Sunday, November 27, 2022

Blueprint: To unleash the 5G opportunity, we need to tackle 5G operational challenges

by Charles Thompson, Vice President, Service Assurance, Spirent Communications

5G brings incredible opportunity for communication service providers (CSPs), enterprises, and the broader digital ecosystem. By 2022, there were already 700 million 5G subscriptions across more than 70 countries—an explosion of devices that can take advantage of 5G density and performance. Even more exciting, the industry is gearing up to unleash a new generation of enterprise use cases across manufacturing, healthcare, retail, and other verticals. 

Operators and their customers are banking on new 5G capabilities like ultra-low latencies, native cloud/edge connectivity, and network slicing to fuel transformative new business models. Before that can happen, however, we need to be confident that CSPs can actually operate next-generation networks and services. And so far, that’s not a given. 

5G introduces a radically different network than CSPs have worked with before, requiring new strategies for monitoring, troubleshooting, and other basic network operations. It’s tempting to focus on the amazing 5G possibilities. But for most CSPs, just assuring 5G networks and services remains a work in progress. 

Navigating 5G Complexity

Why does 5G present so many challenges? Because it changes pretty much everything about telecom networks, from deployments to updates to the basic definition of “network infrastructure.” Most current operations strategies were designed for yesterday’s networks. They’re built to assure mostly hardware-based network functions from one or two vendors, and services with fixed, predictable traffic patterns. In a 5G world, however, the network mimics a living, breathing organism, composed of virtualized and disaggregated software running as a dynamic hybrid cloud. 

It’s a huge change, and for CSP assurance teams, it brings: 

  • New technologies: 5G network functions are more flexible and adaptable, scaling in and out dynamically as conditions change. But for teams trying to monitor network services, this means service paths constantly change too—including traversing clouds and infrastructure segments outside the CSP’s control. 
  • Cloud software models: By running open, disaggregated network architectures, CSPs can work with new vendors and more quickly tap into new innovations. But these architectures also bring many more network layers and interfaces that assurance teams now have to observe. Additionally, instead of receiving software updates two to three times per year and implementing them in fixed maintenance windows, operators now receive continuous updates from many more vendors, each releasing on its own cadence.  
  • Cloud-centric architectures: The passive assurance tools used to monitor 4G networks assumed a more centralized topology, with the “network edge” located in a few large regional data centers. To enable new 5G use cases with ultra-low latencies and advanced edge intelligence, CSPs are embracing highly distributed architectures. Large operators might maintain 50 edge data centers—and potentially hundreds more “far edge” sites hosting network functions closer to customers. When monitoring is designed to observe a few fixed points in the network, that’s no longer enough. 
  • New security concerns: The traditional enterprise network perimeter has eroded, with most applications and users now operating outside the firewall. As a result, almost all data is now encrypted. How can operators measure end-user experience in an always-encrypted world? 

If you’re wondering how current assurance strategies will adapt to this new reality, CSP operations teams are, too. Traditional approaches rely on passive monitoring infrastructures that collect real user data from live services. This type of monitoring can’t keep up with dynamic cloudified networks and service paths that continually change. Even if it could, it would still only detect problems after they’d affected customers. By then, the stringent service-level agreements (SLAs) on which operators are depending to monetize their 5G investments may already be violated. 

Introducing Active Assurance

Traditional static probes may not scale with 5G networks, but another monitoring strategy seems tailor-made for them: active assurance. Active assurance agents function like a virtual device, injecting synthetic traffic into the network to measure performance from a user’s point of view. They can plug into any part of the network, running the same applications and emulating the same behavior as real users. And since they use the same authentication and trust framework, they provide a firsthand view of what real users experience. 

Active assurance can continuously monitor the performance of complex 5G networks, applications, and services. By emulating real application traffic, CSPs can maintain SLAs for the most demanding 5G use cases. And unlike traditional monitoring, which only measures real user traffic, active assurance can address the full network lifecycle: validating new network functions and slices before activation, monitoring and troubleshooting live services, and re-validating after any change. 

It adds up to an assurance strategy perfectly suited for 5G networks and services. CSPs can:

  • Detect problems before users: Active assurance uses artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) to spot emerging issues in highly dynamic, distributed environments. Combined with automated activation testing and post-change validation, CSPs can spot many problems before they affect live services—essential for supporting more stringent SLAs. 
  • Scale with dynamic 5G networks: There’s no way to instrument static monitoring infrastructure for service paths that are constantly in flux, or that traverse third-party networks and clouds. But active agents work like any other endpoint, sending traffic through the network and observing how the network performs. As a result, they capture the end-to-end service experience—including those parts outside the operator’s control. 
  • Accelerate root cause analysis: Since active assurance follows the same path through the network as real users, it provides true end-to-end visibility. Supported by AI analysis tools, operations teams can quickly segment any problem, even when it originates in someone else’s network. 
  • Support encrypted traffic in motion: Traditional static monitoring must decrypt packets to analyze the service experience—limiting where it can be used and potentially increasing risk. Since active assurance uses the same security, following the same paths as real users, no decryption is needed. 
  • Automate testing: Active assurance plugs right into the automated, AI-enabled operational models that accompany modern cloud-native, software-driven networks. Service providers can automatically invoke active testing as part of Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) toolchains and change management procedures. And they can use automated triage test scripts to quickly isolate issues.

