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Mobile networks and 5G: a new paradigm of mobile communications (III)

The creation of the fifth-generation mobile network is changing the way people communicate while bringing us closer to total connectivity of everyday objects in a faster way. These advances will make it possible to increase the number of connected devices to obtain and share information in real time, facilitating the development and creation of new products and innovative applications that will benefit society.

In the context of the Open-VERSO project, the Cervera network of excellence to accelerate the evolution of next generation 5G and future mobile communication networks, from Gradiant we want to share four articles related to the latest news about this new technology. Thus, after dealing with topics related to the new possibilities brought by 5G technologies in the field of mobile communications and the alliances between fifth generation technologies and Artificial Intelligence to offer effective solutions to new global challenges, in this third article we will focus on the new technologies and services offered by 5G in the field of mobile networks.

Open the path towards 5G

The leap from 4G to 5G technology, like any new generation, represents a radical change in the way mobile networks are handled. One strategy to achieve the 5G requirements, both in terms of bandwidth, as well as latency or number of connected devices, is to increase the number of cells.

The traditional network planning tasks with preliminary studies to select the best location of access points to cover a certain area loses, in part, its reason for being and new automated forms are needed for the deployment of base stations that can also scale their number over time to adapt to demand.

If instead of radio resources we think of computational resources, virtualization and cloud technologies provide automation and dynamic allocation of IT resources for more than a decade.

The 5G lab

Gradiant’s 5G lab applies virtualization and cloud technologies to mobile networks, enabling the dynamic deployment of 4G and 5G networks on demand. In the same way that anyone can ask Amazon, Google or Azure for virtual machines or storage services, researchers and companies can ask Gradiant for the deployment of 4G or 5G mobile access networks.

A very interesting feature of the lab is that part of its functionalities are based on multiple open source projects. The Telco sector has traditionally been a closed sector where vendor lock-in techniques are of common use. This makes it impractical to combine hardware from different vendors or a vendor change is very costly for the customer. The application of these techniques has been made possible because of the specialized hardware requirements for network and radio signal processing. However, SDR (Software Defined Radio) and SDN (Software Defined Networking) technologies, in combination with Network Function Virtualization (NFV), allow the deployment and execution of network and radio functions on general-purpose servers.

Gradiant’s 5G lab, through all these technologies, makes a collection of cloud services available to companies and researchers to experiment with mobile networks. These services can be deployed in seconds with a single click and can be used to test different implementations of network cores, such as  srsepc, open5gs o free5gc.

It is also possible to deploy radio access networks as another cloud service. In this case, the deployment must have access to programmable radio devices that let us choose the way in which radio signals are transmitted. The 5G lab servers have a fleet of software-defined radios that developers can dynamically request and load on them different programs based on the selected access technology. For example, the deployment of 5G (gNodeB) or 4G (eNodeB) cells can be requested through different open source implementations (OpenAirInterface o srsLTE).

Smartphone remote access and control

Another tool of the 5G laboratory is a remote access and control system for 4G and 5G smartphones. This tool allows experimenters to remotely access smart devices that are at the coverage range of the software-defined radios. This tool combines a software for the visualization and control of smartphones via USB called  scrcpy and a remote desktop server.

As we have seen so far, open source projects and their community have helped us build a 5G laboratory to companies and researchers so, from Gradiant, we have decided to put our two cents in the community through our “Linux Foundation” and the “LF Networking” membership, active collaboration in open source projects or the publication of the tools we use in the laboratory. It is possible, for example, to access the code repository of the USRPs fleet management system called ettus-device-plugin or the Docker image openverso/scrcpy for the smartphone remote control system.

In summary, we are witnessing a paradigm shift in the Telco sector, particularly in mobile networks, which involves virtualization and cloud management of all its components with strong support from open source software. Gradiant’s mission comes down to “contribute innovative dynamism, growth and competitive improvement of Galician business network through technology development and innovation by using ICT”, and the 5G laboratory is good proof of this.

Open-VERSO es una red de excelencia financiada por el Programa Cervera para Centros Tecnológicos, la apuesta nacional para desarrollar investigación orientada al mercado impulsada por el Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación y el Centro de Desarrollo Tecnológico Industrial (CDTI).

Centro De Excelencia Cervera

Author: Carlos Giraldo Rodríguez, responsable técnico de Tecnologías Cloud-Native del Área de Sistemas Inteligentes de Gradiant

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