Verizon commenced a trial of new mobile core technology alongside Ericsson, which the pair said will be critical to ease the transition to standalone (SA) 5G.

Akhil Gokul, head of core and cloud in the CTO office of Ericsson’s Verizon customer unit, told Mobile World Live a test deployment of cloud-native, container-based technology on Verizon’s network represents a natural evolution beyond earlier operator investments in virtualisation and SDN.

The shift is “fundamental to address the needs of a 5G core,” he said.

Critically, Gokul noted the mobile core framework Ericsson provided for Verizon’s trial to serve 4G and non-standalone (NSA) 5G can also be used in the future for SA.

Santiago Rodriguez, Ericsson North America head of SA packet core and communication services, explained: “What we’re doing here is combining network functions for 5G SA with functions for NSA into the same platform: all cloud native, all operating in the same way. So this will make it easier for operators to jump from NSA to SA.”

While the Ericsson executives wouldn’t comment specifically on Verizon’s upgrade timeline, Gokul noted the broader operator ecosystem is pushing toward SA 5G launches late in H1 2020.

Nitty gritty
Gokul explained cloud-native, container-based architecture requires fewer hardware resources than virtualised machines, and allows for faster deployment of network slices and new services; more frequent software updates; and more granular control over network functions.

Additionally, the agnostic nature of cloud-based containers increases flexibility by allowing operators to port functions from one cloud to another to optimise network operations, he said.

In a statement, Verizon VP of technology development and planning Bill Stone said the move will help the operator “achieve new levels of operational automation, flexibility and adaptability”.

All told, Ericsson estimated the shift could reduce the cost of software upgrades in operator networks by up to 90 per cent, with up to 20 per cent shed from hardware infrastructure costs.