Thursday, 22 October 2020

Deploying World-Class Rural 4G/5G Networks Just Got a Lot Easier

Rural areas need fast, reliable mobile connectivity just as much as cities. As service providers know, actually delivering that is far from simple. With new service opportunities that come with 5G, the demand picture for new rural investment is more attractive than it was with 4G. However, with sparse populations and long distances between population centers, making the numbers work is still challenging.

If you’re a service provider serving rural regions, that’s the baseline you’re starting from. Now, add a need to overhaul existing infrastructure or add new cell sites, and things get even harder. At least, that’s how it used to be. Now, Cisco is making it much easier to bring 4G/5G connectivity to rural subscribers—even for service providers who’ve never dealt with mobile networks before.

With the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility, we’re providing best-in-class mobile packet core solutions that are pre-integrated, validated, and ready to deploy. You can expand your mobile footprint much more quickly and cost-effectively. By working with Cisco, you can ensure your network is secure, reliable, and delivering the performance your subscribers expect.

Overcoming Complexity

Service providers may have any number of reasons for updating rural infrastructure. Maybe you need to replace your existing technology stack. Maybe you’re preparing to roll out new 5G services. Maybe you’ve historically focused on wireline services, and you’re looking to 5G or CBRS as a cost-effective option to bring fixed-access broadband to residential customers.

In all cases, you’re likely looking at a virtualized solution—deploying mobile core components via cloud software running on general-purpose hardware. There are big benefits to this approach; it’s much more scalable, flexible, and cost-effective than buying and maintaining dedicated appliances. But, as service providers have discovered in recent years, assembling all the components and integrating them into your environment can be enormously complex. Here’s what you’re looking at:

1. Design and build your solution. Do you have the expertise in house to select and assemble all the right components? How long will it take you to test everything (not just at the component level, but as a complete system) for functionality, security, scalability, and performance? Keep in mind, there’s a good chance you’re using a unique combination of products and software versions that no one else has used before.

2. Plan your deployment. Will you be working with multiple vendors? Will they be able to automate and accelerate your rollout? If you run into issues, will you be able to call one vendor for help, or will you be playing phone tag with half a dozen or more?

3. Strategize how you’ll maintain and evolve the solution. Do you have the resources in-house to manage roadmaps for all the components in your stack—across potentially dozens of combinations of products and software versions? If issues crop up (and they inevitably will), how long will it take you to isolate which vendor’s product is causing the problem and get it fixed?

For all these reasons, rural service providers are shying away from the “DIY” route, looking instead for pre-integrated mobile core solutions. A number of vendors now offer them, and some even claim their solutions are “pre-integrated” with other vendors’ products. Even in those cases though, there is no guarantee that the vendor has a roadmap for that solution that it plans to manage. Nor can you be sure that integration testing has been conducted on the most current versions of all software components.

The vendor may have plugged some version of these components together and confirmed that they worked. They may have successfully deployed some variation of this solution in the past. But, unless they’re providing a formal reference architecture—with every component thoroughly tested and validated to operate as a single, secure solution—you’re taking a big risk. That could entail blown timelines, extra costs, and frustrating delays in your rollout. In the worst case, it could mean exposing your network and subscribers to a serious security vulnerability.

Introducing the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility

Now, Cisco is bringing rural service providers a pre-integrated, ready-to-deploy mobile core solution that’s fully tested and validated by the industry leader in network security. It’s the Cisco Cloud Services Stack for Mobility, and it’s changing the game for deployment-ready mobile connectivity in rural regions.

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This cloud-based “packet core in a box” combines best-in-class components from Cisco—designed by Cisco experts, pre-integrated and validated as a secure building block for 4G/5G mobile core networks. The solution includes all the foundational components (SAE gateway, CUPS, MME, 5G non-standalone architecture) to run 4G and deploy new 5G NSA-based services. It’s the fastest path to offer new services such as fixed wireless access (FWA). And, the best part: it eliminates the long list of tasks and risks you’d have to worry about when building out the solution on your own—such as those illustrated in the table below.

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Simplify and Accelerate Your Rollout

With a complete, validated mobile core stack, you’ll be able to bring new 4G/5G services to rural customers much more quickly, with less risk and lower costs—both upfront and over the life of the solution. At the same time, you and your stakeholders can move forward with confidence, even if this is your first foray into mobile services. By working with Cisco, you’re getting:

◉ A proven reference architecture for your mobile core, designed and integrated by the market leader in network security

◉ A comprehensive, feature-rich solution used in the world’s largest (T-Mobile USA) and most rapidly deployed (Rakuten) mobile networks

◉ A platform to underpin your end-to-end mobile network solution—not just the core—via the Cisco Open vRAN Ecosystem

◉ Expert assistance automating and accelerating your rollout from the Cisco Customer Experience team

◉ Single-point-of-contact support for your entire solution—no matter where the problem resides—from the award-winning Cisco Technical Assistance Center

Just as important, Cisco understands exactly what rural service providers are up against and what they need to succeed. In the United Kingdom, we have invested in the world’s most ambitious rural 5G trial to date, 5G RuralFirst (a project I’m happy to note that I kick-started back in 2018!). No other vendor comes close to this level of investment in rural networks.

Bottom line, mobile core technology may be complicated, but your network rollout and operations don’t have to be. Reach out to your Cisco account manager today. Let’s work together to bring next-generation services to your rural subscribers and accelerate your 4G/5G success.

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