Elisa taps Ericsson for 5G standalone first

Nordic operator and leading comms tech provider claim successful launch of in-service software upgrade capability dual-mode 5G Core solution that powers live production 5G standalone network

In a move that is designed to enable the Finnish operator to upgrade its core network software efficiently, with no interruption to its customers service or experience, and which is also said to mark a key step in its cloud-native digital transformation strategy, Elisa has become the first service provider in Europe to deploy in-service software upgrade (ISSU) capability on a live production 5G standalone (SA) network powered by Ericsson.

Delivered through the continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) model, an integral automation aspect of its cloud-native 5G Core, the capability forms part of Elisa’s transition to fully cloud-native infrastructure for 5G SA and lays the essential groundwork for automating and creating self-driving networks.

Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core is designed as cloud-native and is deployed using containers with Kubernetes orchestration. One of the benefits of this cloud-native architecture is the ability to have an implementation architecture built on smaller building blocks – microservices – each of which can have separated lifecycle management processes. ISSU capability means each microservice running in a live network can be upgraded and managed separately, with their workload balanced by others in the relevant network function so there are no interruptions during the upgrade process to the user, or any impact on network key performance indicators (KPIs). 

Additionally, managing software upgrades and maintenance in this way is said to have multiple benefits, such as a reduction in manual effort for software upgrades, increasing the number of upgrades possible and enabling it to support new features faster. 

This facet is seen as a key capability as operators like Elisa seek to maintain existing levels of service while introducing new technologies to capture new business opportunities. It is currently being used with live customer traffic in Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core powering Elisa Finland’s live production 5G SA network, with plans to include the capability in other parts of the 5G Core solution in time. The project made Elisa the first customer globally to launch ISSU through the CI/CD model.

Evolving to a cloud-native architecture is an essential element in the journey to 5G SA. As well as being a new technical setup, it will also have a major impact on a service provider’s operational model. Rather than being seen as an end goal in itself, it is the means to achieving a range of benefits in 5G networks, such as better speed of change and improved efficiency, higher network performance and greater openness. 

The SA implementation of 5G means end-to-end network slicing use cases can be more easily created, coverage range and capacity can be increased, and the super-fast response times with high data rates promised by 5G become available.

Ericsson and Elisa have been working on 5G SA since 2020, when the latter established an end-to-end 5G standalone connection in Finland – a Nordic first – and Ericsson was subsequently selected to provide the 5G Core network to support the 5G SA rollout by Elisa Estonia. In 2019, the two partners also piloted Ericsson’s private network solution for Elisa’s enterprise customers.

“Elisa is known as one of the most automated digital service providers in the whole world. Now we continue on this path by launching new capabilities in our 5G network together with Ericsson,” said Markus Kinnunen, vice-president of cloud services at Elisa. “5G standalone network will further improve the customer experience, and with the cloud-native infrastructure and enhanced automation we can unlock new services and business possibilities.”

Daniel Ode, acting head of customer unit Northern and Central Europe at Ericsson, said: “Upgrading and evolving software across the core network without interruption of service to end users is one of the hallmark benefits of cloud-native 5G architecture. We’re proud to have worked with Elisa to bring this functionality to its 5G standalone network in Finland as part of a long-standing partnership to drive digital transformation in the country.”

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