According to a recent 5G study by industry analyst IHS, over eighty percent of the participating mobile operators are involved in trialing and testing 5G technology. These trials take place mainly in North America and Asia. Most of these are standalone trials giving operators a chance to get acquainted with the new radio technology. For others it also provides an opportunity to claim leadership, such as Vodafone announcing the achievement of the first live holographic call over 5G. However, standalone 5G will not suffice. Operators are looking to extend their 5G trials through integration with existing network functions such as billing, policy, location, security, number portability, call routing, etc. We expect to see a growing number of 5G trials where integration with legacy systems will be required. This will involve interworking between HTTP/2, the designated 5G signaling protocol, Diameter (4G) and SS7 (2G/3G).
#1: Convergence: patch work solution or single engine?
Industry analyst Ovum predicts that 5G will be the catalyst for more fixed-mobile convergence (FMC). We see that increasingly operators are interested in combining similar network functions for different access technologies. This is already apparent with the HSS-HLR combination, and in 2019 we will see raised interest for the combination of STP with DRA. However, most of these offerings today are a patchwork of loosely coupled standalone products and as such a far cry from a converged product. Only few vendors offer a true single engine design for converged routing, interworking and security that provides a single subscriber view across networks, including 5G.
Steven Van Zanen,
Head of Product Management and Marketing,
#2: Security across access networks
In 2019, we will see an increased demand for cross-network security solutions. Many operators today have implemented standalone solutions, for specific network technologies and services. However, the days for standalone, single technology solutions are numbered. 5G in its optima forma delivers true convergence: the 5G NG Core will be managing Mobile (3G, 4G, 5G), Fixed and Wi-Fi. This opens all sorts of security challenges, which can only be tackled effectively through a central firewall function. This function provides a single view of all signaling related to a subscriber session and can take action across all supported network technologies. Vendors in the market already provide such firewall functionality, either as standalone SS7 and/or Diameter firewall, or as part of the Diameter Edge Agent (DEA), extendable to the 5G Security Edge Protection Proxy (SEPP).
#3: 5G: to proxy or not to proxy?
In 5G standards today, there is no equivalent function for a signaling router such as the DRA for Diameter in 4G. This is different for the DEA function, which is captured in the 5G standards as the Security Edge protection Proxy (SEPP TS 33.501). Nevertheless, industry experts differ in opinion for the need of an HTTP/2 Proxy in the 5G Next Generation Core. Some claim it is unnecessary in a service based architecture, others insist it is required as an API aggregation point, for HTTP version interworking and interoperability, legacy signaling support, load balancing, security etc. In 2019 we expect this discussion to become more prevalent as operators go live with 5G and real-live interoperability issues start to surface.