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The proposed project aims to research and development Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Service Function Chaining (SFC) technologies over a virtualised LTE mobile core network to enable service aware mobile core network.
MEC can offload and process data traffic at the network edge cloud, without any impact on the mobile core network architecture. MEC provides a cloud computing capability near the network edge with improved user experience as well as enhanced capabilities such as virtual reality, cache and video analytics. Service Function Chaining (SFC) enables application based traffic routing (instead of traditional address-based routing). With MEC and SFC working together, more variety of applications with greater flexibility and security can be offered.
The technologies developed in this project also enables applications (such as virtual tour, IoT) to be hosted in the mobile edge, which provides optimisation of traffic latency and ability to adjust the application behaviour at different radio conditions.
This project involves a study of the Core Network Evolution to support Narrow Band Internet of Things (NB-IoT) and build a prototype for NB-IoT core network based on network functions virtualisation (NFV) technology. The objective is to optimise certain features such as:
- Control Plane (CP-CIoT) Optimisation: Transferring user data via control plane (i.e. signalling messages)
- User Plane (UP-CIoT) Optimisation: Signalling procedure optimisation to enable efficient transport of small user data in data plane (GTP-U)
- Paging optimisation: For coverage enhancement & battery saving
- Non-IP data support
- QoS rate enforcement
This project is one of ASTRI’s many Next Generation Network (NGN) initiatives. It aims to develop an Open 5G Innovation Platform (5GIP) that will accomplish the following:
(1) Demonstrate the business potential and technological viability of ASTRI’s 5G technologies to the industry for commercialisation;
(2) Enable end-to-end solutions by working with eco-system partners for integration and inter-operability testing of 5G applications in a real network environment; and
(3) Incubate and inspire design innovations in Hong Kong – for instance, to support different ongoing initiatives in the SAR such as the ‘Smart City Innovation Centre’ in Hong Kong Science Park.
5GIP will focus on the software-configurability of the network through the integration of technologies and products, from ASTRI and 3rd parties. It will develop network orchestration and network slicing features. 5GIP will be an integral part of ASTRI’s NGN initiative – supporting sustained innovation and successful commercialisation.
ASTRI has been a pioneer in developing LTE/4G technologies – earning it the recognition as one of the leaders in this sector. ASTRI strives to research, develop and commercialise leading-edge 5G technologies to provide innovative and value-added applications and services. This project will deliver an advanced 5G network environment to support collaboration between ASTRI and the local community for developing innovative and competitive products. In addition, this platform will help to advance the technical capability and competitiveness of the communications industry in Hong Kong, the Mainland and beyond.
Mission critical systems are defined as those whose breakdown may result in the failure of vitally important elements of a process, affecting the core purpose of that system. Next generation mission critical communications systems are therefore designed to ensure that communications infrastructure are extremely reliable especially for ultra-low latency broadband traffic delivery. Such communication systems are expected to be relevant for many future applications such as industrial control, transportation, healthcare, disaster rescue, and general trade and commerce. Among many emerging applications, there is a strong demand for public safety in private networks.
To support the evolution of ASTRI’s technology endeavours, while leveraging its expertise in LTE small cells and terminals, the institute plans to develop next generation mission critical communications mobile cells and terminal reference design. These will integrate new system blocks with latest Baseband design and Protocol stack algorithms to support a set of new features. These features include:
a) Mobile cell self-configuration, which enable the discovery of neighbouring mobile cells and runtime synchronisation to whatever sync sources with high reliability;
b) LTE based B-TrunC BS (broadband trunking communication base station), where one-to-many low latency broadband communication is enabled in eNB (Evolved NodeB, i.e., base station), following CCSA B-TrunC specification.
c) D2D (Device-to-Device) sidelink physical layer, where the LTE 3GPP Rel.13 D2D sidelink physical layer is designed and implemented to support device to device direct communications, which can avoid the latency through core network, saving bandwidth when two devices are nearby and allowing communications when there is no infrastructure support. This is of particular importance in times of disaster.
d) Self-contained base station for public safety, where EPC (Evolved Packet Core, i.e., core network) and eNB are integrated on CRAN platform with OpenStack virtual machine control to support a One-Box standalone mobile access solution. Layered optimisation will be performed to achieve ultra-low end-to-end latency.
The project deliverables include L1 (Layer 1) link level simulation platform for LTE D2D sidelink, a commercial grade mobile cell reference design on commercially available SoC devices, and a complete test infrastructure to validate 3GPP and private network requirements.