Looking Ahead

5G networks hold enormous potential for CSPs and their customers—provided we can overcome the daunting operational challenges that come with them. CSPs are still refining the monitoring strategies they’ll need to deliver on 5G’s potential. But with active assurance, they have a powerful toolset for assuring 5G services—and a clear roadmap to operationalize them. 

OpenLight releases process design kit for photonic ICs

OpenLight released its process design kit (PDK) for use with the Synopsys photonic IC design solution, and includes indium phosphide active optical elements on-chip that can be directly used by Synopsys OptoCompiler and simulated with the Synopsys OptSim photonic simulator,

The PDK can be used  to create PICs with optical amplifiers, on-chip lasers, and high-speed, low-loss modulators tailored to their design requirements.

Customers can access an extensive library of tested and proven photonic components to enhance first-time PIC success and deliver more reliable design and fabrication. The technology has passed qualification and reliability tests on Tower Semiconductor's Silicon Photonics production flow (PH18DA).

"We strongly believe in the ability of OpenLight's technology implemented in Tower's foundry platform to push the envelope and enable the next generation of photonic IC products," said Dr. Marco Racanelli, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Tower Semiconductor's Analog Business Unit. "With PDKs now available to the world, mutual customers can benefit from access to this advanced technology through an open foundry model. Results of PICs fabricated to date are impressive and the PDK announced here will speed up further PIC innovation from the industry as designers confidently develop and bring to market new products faster with on-chip lasers and optical amplifiers."

Synopsys supports OpenLight's PDK through Synopsys OptoCompiler, bridging the gap between photonic experts and IC designers to make photonic designs as productive as electronic designs. Synopsys OptoCompiler is a complete end-to-end design, verification, and signoff solution for photonic ICs. The solution combines specific capabilities for photonic design with industry-proven electronic design methods in a unique, unified platform to make photonic IC design accessible, fast, and flexible.

"The combination of Synopsys' industry-leading photonic IC design solution and OpenLight's integrated laser technology in one cohesive platform empowers teams to design real-world PICs in a way that has never been done before," said Aveek Sarkar, Vice President of Engineering at Synopsys. "We look forward to supporting mutual customers together with Tower and OpenLight to accelerate adoption of silicon photonics with integrated lasers."

OpenLight unveils Silicon Photonics platform with integrated InP lasers

OpenLight, a start-up based in Santa Barbara, California, introduced its open silicon photonics platform with integrated lasers.OpenLight operates under the tagline, "Open. Integrated. Scalable." The open platform includes integrated lasers, optical amplifiers, modulators, photodetectors, and other key photonic components to form a complete solution for low-power, high-performance photonics ICs. In addition, OpenLight offers select PIC designs and...

Synopsys and Juniper form joint venture for silicon photonics

Synopsys and Juniper Networks are establishing a joint venture company focused on open silicon photonics for applications such as telecom, datacom, LiDAR, healthcare, HPC, AI, and optical computing. The new company's open silicon photonics platform will include integrated lasers, optical amplifiers, and a full suite of photonic components to form a complete solution that will be accessible through a Process Design Kit (PDK). The platform promises...

Tower Semi and Juniper develop silicon photonics process 

Tower Semiconductor and Juniper Networks announced a silicon photonics (SiPho) foundry-ready process with integrated III-V lasers, amplifiers modulators and detectors. Potential applications include optical connectivity in datacenters and telecom networks, as well as AI, LiDAR and other sensors. The new platform co-integrates III-V lasers, semiconductor optical amplifiers (SOA), electro-absorption modulators (EAM) and photodetectors with...

FCC issues new ban covering Chinese video surveillance equipment

The FCC issued new rules prohibiting the importation or use of communications equipment and video surveillance systems produced by Huawei Technologies, ZTE Corporation, Hytera Communications, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, and Dahua Technology (and their subsidiaries and affiliates). 

The FCC said such equipment is deemed to pose an unacceptable risk to national security. 

“The FCC is committed to protecting our national security by ensuring that untrustworthy communications equipment is not authorized for use within our borders, and we are continuing that work here,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel. “These new rules are an important part of our ongoing actions to protect the American people from national security threats involving telecommunications.”

The new rules prohibit the authorization of equipment through the FCC’s Certification process, and makes clear that such equipment cannot be authorized under the Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity process or be imported or marketed under rules that allow exemption from an equipment authorization.

Dell'Oro: Optical transport market declined 6% in 3Q

Optical transport equipment revenue declined 6 percent year-over-year in the third quarter of 2022, according to a recently published report from Dell’Oro Group. Supply of components continued to weigh down the growth potential of the optical equipment market.

