US operator Verizon started to move commercial traffic onto its cloud-native, software-defined 5G core in an attempt to scale up network capacity wherever it’s needed for new use cases.

A representative for Verizon told Mobile World Live (MWL) it started its transition to a standalone (SA) 5G core this year after conducting user trials and initial testing in 2021.

Early 5G launches have been non-standalone (NSA), employing a 4G core network.

Analyst Jeff Kagan told MWL the 5G core was the next step in Verizon’s network evolution because it offers more flexibility and security.

Its SA 5G core was built on the internally-developed Verizon Cloud Platform, which is based on a webscale software architecture and IP-based technologies designed for mobile operators’ workloads.

The move to an SA 5G core is complex because operators need to amend their network architecture for cloud-native while also developing new interfaces, protocols, network functions and signalling with numerous vendor partners.

Verizon’s representative said its SA 5G core vendor partners include Red Hat and F5 Networks for webscale infrastructure; Qualcomm (device chipsets); Ericsson and Samsung (radios); Ericsson, Casa Systems, Oracle and Nokia (5G core); and IBM and HPE (service assurance and automation), among others.

The benefit of cloud-native includes disaggregating software and hardware in the core to support the dynamic allocation of network resources.

Verizon’s 5G core will also enable MEC, hybrid 4G and NSA 5G, network slicing, and voice over New Radio (VoNR) services.

New services
Recon Analytics analyst Roger Entner told MWL an SA 5G core opens the way for low-latency services in the sub-25 milliseconds range.

“This also allows Verizon a lot more flexibility for where they’re going to put 5G,” he stated, while noting that T-Mobile US is using its SA core to boost coverage in its 600MHz spectrum.

Entner added Verizon’s SA 5G core will allow the operator to take advantage of all of the “goodies” in 3GPP’s Release-17 and Release-18 specifications.

“This is a big step”, he added. “It’s a bigger step than the move to [5G] new radio. Standalone core is hard.”

Entner predicted rival AT&T to deploy its 5G core by the end of 2022 or early 2023.