Solution for Critical Performance Challenges for Packet Processing and Future SDN
Since the introduction of WiFi, 3G and LTE, the demand for wireless data has been growing very rapidly. The network performance of wireless access network infrastructure (such as WiFi access controller, LTE EPC) is critical because all user packet data require sophisticated protocols and packet processing (such as L2/L3 tunneling, packet inspection/classifications, QoS control, etc).
Achieving high throughput and linear scalability are the key challenges that network infrastructure equipment vendors are facing. However, networking stack software and framework that are flexible enough to build different network infrastructure equipment with high performance and scalability are very limited in the market.
FastGate Network Introduction
FastGate Network is a well-designed network processing framework with software modules which can be used to build high performance networking equipment. FastGate Network offers the following unique features:
Optimized for Multi-Core Scalability
FastGate framework supports lock free packet processing to deliver linear scalability on multi-core processors. Multi-core communication (MCC) enables reliable communications and lock free synchronization between cores.
Ready for Customized Packet Processing R&D
FastGate framework includes standard L2 and L3 packet processing modules. Customized packet processing modules can be supported easily in isolated manner. FastGate can effectively reduce time-to-market and development cost.
FastGate can reach line speed packet processing (“physical limit of the interface”) with extremely low latency and can scale linearly. It fully utilizes the interfaces and packet processing power of the hardware. FastGate is at least 10X faster than Linux, and more reliable and scalable.
There are many innovative design and techniques in FastGate implementation to address high performance, capacity and flexibility requirements.
Hardware and Platform Agnostics
FastGate not only supports different networking hardware platforms. Vendor specific features like Cavium POW are often not trivial to use, but FastGate makes it more straightforward. FastGate is also Linux compatible.
FastGate has been used as the data plane for many networking equipment, and potentially for many others.
Wireless Infrastructure Equipments
LTE EPC (Packet Data Network Gateway, Serving Gateway), WiMAX ASN-GW and WiFi access controllers have sophisticated packet processing requirements (e.g. per-connection QoS, mobility, tunneling). ASTRI’s LTE EPC, WiMAX ASN-GW, WiFi + 4G convergence gateway are built using the same FastGate framework.
Carrier grade IPSec security gateway/firewall can support more than 500K users. ASTRI IPSec Security Gateway is one of them.
FastGate includes optimized L2/L3 which can deliver line speed L2/L3 functions like VLAN, trunk, bridging and routing.
Network virtualization (such as OpenFlow) is the trend for data center networking. FastGate architecture can be adapted to SDN based networks.
- FastPath – Dedicated for packet processing to ensure highest performance
- SlowPath – Manages protocol states and performs controls
- Multi-Core Communications – Enables lock free and reliable communications between cores, fast/slow paths, Linux kernel
Hardware and Software Platforms
- Data Plane Processor
- Cavium 58xx or 68xx based
- OS: Cavium Simple Executable + Cavium Linux/Carrier Grade Windriver Linux
- Hardware Platform
- Radisys ATCA 7220, 7240 (Cavium 58XX/68XX based)
- OEM Licensing: Only binaries provided + support/upgrade
- Source Licensing: Source code provided
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the next evolution of the internet after the mobile internet. While BLE (or next generation of communication technologies such as Lora/NB-IoT) and GPS are well-suited technology to build up IoT applications and systems, integrated indoor and outdoor GIS systems are critical to realize the potential of IoT. This will impact the operation of society in a large scale paving the next wave of innovations and economic activities.
A major challenge of GIS systems is scalability during large scale deployment. The software would need to accommodate tremendous amount of networking traffic triggered by millions of devices and mobile users. Message queue technology is used to address the scalability issue of the cloud for massive loading. In addition, it could also be used to increase the network bandwidth efficiency for IoT data.
In order for GIS systems to be useful in the IoT context, this system consolidate both indoor and outdoor information in a seamless presentation. These information come from various different sources; outdoor information come from GPS or A-GPS, and indoor information usually come from BLE, Wi-Fi, and magnetic measurements. Also, the system has an interface to big data analytic platforms such as Hadoop.
The system is capable to manage multi-site geo-locations, massive users and IoT devices, and also real time proximity and IoT sensors data. The associated security and access right control of the system have also been developed.
Finally, trials will be deployed in Kowloon East to demonstrate the developed technologies. Know-how and technology in the area of scalable indoor and outdoor GIS will also be transferred to related government departments.
End-to-End, Multi-Vendor, Multi-Layer LTE Management Benefits
ASTRI’s LTE Management System (LTENMS) helps network operators monitor LTE services effectively:
ASTRI LTENMS can manage LTE base stations, IP/MPLS based transports and the core networks (EPC). Operators can have a centralized view of the whole network, instead of islands of equipment.
Managing multi-vendor network has been a challenge for operators. ASTRI LTENMS can easily support monitoring equipment and services from different vendors.
