Sunday, 27 December 2020

The Future of the Cell Site is the Router

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Evolving Cell Site to Multi-Service Cell Site

With 2G, Cell Sites were primarily (designed around circuit-switched TDM Based connectivity and ) responsible for enabling Voice traffic. As the 3G/4G picked up momentum, Cell Sites were upgraded to carry (IP based traffic for) both Voice and Data traffic. This upgrade of Cell Site functionality aligned well with the profitability of Operators. The networks which were aggressive in this transition of Cell Site enabled the profitability. With the 5G around the corner, the role of the Cell Site will be even more crucial. It plays a critical role in adding a new revenue stream, enhance the current offering, and build the business case for 5G adoption. Cell Sites would need to evolve to Multi-Service Site which would offer new revenue-generating streams like B2B service for Small Enterprises and SMB customers, enhanced user experience for social media and streaming services, public safety applications, IOT/Smart City applications, and far edge use cases.

For the Multi-Service Cell Site – it’s imperative that it would demand much higher bandwidth, resiliency, and significantly lower latency. However, most of the Cell Site deploys sub-optimal architecture with layer 2 technologies. While layer 2 solutions have a lower capex, they tend to have higher opex and extremely restrictive in terms of new service creation. To realize the full potential of the Cell Site, it’s critical to bring Layer3 to Cell Site. The backhaul networks have already evolved from MPLS-TP / TDM to Layer3/IP-MPLS-SR. Extending these technologies to Cell Site will bring significant benefits to the service which can be delivered.

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Cisco Converged 5G Transport

Let’s look at some of the key benefits of such evolved architecture:

Robust Infrastructure: The Infrastructure which enabled 3G/4G will not be sufficient to fully realize the potential of the Multi-Service Cell Site. It needs to secure, redundant, reliable, scalable, and SDN enabled. Any compromise on this aspect could result in sub-optimal performance of the network. Using Router/Layer3 based devices at the Cell Site would enable:

◉ Site Sharing/Densification
◉ Best in class Timing capability with Class C precision and SyncE up to the cell site
◉ Carrier-Class Reliability and Redundancy
◉ Consistent OAM end to end
◉ Trust Worthy System with complete visibility of Device Security health.

Service Agility: As we look ahead and build a business case for 5G investment, every network port in the cell site would be viewed as a service port. Uniform function availability / Flexibility and consistency of features will be of utmost importance. The gateway device at the cell Site should have the capability of Network Slicing / Service Demarcation / Quality of Service / Monitoring capability of Service and seamless integration. The Cell Site router provides all the capabilities mentioned along with:

◉ Ease of Integrating 5G Core with AMF/SMF/UPF.
◉ End to End Network Slicing
◉ Seamless Service provisioning & workflow
◉ Consistent QoS across the network
◉ Consistent Service Monitoring across the network.

Operational benefits: Apart from the Capex investment and generating the business case for new revenue-generating streams, the subject of Operational Expenditure has also been the primary part of the 5G journey. It’s unfathomable to build a network that relies on manual intervention apart from racking and stacking activities. Using Router at Cell Site will make the operation seamless and aligned to the rest of the networks. Consistent Tools cross the network allow for stronger control over the network. While the Backhaul & Edge networks have been using the Automation capabilities for a while, given the remoteness of Cell Site – it’s even more critical to have an Automation-first approach for the Cell Site. Features like ZTP, Telemetry

◉ End to End Automation and tighter integration with backhaul.
◉ End to End Layer3/IP for consistent reporting & analytics
◉ Reduced network Touch Points

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