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5G Core Network Architectures: A Technical Overview

5G Core Network Architectures: A Technical Overview
5G Core Network Architectures: A Technical Overview

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction

  2. Legacy Systems: The 4G Evolution From 5G

  3. Reference Point Architecture: Point-to-Point Interconnectivity

  4. Service-Based Architecture: The Common Bus Approach

  5. Evolution of Radio Access Networks (RAN)

  6. Interworking and Interconnection

  7. Cloud Implementation and Future Prospects

  8. Conclusion

  9. References


Introduction

The advent of 5G technology brings about a fundamental shift in telecommunications architecture, particularly in the design of the Core Network (CN). This article provides a comprehensive technical overview of the evolution of 5G Core Network architectures, detailing the transition from legacy systems to the service-based and reference point architectures of 5G.


Legacy Systems: The 4G Evolution From 5G

In the transition from 4G to 5G, one significant change lies in the separation of user plane and control plane functions within the core network. Unlike its predecessor, where functions such as packet forwarding and IP address allocation were handled by unified entities like the Evolved Packet Core (EPC) Packet Gateway, the 5G Core Network segregates these functions into distinct entities: the Session Management Function (SMF) for IP address allocation and the User Plane Function (UPF) for packet forwarding. This architectural separation enables independent scaling and deployment strategies for user and control plane functions, enhancing network flexibility and efficiency.


Reference Point Architecture: Point-to-Point Interconnectivity

The reference point architecture, as defined by 3GPP, employs point-to-point interfaces to interconnect network elements, facilitating signaling procedures between them. While offering clear delineation between network functions, this architecture may lead to specification redundancy due to repeated signaling procedures across multiple interfaces. Nonetheless, it provides a solid foundation for network communication and interoperability.


Service-Based Architecture: The Common Bus Approach

Contrastingly, the service-based architecture replaces network elements with network functions, each capable of providing services to other functions. Interconnections between these functions are facilitated through a common bus, simplifying communication and enabling a more flexible and scalable network. Services are specified at the function level, promoting modularity and extensibility within the network.


Evolution of Radio Access Networks (RAN)

The transition to 5G also entails advancements in Radio Access Network (RAN) architectures. Next Generation RAN (NG RAN) options include standalone New Radio (NR) base stations, upgraded LTE base stations, and various non-standalone configurations, each offering distinct advantages in terms of deployment and connectivity.


Interworking and Interconnection

Interworking between 4G and 5G networks is facilitated through defined reference points, enabling seamless handovers and connectivity between legacy and next-generation systems. Additionally, the adoption of HTTP/2 protocols for signaling between network functions enhances interoperability and efficiency within the service-based architecture.


Cloud Implementation and Future Prospects

The shift towards virtualized and cloud-based implementations of the Core Network promises increased flexibility, agility, and scalability. By leveraging shared hardware platforms and fault-tolerant software architectures, cloud implementations pave the way for rapid deployment of new services and applications, essential for the diverse requirements of 5G, including massive Machine Type Communication (mMTC).


Conclusion

The evolution of 5G Core Network architectures marks a significant departure from traditional telecommunications paradigms, embracing modular, service-oriented designs that prioritize flexibility, scalability, and efficiency. As 5G continues to mature, these architectures will play a pivotal role in realizing the full potential of next-generation networks.


References

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