The CONFIG 5G converged control plane architecture will make it possible to overcome limitations of the communication networks of today. “Convergence” has been a design driver for the last generations of cellular networks. Most of the “convergence” developments have been made along the lines of “offering a converged service view” offer, and infrastructure convergence has been a secondary concern, where convergence by a common control plane for ubiquitous access technologies is still lacking.

In most of the operator infrastructures where the operator has a mobile and a fixed network access offering, the mobile core and the fixed core is split into logically, and in some cases physically, separate networks. The current on-going IP transformation of the operator environment drives the merge of the physical infrastructure, but the logical split between mobile core and fixed core does not seem to be scheduled to disappear soon. Reasons for this are the different network management and control systems, e.g. different AAA infrastructures, service differentiation for the different applications (such as IPTV, VoIP, Internet …), Wi-Fi hotspot management systems, etc. So, albeit the physical transport infrastructure may be merging, the effective control of both networks remain different – as much a consequence of this past legacy as a consequence of the typically distinct requirements to which each network cater.

This situation is not sustainable for 5G networks, both by the added cost associated, and by the expected challenging requirements of 5G networks, breaking the borders between the fixed and mobile domains. The new 5G architecture must provide a communications environment able to overcome the identified infrastructure shortcomings of today’s networks in an economically sustainable manner. Both data intensive and low latency critical applications requirements will be fulfilled by the flexibility of this 5G converged control plane architecture, by exploring multiple techniques, such as service execution and peering possibilities anywhere in the network.

CONFIG will also show how new business models could emerge with e.g. access sharing based on the new capabilities introduced by the control architecture for a 5G converged network.

Current cellular networks have been optimized for human driven communication and are not fit to scale to the number of devices envisioned in 5G whereas fixed networks are being designed for large data volumes to individual devices. The 5G converged control plane architecture will have to overcome the limitations for scalability in today’s 4G cellular networks where state is held for each active session, signalling between multiple network functions is needed for bearer setup and user services are deployed in central data centers.

The technology complexity has to be reduced on the network side, being able at the same to provide a more seamless experience to the end-user. The end-user expects pervasiveness of the network, and that it provides the more adequate service at each time. This requires a holistic view of networks, where the provision of communications services is a responsive action, including proper selection of interface, communication service or service end-point redirection.

xDSL, cellular, optical, all systems with their own separate core networks, are all part of what the telecommunications industry has been providing the world. With a 5G converged control plane it will be possible for the telecommunications industry to remain the innovation driver in communication technology. Through the early deployment of such an infrastructure, it will be possible for new industries to exploit the technological advances of the 5G network providing measurable impact on our networked society.

CONFIG is addressing a converged and holistic network architecture by a cognitive 5G control plane for ubiquitous access technologies. CONFIG builds on results of currently ongoing European framework program projects such as METIS (use cases and requirements related to 5G), COMBO (combined site infrastructure for fixed and mobile), UNIFY (unified execution environment for network and cloud) and will go significantly beyond those by providing a context aware control plane for a 5G converged and holistic network architecture.

CONFIG has the following ambitious objectives:

  1. Develop a modular functional framework, to facilitate scenario driven network service orchestration making full use of a converged infrastructure.
  2. Develop an access-agnostic 5G control plane for converged networks supporting a wide variety of devices, services and applications for current and future user needs.
  3. Develop a context information framework by which the functions of the control plane can interact in order to provide optimal operation, e.g. optimal resource allocation.
  4. Provide the basis for the first phases of the standardization of converged network control functions and interfaces with the Convergence concept accepted as an essential goal for 5G, and introduce the CONFIG control plane architecture as the cornerstone to achieve this.
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