The arrival of 5G has long been anticipated as it's expected to be the fastest, most responsive generation of wireless technology we've experienced and will enable the Internet of Things (IoT) by facilitating the connection of billions of devices simultaneously. However, if you’re at all familiar with the mobile industry you know that new technology doesn’t come easy and it's often accompanied by new complexities. 5G, and the hardware, software, services and applications that enable it, are shaping up to be no exception.
One of the many applications enabling 5G is C-RAN, otherwise known as Cloud-RAN (radio access network) or sometimes referred to as Centralized-RAN. Taking a step back, C-RAN is a mobile network architecture where radio transceivers are separated from the digital baseband processors, allowing carriers to pool their baseband processing units into a convenient location. This is where the ‘centralized’ term comes from. In the cloud iteration, it moves the functionality from network hardware to software, which is also known as network function virtualization.
Why am I telling you all of this? Many carriers, including Verizon, China Mobile, AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, are increasing their deployment of C-RAN architectures as a means of easing their transition to 5G, while also reducing their fronthaul costs. By centralizing baseband units in a nearby data
What does this mean for service assurance?
As telecom networks evolve to 5G and new virtual and physical technologies and architectures - such as C-RAN - are implemented, the risk of disparate and/or siloed data becomes a serious reality and critical challenge to carriers in an already highly complex environment. 5G requires centralized, automated, and coordinated service assurance in order to optimize performance.
Analysys Mason analyst, Anil Rao aptly puts it this way, “as carriers roll out their 5G strategies, all eyes should be on how they will assure services across this new multi-domain, multi-layer network environment. It’s critical that the Tier 1 providers deploying 5G networks arm themselves with real-time data, automation and network visibility, so they can optimize and manage these increasingly complex networks.”
In a simpler time, singular service assurance tools for different domains or areas of the business may have been manageable. But today, and especially in the world of 5G, carriers will need to support services that transverse a number of domains and may need to understand on-net and off-net service paths. An IoT service, for example, may stretch from the radio access network through a software-defined WAN, into the core, and back out again to an enterprise. The massive amounts of data and service paths to trace alone will make it challenging for operations teams to manage. But when we see critical applications, such as driverless cars, a degradation in performance and any delays in detecting and correcting it – may be a matter of life and death.
In order for network operations teams to support next generation technologies such as 5G, they need to be able to visualize and manage the performance of their hybrid physical and virtualized networks in their entirety. It's critical that they're able to analyze network performance in real time, rapidly identify the impact of service problems, and comprehensively visualize network topology in a single-pane-of-glass. Being able to provide operations teams with this enhanced end-to-end overview will enable them to have a profound understanding of network dynamics to determine how to best utilize their C-RAN deployments and optimize the network.
CENX has been looking ahead to the 5G era and launched CENX 7, a 5G-ready service assurance platform. CENX 7 enables the networks of the future by providing operations teams with the tools needed to overcome the challenges of assuring services across virtualized and highly dynamic networks. CENX combines its trusted model of network inventory and service topology with real-time fault and performance management, hyper-scale analytics, and closed-loop automation capabilities to guarantee service providers take full advantage of 5G networks with greater speed, flexibility and visibility into the network.