Is the 5G Standalone Network Too Cloudy to See?

Not with a new visibility solution from NETSCOUT, Swisscom, and Ericsson

Turbulent grey and black clouds

Is the 5G standalone network too cloudy to see? Not anymore. Swisscom, working with Ericsson and NETSCOUT, has developed the first-ever network visibility solution for a cloudified 5G standalone (SA) network. To gain visibility into the Swisscom 5G SA network, service assurance tools need access to the IP packets that traverse the disaggregated elements in that cloudified network. Ericsson, the infrastructure provider for Swisscom’s 5G SA network, developed a virtualized tap (vTap) to provide access to those IP packets.

The Ericsson vTap collects the raw packet data for all 3GPP signaling interfaces (including all encrypted 5G service-based interfaces) and event reporting that provides user and session context from signaling and service usage. The vTAP makes these packets available to third-party instrumentation such as NETSCOUT’s vSTREAM, which uses the IP packet data to provide visibility and actionable intelligence for Swisscom’s operations and engineering teams. Ericsson’s new vTap innovation implemented at Swisscom can now be utilized by any mobile operator worldwide.

NETSCOUT produces Smart Data—analytics-ready metadata that offers real-time multidimensional visibility of the network, services, technologies, and subscribers/devices—from duplicated streams of the IP packets consumed from the Ericsson vTAP. Smart Data extracts the actionable intelligence from the IP packets to create KPIs and session records that are extensible to service assurance, analytics, and cybersecurity. It is so valuable because it provides information about user experience for all devices operating on the network.

So, what can communications service provider (CSP) engineering and operations teams “see” with this visibility solution from NETSCOUT and Ericsson? We are talking about true end-through-end visibility from the 5G radio access network (RAN) to the edge to the access layer and into the core network infrastructure—all disaggregated in the cloud—as well as other cloud services that interact with the 5G network. It also provides correlated user-plane information for troubleshooting and user experience monitoring. This deep visibility into the RAN shows call drops, handoffs between 4G and 5G networks, radio interference, and congestion issues. It provides continuous latency measures at the multi-access edge computing (MEC) layer, provides KPI measurements for each element in the 5G non-standalone and standalone network, aids in enforcing service-level agreements (SLAs) of network slices, and much more.

As CSPs commence their 5G journey, they must also include a security solution to protect the expanded attack surface of a cloudified network. This means real-time, scalable visibility that provides early warning of anomalous behavior, distinguishes between human error and human malintent and offers threat mitigation that constantly guards against persistent threats. Here as well, Smart Data to feed smart analytics will be key to threat management for security teams.

Without visibility to their 5G SA network and the applications, services, and devices operating on that network—along with the interconnected 4G network—CSP network operations, engineering, and security teams will have a very difficult time monitoring, managing, and securing their network. CSPs that include visibility for service assurance, analytics, and security as part of their continued investment in 5G and the evolution of their networks to the cloud will be able to roll out and support digitalization, edge computing, network slicing, and virtualization with confidence.

Learn more about future-proofing your 5G networks.