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Virtualised 5G architecture world first

In a world first the University of Surrey’s 5GIC (part of the Institute for Communications Systems) has been able to demonstrate its Flat Distributed Cloud (FDC), which could enable a significant reduction in the deployment, optimisation and upgrade costs for network operators.

The FDC was demonstrated over LTE-A (an advanced version of the Long Term Evolution network) on an end to end basis between off-the shelf mobiles and internet and traditional intranet services.

The 5G network is set to require a far more complex infrastructure than existing networks and will need a much higher level of ongoing optimisation and maintenance than is currently the case. Operating expenses represent a major cost for network operators, who will usually pay vendors to install bespoke equipment and subsequently carry out each software update and patch.

The virtualised 5G architecture is orchestrated to the cloud and based on off-the-shelf Intel-based server blades running Linux OS, which gives the operators the capability to rapidly deploy multiple Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) as Network Services, and no longer requires engineers to go out to the network’s physical sites to perform upgrades. Significantly it enables operators to buy software from different vendors, while operators will benefit from the speed of deployment of VNFs on the FDC. Deployments can be achieved in just ten minutes, compared to tens of days as is currently the case.

The virtualisation demonstration has been produced in association with the EC Horizon 2020 virtualisation project SoftFire, and operates using the FOKUS developed ‘OpenBaton’ orchestrator and established industry VNF controller ‘OpenStack’. The demonstration was performed by researchers and testbed staff at the University of Surrey working in collaboration with Cisco, Huawei and Quortus.

Developed and prototyped by the 5GIC over the past 18 months, the FDC utilises user and network context information in order to provide a more connected experience over a dynamic and distributed cloud based architecture, providing better connection and faster throughput.

Commenting Professor Rahim Tafazolli, Head of the 5GIC, said, “This successful demonstration is a huge step forward towards the development of a viable 5G network that supports mobile broadband, Internet of things and high quality applications such as Ultra High Definition video, Virtual and Augmented Reality applications. The next step for the 5GIC team will be to demonstrate FDC-based network slicing – the partitioning of network resources for different purposes to create the perception of infinite capacity.”

Author
Neil Tyler

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