Proof of concept

5G Catalyst demonstrates essential planning and optimization capabilities

A new 5G Catalyst is demonstrating why planning and optimization is critical for realizing the benefits of 5G network slicing, which include lower operational costs and the ability to create new services rapidly.

In 2017, TM Forum’s 5G service operations Catalyst addressed the challenges operators face as they prepare for 5G network slicing, specifically how to manage slices end to end across digital ecosystems. However, that work was based on assumptions about 5G standards that had not yet been agreed. Now, with real interfaces available in the first version of Release 15 of the 5G New Radio (NR) specifications, the Catalyst has expanded into two teams:

Both teams have used the Tour de France cycle race as an example, demonstrating at Digital Transformation World services such as on-demand 4K video streaming, real-time 360-degree virtual and augmented reality, drone-based broadcasting, and IoT-driven statistics. These services are delivered by creating dynamic and static network slices that support enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communications (mMTC) and ultra-low latency communications (uRLLC) use cases.

The planning and optimization Catalyst shows specifically how to design 5G networks and automate optimization, focusing on deployment of slices in hybrid networks made up of physical and virtual components. The key is managing bandwidth across all the network segments and assuring optimal network performance while satisfying customers’ varying demands for quality of service (QoS).

Optimizing 5G network operations

The Catalyst team addressed the implications of 5G slices on network management and illustrated the significant differences for 5G optimization, compared to the ways in which networks have previously been optimized, including:

  • Slicing and optimization need to operate across network domains, meaning in both radio access networks (RAN) and core networks.
  • Optimization needs to cope with a much larger number and variety of demands. This requires dynamic service orchestration that ensures that the right performance and quality levels are delivered for all services.
  • Optimization needs to react quickly to changing demands from different slices and services, which means shifting from weekly or monthly optimization to a much tighter hourly timeframe, or even real-time operation. Such a radical shift can only be met through automation, including the closed loop automation of network slice management creation.
  • Enable different consumers (for example, broadcasters, direct subscribers or team analysts) to specify exact service requirements, receive the same and pay for it.

This is a complicated process, as optimizing one element of the network can and will have an impact on capacity elsewhere. Slicing is often talked about in terms of the slice itself, but to operate slices effectively, they must be managed and optimized in the core network as well.

This Catalyst team featured an impressive list of CSP champions – AT&T, BT, NTT, Orange and Telecom Italia – and participants included Aria Networks, Ericsson, MYCOM OSI and Wipro. With direction from the CSPs, the vendor partners created an advanced architecture, each providing a vital element of the system as illustrated in this high-level architecture diagram:

5 use cases

Using this infrastructure, the team was able to demonstrate five use cases critical to the creation, operation and adaptation of 5G network slices. Each addresses a specific operation or group of operations that needs to be faster, more efficient, more cost effective and ultimately deliver better customer experience.

“5G optimization is not limited to CSP resources,” Wipro’s Vinay Devadatta said during is presentation in Nice. “It should also enable customers to order and enjoy optimal service meeting his/her specific asks.”

The work of the team’s sister Catalyst was also showcased at Digital Transformation World, where it brought 5G slicing to life in the Tour de France example.

Contributing the APIs

In building its solution, the intelligent service planning and optimization team has utilized several TM Forum Open APIs including the Performance Management, SLA and Network Information Management APIs. Importantly, the team is also looking to contribute new APIs as a result of the Catalyst, including a generic API for sharing information about service performance across functions and domains.

What’s next?

5G and specifically 5G slicing is an ever-evolving field of expertise and both Catalyst teams intend to develop their work further in the coming year. Future plans for the 5G intelligent service planning and optimization team include:

  1. Exploring implications of network slices running across service provider boundaries. 5G communication knows no boundaries and hence network slices need to be supported end to end irrespective of domains, technologies and CSP boundaries.
  2. While 5G involves a lot of advanced technologies, it is consumer driven. The catalyst will explore the implications of new age AR /VR capabilities, all pervasive reach, high speed mobility, etc., on network and management systems.

Watch the team discuss the Catalyst:


    About The Author

    Senior Analyst

    Catherine Haslam is an analyst with 20 years’ experience in providing insight, analysis, and consulting services to decision-makers within CSPs. Haslam joined TM Forum in October 2016 from Ovum where she specialized in third party enablement, international service evolution and wholesale strategy, and led successful strategy consulting projects on the impact of OTT on CSP revenues. As a freelance analyst and journalist, Haslam helped develop an entertainment-focused practice at analyst firm STL Partners and set up the Asia arm of the Light Reading news service. Prior to this she worked for the GSMA where she was responsible for setting the agenda for the Mobile World Congress, speech writing for and providing background research to the management team, and advising on technical initiatives. She also held senior editorial roles including Group Editor for Mobile Europe.

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