The LTE service relies not only on the LTE network equipment (like base stations), but also the transport equipment. When there is a LTE service outage, operator can analyze the issues at different layers to determine the root cause. At the same time, a fault correlated with the service impacts can be identified.
Management System Platform and Overall Architecture
ASTRI’s Management System Platform provides a module based architecture to support multi-vendor equipment with the following standard management features:
- Web Based GUI
- SNMP/Telnet/SSH/TR069 Protocols
- Group + Role Based Access Controls
- Inventory, Hardware/Shelf Panel Display, Topology Management
Besides the standard features, ASTRI’s Management System Platform supports different Management Service Bundle (MSB) to extend management functionalities:
LTE Core Management Service Bundle
LTE Core Management provides managing LTE network elements and logical entities:
LTE Logical Path
Illustrates logical paths (S1, S10, S11, S5) between LTE eNB and elements in EPC
Isolates the logical and physical path of an individual mobile user (signaling path and data path)
LTE Service Status
Based on reports and alarms
Determines the service impacts when there is a fault, e.g. number of base stations, and number of users being aftected
LTE Small Cell (HeMS) Management Service Bundle
LTE HeMS MSB provides a high degree of automation in managing small cell LTE base stations, using TR069 protocols:
Automatic and Profile Based Provisioning
LTE Small Cell base stations can be automatically configured when it is powered on
Automatic Physical Cell (PCI) assignment and more will be added, such as eICIC configurations
- OEM Licensing: Only binaries provided + support/upgrade
- Source Licensing: Source code provided
ASTRI has been developing LTE technologies since 2008 and is one of the global leaders in LTE small cell and terminal baseband cores. In late 2012, one of ASTRI’s new technology strategies was to cluster key projects into thrusts for higher-impact. The Thrust on “Open Broadband Wireless Network and Applications” was formed aiming to enhance our core competence technologies in baseband, RF and software to provide LTE small cell infrastructure solutions while leveraging cross domain effort to develop technologies for innovative applications. In 2016, this Thrust becomes the Next Generation Network (NGN) initiative.
We have developed an Open Wireless Innovation Platform (WIP) to integrate ASTRI’s and third party’s LTE technologies to provide a configurable network environment for system development, integration and verification. The WIP includes two parts (1) network infrastructure and (2) applications.
WIP main features:
- End-to-end FDD/TD-LTE small cell network
- Self-Organizing Network (SON) capability
- EPC with embedded HSS and PCRF
- Network management
- Policy based WiFi/LTE traffic offload
- Interoperability testing function (EPC, Gateway, LTE small cell, and LTE UE)
- Integrated applications, for examples:
- Smart city: Remote solar street light control and monitoring
- Smart home appliances control and monitoring
- Video surveillance and analytics for smart transportation and public safety
Please refer to next generation network (NGN) for the technology roadmap of this Thrust.
Communication technologies group has developed advanced RF solutions to enhance the spectral efficiency and reduce power consumption of the wireless infrastructure.
Active Antenna System (AAS): “Smart Tile” Reference Design
The Active Antenna System combines antenna arrays and active components integrated with signal processing algorithms to provide multiple antennas with low coupling and over multiple frequencies bands to increase data throughput. A typical active antenna system is of similar size to a conventional passive antenna, yet offers much better performance and greater benefits to operators.
- Capacity increase by beamforming
- Lower overall site costs
- Higher energy efficiency and RF performance
- More flexible deployment
AAS: “Smart Tile” prototype
Full Duplex Technologies
Full duplex transceiver directly duplicates the spectrum usage compared with traditional FDD or TDD system by enabling simultaneous radio transmission and reception on the same frequency and at the same time. This is an attractive technology to be adopted in 5G standard.
ASTRI’s full duplex solution involves multi-stage cancellation. The antenna and analog RF interference cancellation unit will cancel the large power interference and reduce the dynamic of the received signal. The residual interference will be compensated by digital cancellation unit. The overall system will compensate more than 100dB interference. This allows the full duplex system to be used in the LTE system.
Multiple Stage Cancellation
ASTRI full duplex analog cancelation board
ASTRI provides industrial grade RF and antenna measurement facilities for RF and antenna design and calibration. The facilities provide:
- 3D Radiation Measurement System
- 3D Active Radiation testing (TRP/TIS)
- 3D Passive Radiation testing (up to 6 GHz)
- SAR Measurement System
- RF measurement: VNA, SA, SG, Signal Analyser, Power Meters, …
- Simulation Software: HFSS, CST
- SAR optimisation, field and current visualisations
Wide-band base station antenna array 3D measurement