for Service Based Interface. The benefits provided by HTTP2 over Diameter include a) Cloud-Native and Service Based Architecture, b) Availability of large user community for web services ensuring rich innovation and future-proofing and c) Wide adoption of HTTP in large enterprise ecosystems which comprise the ultimate beneficiaries of 5G.

We have leveraged the capabilities built in architecting and implementing Tier1-Networks proven Diameter stack and Kubernetes containerization to offer cloud native, carrier grade HTTP/2 signaling stack.

What is the HTTP2 Signaling Stack?

The Service Based Interfaces use HTTP2 protocol with JSON as the application layer serialization Protocol. For security protection at the transportation layer, 3GPP Network Functions shall support TLS, in case network security is not provided by other means. API Design Style is RESTful APIs with CRUD operations. HTTP2 stack supports notifications such as for Callback messages.


The TCP layer in the HTTP2 Service Based Interface provides transport-level congestion control mechanisms. End-to-end overload control is supported per NF instance. An NF Producer may mitigate overload status by sending HTTP Status Codes 503 (Service Unavailable), 429 (Too Many Requests), or 307 (Temporary Redirect) to requests received during an overload condition. Message Priority provides guidance to the NFs for making throttling decisions. Custom HTTP header is used for setting and carrying the message priority.

My passion in core Telecom is ignited with the innovative application of the containerized in-house HTTP2 stack in both Core and Edge Networks.


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.).

What is Cloud Computing?

Cloud computing is a paradigm that allows On-demand network access to shared computing resources. A model for managing, storing and processing data online via the internet. The three major characteristics of cloud computing are On-Demand Service, Network Access, and shared resources.

There are three major delivery models of cloud computing, namely Software as a Service (for end-users), Platform as a service (for developers), and Infrastructure as a service (for system administrators).

1) Software as a Service or SaaS is a new method of delivering software applications. Instead of accessing the software from local servers (a powerful computer system), it uses the internet to access the software applications. To be considered SaaS, the software needs to be delivered either through a web interface or a mobile application. E.g., Microsoft 365, Salesforce CRM, Google suite apps, etc.

2) Platform as a service or PaaS is made up of a programing language execution environment, an operating system, a web server, and a database. The service enables users to build, run and compile the programs without an underlying infrastructure. Apart from the data and application resources, everything else is managed by the service-providing vendor, e.g., AWS, Azure, Google App engine, etc.

3) Infrastructure as a service or IaaS is a service that offers computing architecture & infrastructure and computing resources like data storage, virtualization, servers & networking in a virtual environment so that multiple users can access them. Apart from Applications, Data, Runtime, and Middleware, everything else is managed by the service-providing vendor. For, e.g., Cisco Metacloud, Rackspace, Amazon EC2, etc.

Uses of Cloud Computing include: Developing cloud-native applications on the go; Secure, Efficient & Reliable storage capability; Audio and Video streaming; On-Demand Software, Platforms & Infrastructure; Online Test and Build ecosystem support; Data Analytics; Embedded Intelligence; Scalability & Speed.

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