“The main culprit for this market revenue decline was the lack of component supply needed to make finished goods,” said Jimmy Yu, Vice President at Dell’Oro Group. “Optical vendors have a growing amount of backlog due to higher demand for DWDM equipment but are not able to deliver completed systems when they are short on one component or two. Another factor lowering the market revenue is the strengthening US dollar. Since the market revenue is based on US dollars, most sales in Europe and Asia are converted to fewer US dollars and reducing the reported market size,” added Yu.

Additional highlights from the 3Q 2022 Optical Transport Quarterly Report:

  • The total WDM equipment market, comprising Long Haul and Metro systems, declined 5 percent year-over-year in the quarter. However, we estimate that on a constant currency basis, the market revenue grew 0 to 1 percent in the same time period.
  • Among the regions in the report, North America remained slightly positive while Europe declined at the highest rate. Revenue from the European region declined due to a couple factors: 1) the lower conversion of euro currency to US dollar and 2) the declining demand caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.

Dell'Oro: RAN declines again in 3Q

Preliminary findings suggest the slower momentum that characterized the Radio Access Network (RAN) market in the first half of 2022 extended into the third quarter. according to Dell'Oro Group. The data in the 3Q 2022 report indicate that the overall 2G-5G RAN market, declined year-over-year for a second consecutive quarter.

“After four years of extraordinary growth that catapulted the RAN market to record levels in 2021, the RAN market is now entering a new phase,” said Stefan Pongratz,  Vice President at Dell’Oro Group. “Even with 5G still increasing at a healthy pace, comparisons are more challenging and the implication for the broader RAN market is that growth is decelerating. Still, one major difference between 4G and 5G is the fact there are now more frequency options for the operators to pursue, which helps to curb the decline in the post-peak rollout phase,” continued Pongratz.

Additional highlights from the 3Q 2022 RAN report:

  • Top 5 global suppliers in the quarter include Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, ZTE, and Samsung.
  • Top 4 suppliers outside of China in the quarter include Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and Samsung.
  • Nokia’s RAN revenue shares improved sequentially for a third consecutive quarter.
  • Short-term RAN prospects have been revised downward to reflect weaker-than-expected developments in the first three quarters of 2022. Global RAN revenues are now projected to decline at a low-single-digit rate in 2023, underpinned by surging RAN investments in India and more challenging comparisons in China, Europe, and North America.

OVHcloud secures €200 million loan from EIB

The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted OVHcloud a €200 million credit facility devoted to investments in Europe. 

The credit facility is the Bank’s first financing operation for a pure cloud player, and will support the expansion of OVHcloud in Europe, where the group is positioning itself as the champion of users’ data sovereignty in an open, reversible, transparent and federated cloud ecosystem. 

OVHcloud plans to accelerate its international deployment on this booming market by opening 15 new data centres by the end of 2024, connecting with new markets and regions and showcasing its progress in sustainable development. Ten of its 15 new European sites will open in the next 24 months.

“Whether in software or hardware, innovation is at the heart of our company’s DNA and guides each and every one of our actions in a sustainable, open and transparent approach,” said Michel Paulin, CEO of OVHcloud. “This additional financial capacity provided by the EIB contributes to our group’s strategic roadmap and will enable us to promote a cloud marked by faster, higher and stronger respect for our European values.”

EUTELSAT 10B successfully launched

On Tuesday, November 22, SpaceX successfully launched the Eutelsat 10B satellite to a geosynchronous transfer orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The separation of the all-electric satellite occurred after a 37-minute flight and the spacecraft systems checkout was then successfully completed over a period of approximately 3 hours.

Built by Thales Alenia Space, EUTELSAT 10B is an all-electric satellite based on the Spacebus NEO platform. The satellite embarks a powerful 5th generation digital transparent processor, offering capacity allocation flexibility and an optimal spectrum use.

EUTELSAT 10B is carrying two multi-beam HTS Ku-band payloads: a high-capacity payload, covering the North Atlantic corridor, Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East, offering significant throughput in the busiest air and sea traffic zones, and a second payload to extend coverage across the Atlantic Ocean, Africa and the Indian Ocean. The satellite’s HTS payloads will be able to process more than 50 GHz of bandwidth, offering a throughput of approximately 35 Gbps.

Eutelsat said it has secured multi-year capacity commitmentswith several leading in-flight connectivity service providers, representing more than one third of the incremental HTS capacity. These partners will rely on EUTELSAT 10B to provide airlines with in-flight connectivity services.

Eva Berneke, Eutelsat Chief Executive Officer, said: "Congratulations to all the teams, from Thales Alenia Space to SpaceX, and the dedicated Eutelsat launch campaign team, involved in this successful launch. EUTELSAT 10B satellite boosts our global connectivity services with High Throughput capacity, meeting increasing in-flight and maritime demand.”

Pascal Homsy, Eutelsat Chief Technical Officer, added: “This is the fourth launch for Eutelsat in just under three consecutive months, quite a remarkable and unequalled technical achievement; congratulations to all! EUTELSAT 10B’s Ku-band payload complements the Ka-band of the EUTELSAT KONNECT VHTS satellite, launched in September 2022, reflecting our ability to serve our customers in both Ka- and Ku-bands with the best-in-class space assets.”