Rakuten Mobile achieved high-speed processing for containerized user plane function (UPF) in a standalone 5G core lab trial, with partners NEC and Intel.

In a disaggregated 5G network architecture, the control plane and user plane can be decoupled, enabling independent UPF deployment in edge and other locations. For its own network setup, Rakuten used a CUPS (Control and User Plane Separated) packet core for its 4G LTE network in Japan.

3GPP included CUPS in Release 14, saying back in 2017 that it was set to be a core network feature for many operators.

The separation gives operators more flexibility with deployments, according to 3GPP, with the ability for control plane and user plane resources to be located and scaled independently, without impacting existing Evolved Packet Core (EPC) nodes.

RELATED: NEC eyes 5G gains with Red Hat deal

Rakuten is focused on its fully virtualized open architecture for SA 5G, and according to the carrier, containerized UPF performance is key for different scenarios like private networks and edge computing.

The partners reached 640 Gbps performance per server in a Tokyo lab environment.

“With NEC and Intel, we have demonstrated that extremely high-speed processing is possible on containers. We aim to continue to pursue performance improvements in the core to achieve higher throughput and reduce cost and energy consumption in the rollout of network technology in Japan and worldwide,” said Rakuten Mobile CTO Tareq Amin in statement.

The trial used NEC’s containerized 5G UPF software and Intel’s 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processor, leveraging automation features running on the Rakuten Communications Platform (RCP).    

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Dan Rodriguez, corporate VP and general manager of Intel’s Network Platforms Group, said it was another proof point for the importance of ecosystem collaboration and leading technologies for 5G.

“The ongoing development and optimization work among the companies on the latest 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors and Intel Ethernet 800 Series network adapters not only provides outstanding performance, but the added flexibility to run workloads from core to edge that are designed to offer the best experience for end users,” Rodriguez continued.

NEC has been working with Rakuten Mobile on an open and containerized SA 5G core network since June of 2020, for both the operator’s own network and the RCP.

The Japanese vendor has had a flurry of announcements this week, including work on a RAN Intelligent Controller (RIC) platform with NTT Docomo.

RELATED: MobiledgeX, Mavenir collaborate on 5G edge with Deutsche Telekom

On the UPF front, another collaboration – between Mavenir, MobiledgeX, and Deutsche Telekom – highlighted the importance this week, for operators running 5G applications on edge infrastructure.

“This most recent work with Deutsche Telekom and Mavnir shows the UPF for 5G core can be distributed and automated on telco edge itself,” Sunay Tripathi, CTO and EVP Engineering for MobiledgeX, told Fierce.

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