Unlocking the potential of 5G with network convergence
By David Allan, Wireline-Wireless Convergence (WWC) Work Area Director
The emergence of 5G is one of the industry’s top talking points, expected to revolutionize and change the way we live, work and communicate. Supporting more types of devices than ever before, unlocking new applications such as Virtual Reality (VR), connected cars and remote surgery, 5G has been touted as not only the next era of connectivity but the next industrial revolutions, promising to change every aspect of our daily lives. To be successful though, 5G requires permanent availability combined with instant connection to deliver real-time results.
To ensure a seamless integration into this new wireless revolution, Broadband Forum is taking an important role in developing 5G, making recommendations for the connection points between the fixed and 5G mobile core networks to drive core convergence. The Wireline-Wireless Convergence (WWC) Work Area is at the heart of this, ensuring operators can enhance and migrate their existing networks to support the new capabilities of 5G.
As part of this, the group is working with 3GPP and has already delivered detailed recommendations on a number of interfaces in the context of fixed 5G, as well as on signaling changes and enhancements. This collaboration will allow members to evaluate the interfaces that run between the 5G core and the fixed network and address how wireless access can be fully integrated into the 5G core in a standardized way, to ensure the technology is successful.
Currently, the WWC Work Area is making further progress on this network convergence, with its aim being to complete its have work for 3GPP Release 16 by the end of the year.
This work is split into two halves, with the first round including WT-456 and WT-470. The former addresses the functional requirements of the Access Gateway Function (AGF) – which resides between fixed access networks and the 5G core – while the latter describes the 5G Fixed Mobile Convergence architecture. Both documents are currently in the final review process within the Forum ahead of finalization. These will be immediately followed with functional requirements for Broadband Residential Gateway devices that are capable of supporting a full suite of voice, data, broadcast video, video on demand and two-way video applications (Issue 6 of TR-124). Additionally, the group is working on data model extensions for TR-69/369, documented in TR-181 for End Devices and Residential Gateways. This work will allow converged operators to provide a uniform experience to their customers, irrespective of the access or appliance they are using.
The second half of the work will focus on two aspects:
- Expanding the deployment options for WWC with WT-457 Fixed Mobile Interworking Function (FMIF) functional specification and WT-458 Control and User Plane separation (CUPS) for Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC).
- Improving the value proposition for convergence with extensions to the document set to support multiple access, use of 3GPP procedures in the home, additional migration capabilities and overall networking capabilities for support of both legacy devices and 5G enhanced devices.
Converged, flexible and future-proof
Converged networks are moving us into a new world of connectivity, developing a coexistence strategy for seamless service launches and interworking between home networks and 5G core components.
To harness converged networks in the new era of 5G, a single network is no longer enough. Utilizing both fixed and mobile networks is essential for operators to deliver a cutting-edge experience for their customer base and due care must be taken to look at methods to seamlessly integrate wireline and wireless convergence at all levels of the broadband ecosystem.
As 5G deployments continue to emerge, Broadband Forum will continue to work with 3GPP and the entire industry to ensure fixed networks are prepared for the full realization of 5G connectivity.