Converged 5G Core is Coming: Are You Ready?

Telecommunications operators have a core problem. And, no, it’s not rising data usage and falling revenues, although that’s a part of it. The problem for Communication Service Providers (CSPs) right now is they’re managing too many core networks. They have a core network for their mobile subscribers, another for their wireline business, a third for enterprises, and so on. Multiple cores are costly to manage, complex to upgrade, and present barriers to service creation and innovation.

It’s not enough that CSPs consolidate these core networks. They need to consolidate them on a cloud-native 5G architecture in order to provide the agility, flexibility, security and scalability that the future requires. And this presents a challenge for CSPs, because cloud-native is a different world for them featuring new technologies such as containers, microservices, multi-access edge computing and virtualized RAN components. Beyond this, CSPs also need to change their corporate culture to embrace cloud-aligned processes such as DevOps and continuous integration/delivery.

Network transformation, of course, is not a new concept for CSPs. With 3G, mobile network operators brought IP-based technology into their core networks. With 4G, they virtualized many of those core network functions. But 5G is a significant leap from the past; one that traditional CSP network equipment vendors often struggle to bridge. Fortunately, it’s a jump that many enterprises have already successfully made in their own cloud transformations. Recognizing that CSPs are facing a similar transformation with 5G, cloud solutions providers such as Dell Technologies are now helping to bridge that journey with network solutions architected specifically for 5G.

Building a sustainable 5G converged core

We believe that there are three key steps that CSP operators need to take in order to seize the 5G market opportunity:

Shift their internal focus from managing the network to monetizing new, marketable services.
Operate their network efficiently in the wake of rising data volumes and falling subscriber ARPU, which means leveraging cloud efficiencies to their full potential
Avoid vendor lock-in and siloed operations by choosing disaggregated, open technology solutions that also keep their network “open” to new innovations.

It’s a big ask, one that no single company is likely to answer on their own. Instead, Dell Technologies sees the converged core as an open, best-in-market environment that brings together solutions from cloud-native network function (CNF) vendors, hardware vendors, virtual RAN vendors, cloud service providers and more. In addition to forging strong partnerships with these vendors and validating reference architectures that CSPs can quickly and confidently deploy, Dell Technologies has focused on delivering a converged 5G core solution that offers a consistent foundation, an open environment and flexible delivery models.

A consistent foundation enables CSPs to rapidly deploy and automate CSP infrastructure that can be managed consistently whether on bare-metal servers or in the cloud. An open environment means bringing together the broadest ecosystem of cloud and 5G vendors based on accepted industry standards, so that CSPs have the ability to customize their network using their preferred mix of container/Kubernetes platforms, cloud service providers, hardware vendors, RAN vendors, CNF vendors and more. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, flexible delivery models enable CSPs to move core functions into multiple clouds, out to the edge, or in a private data center and manage them seamlessly as a single, unified network.

Dell Technologies is your trusted telecom partner

In a world where most network functions can move into the cloud, does infrastructure really matter in 5G? Yes, because infrastructure is fundamental to the network architecture, and architecture matters a lot in 5G. The ability to disaggregate and move certain network functions to the edge, split network functions between private and public cloud environments, deploy services using containerized applications, support telecom-grade redundancy and five 9s of reliability, ensure end-to-end security, scale up/down/out capacity based on changing demands—all of these things place unique performance and environmental demands on the infrastructure.

Of course, telecom-grade hardware is only one aspect of Dell Technologies solutions portfolio. In addition to our virtualization and cloud solutions, Dell Technologies partners with many of the world’s leading technology vendors to create and certify end-to-end solutions for our customers. It’s our ability to both bring companies together and bring solutions to market that make Dell Technologies the logical choice for 5G core solutions. Whether it’s the assurance of a secure global supply chain that can support growth or our proven track record of encouraging collaboration and innovation, Dell Technologies is uniquely poised to help CSPs on their 5G cloud journey.

You could say it comes down to our “core” values. We believe in open solutions that bring great ideas together, whether those ideas are ours or someone else’s. It’s the reason why, for CSPs that need to leverage everything that 5G has to offer, Dell Technologies is the right place to start.

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