Did you know that over 40 service providers have commercially launched 5G Standalone (SA) Core, with 115 more planning to upgrade in the next 12-24 months? On the device front, more than 1,400 5G SA-compatible devices are already available. At Spirent, we’ve been close to much of this work through our engagements with nearly 50 market-leading service providers actively testing and launching the 5G Core.
Why are market leaders accelerating 5G Core deployments? The answers may lie in a recent survey we conducted with more than 70 service providers. We learned that while a lot of the buzz has been around all the great use cases that follow 5G Core installs, many view the following as a critical benefit of rollouts:
New service offerings (revenue)
Greater agility (differentiation)
Lower costs (capital efficiencies)
Particularly, the potential to lower costs has been a major driver. Let’s dive deeper.
Benefits abound on the road to next-gen rollouts
With the constant headlines about massive 5G investments, it may be surprising to hear that the 5G Core has a role to play in lowering service provider costs. Based on our experience, this is due to:
Simplified network operations and efficiencies. Cloud-native, service-based architectures simplify and lower network management costs by decoupling network functions from underlying infrastructure, while supporting extreme automation and AI.
Efficient scalability. Underlying cloud infrastructure platforms can autoscale without the physical limitations and cost implications of legacy 3G/4G cores.
Energy efficiency. By design, the 5G Core uses power more efficiently, utilizing a common infrastructure platform, consolidating core workloads, and supporting hardware offload/accelerators (e.g., DPUs, SmartNICs) for energy-intensive data processing tasks.
Spectral efficiency. SA and the 5G Core enhance overall spectral efficiency through lower end-to-end latency, which increases throughput and provides more efficient use of radio spectrum resources.
Reduced network overheads. 5G SA removes network overheads created by the Non-Standalone (NSA) network that increased signaling loads and latency.
Deconstructing arguments for delaying 5G Core deployments
In the survey, service providers cited technical and operational challenges mixed with an unclear line of sight to proven revenue-generating use cases as reasons to delay 5G Core deployment. But our early work on this front shows it may not pay to wait. Here’s why:
Yes, cloud-native is new, but IT departments have embraced it, and it's nowhere as challenging as managing thousands of radio cell sites.
There are security concerns to address, but 5G security capabilities will be even more resilient than previous generation networks, and should be planned and developed as early as possible for that to take place.
Cloudification and more vendors and software mean more releases and process management requirements, but DevOps CI/CD/CT processes have been proven by IT and cloud providers. Plus, DevOps delivers agile operating models that enable service providers to become agents of rapid innovation versus simply “connectivity” providers.
New services have yet to be fully realized, but Standalone and the new Core must be deployed to unleash the full potential of 5G.
Many service providers have decided not to wait for 5G Core use cases to be proven. Our hands-on work and the market research tell us they’re taking advantage of 5G’s efficiencies and automation right now.
Put Spirent’s experience to work for a faster 5G journey
As the industry leader in vendor-neutral 5G Core validation and continuous testing, Spirent helps efficiently accelerate the 5G Core journey and foster the rewards that follow. Based on what we’ve learned from the first wave of commercial SA deployments, Spirent recommends three key areas for initial focus:
1. Validation tests
Validation tests ensure the core and network functions are robust and ready for real-world conditions:
Compliance, interoperability, performance, capacity, scalability, and resilience
Security efficacy to ensure vendors are 3GPP 5G Security Assurance Specifications (SCAS) compliant and the core is hardened against vulnerabilities
End-to-end and advanced services, such as slicing, performance, and quality guarantees
The core and edge network functions on telco and public cloud infrastructure environments
2. Comprehensive test environments
Automated, efficient, and comprehensive next-gen test environment ensures end-to-end quality:
An automated continuous testing (CT) process that integrates seamlessly into CI/CD pipelines to continuously validate the high volume and velocity of supplier software, maintenance releases, and configuration changes
An automated, secure, and safe collaboration environment for multi-vendor scenarios
Hundreds of automated, globally curated, and centrally controlled test libraries to save time and money
3. Managed Solutions
Managed solutions to provide resources and expertise where required:
A vendor-neutral managed service for rapid set up, run, and execution of validation and CT environments
Comprehensive and evolving test plans to ensure alignment with specific network requirements
Analyzed test results for resolution and frictionless vendor collaboration, performed in consultation with suppliers
5G test infrastructure delivered as a service to avoid significant upfront investment and streamline invaluable ramp-up time
The proof is in the business outcomes
5G has many moving parts and is complex but Spirent has successfully helped early market leaders take the leap forward. We’ve seen them achieve myriad benefits, including:
Accelerating time to deploy by more than 60 percent, providing a first-mover advantage in services delivery with substantial efficiencies and cost savings
Improved agility, validating 5G vendor releases three times faster versus the 4G core
Improved operational efficiency via automation of thousands of validation tests, reducing additional resource requirements
Assuring new cloud-native functions (CNFs) work across vendors
Providing confidence the underlying cloud platform will perform as expected
A reduction in challenges related to key skills shortages delivering a measurable amplification in test team productivity
Reduced Capex by avoiding upfront costs associated with purchasing test infrastructure
With a 5G customer track record of 2,800 engagements and a proven roadmap, Spirent has the right capabilities to get you to 5G SA and core safely and quickly.
Why wait to start lowering costs? Read one of our latest customer case studies to learn how other leaders began their journey to 5G Core.
Discover more about how Spirent can cost-effectively accelerate your 5G journey with:
Learn more, read The Spirent 2023 5G Report – Market Drivers, Insights and Considerations.