BT, owner of U.K. mobile operator EE, is using Oracle’s cloud-native converged policy software to help ease its transition to 5G and introduce new services more quickly.
In the U.S., Oracle is supplying Dish Network with cloud-native policy functionality for the operator’s greenfield 5G network build, including to help enable network slicing.
For BT the situation is different in part because EE has a legacy 4G mobile network. In this case, Oracle’s providing Cloud Native Converged Policy Management that will be leveraged for both 3G/4G along with 5G networks, according to Andrew De La Torre, group vice president of Technology at Oracle.
In the U.K., BT has outlined plans to cover more than 50% of the population with 5G by 2023, with 100% coverage by 2028. BT has plans for a converged core system built on its own distributed network cloud infrastructure. It’s also getting rid of Huawei under a government mandate and replacing its 4G evolved packet core with a dual-mode core from Ericsson.
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Converged policy plays an important role in the shift from legacy to 5G networks, with a 2020 report (PDF) from Omdia calling it “an essential component of any successful 5G strategy.”
Study author Stephanie Gibbon, principal analyst of carrier network software at Omdia, wrote that it provides a way for operators to monetize 5G more immediately, while also ensuring they future-proof 5G investment since they can make modifications that line up with their non-standalone (NSA) to standalone (SA) 5G migrations.
At a high level, De La Torre explained that policy management is responsible for implementing policies that affect different aspects of the network and monetizing experience for subscribers and devices – like access and mobility polices, quality of service control, and charging attributes.
“All of these apply for 4G and 5G, however new (and unique) to 5G are, network slice policies and integration with the 5G network data analytics function to enable more data-driven and dynamic policy decisions,” De La Torre said via email. Policy management is what controls the subscriber and device experience within a 5G network slice.
Network slicing comes into play with standalone 5G and is one way operators are looking to make money from 5G investments, by essentially partitioning off and selling dedicated slices of the network that deliver resources (bandwidth, latency, security) needed for different users or applications.
“In 5G, operators will need to manage many different domain specific policies as well as individual and diverse services across slices, and policy management will enable operators to manage these configurations,” said De La Torre.
David Salam, director of mobile at BT, called out Oracle’s software as making it easier for the operator’s engineers to design, test, and deploy new services across 4G and 5G networks.
“This will enable us to test and quickly implement new 5G service plans and experiences, such as live streaming and augmented reality experiences. It reduces testing and implementation times, without compromising on quality, ensuring some new services for customers could be delivered in just minutes,” wrote Salam.
It also has a role in launching 5G-enabled IoT services for consumer and enterprise customers.
“It helps us fulfil the promise of IoT services over 5G without adding strain to our network or negatively impacting network experience,” Salam continued.
Converged policy will be implemented in non-standalone and standalone network architecture for BT, while Oracle’s cloud-native policy and charging rules function (PCRF) will specifically enable 4G network policy management, he noted.
The Omdia report called out a consistent interface and user experience during software upgrades from 4G PCRF to 5G PCF as key.
“This allows the operator to take an incremental migration approach to new infrastructure based on its preferred timeline, saving costs and adding agility to its evolving service delivery requirements,” wrote Gibbon.
Oracle has partnered with BT and EE before for routing and signaling in their 2G, 3G, and 4G, networks, and provided Session Border Controllers (SBCs) for enterprise voice services.
In addition to policy implementation, Oracle will also support BT down the line to migrate its 4G voice and data services to 5G.